Thursday, 30 December 2010


Last night I wore these gold jeans to a concert. I was the only person wearing high heels (the concert was in a field). I couldn't see anyone else wearing red lipstick either. It was a brilliant night. I felt like a groupie.
My best mate had sent the jeans along with a few other bits and pieces to me from London. She is a serial shopper and I had no qualms about her choosing clothes for me. My directive was 'high heels and some going out stuff'. My God she is good. I pretty much wept over my Primark and H&M goodies when they arrived last week. Now all I need to do is organise a few nights out so I can prance about in my new threads.
As I jumped into a taxi outside my house to go to the concert one of neighbour's children was skateboarding past.
'Hi Jenny, where are you going?'
'I'm off to a concert'
'Oh yeah? Are you performing?'
Bloody, bloody brilliant.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Same, same but different

The husband and I came over all nostalgic this afternoon talking about Christmas. One of his strongest memories is of baling hay on the farm at the age of about 8. It was a couple of days before Christmas, the sun was high in the sky and the summer holidays stretched before him as a calendar of surfing, ice creams and mischief. Around Christmas I often remember sitting in our living room in the Scottish Highlands at 6 years old watching Cliff Richard in 'Summer Holiday'. The fire was blazing and I could smell the mince pies my mum was cooking. I couldn't stop imagining the white bearded one dusting off soot and carefully placing silvery papered boxes under our tinsel laden tree.

It's interesting that our happy memories are essentially the same - we were both at our family homes, both memories take place on about the 23rd December and they were both wrapped up in the wonder of anticipation and intense happiness.
ps lad took this photo of me before going for a walk

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


While my compatriots shiver in sub zero temperatures back in old Blighty, we are tearing off layers and exposing flesh to the sun in New Zealand. After a few days of wet weather Tuesday broke through the sticky humidity with the kind of sky that makes you glad to be alive. My sister in law would certainly have winked a thankyou to Him upstairs as she hosted hordes of cabin fevered children for my neice's fifth birthday. We made the 10 metre journey from our house to theirs across the road (the husbands are brothers) where the tried and tested bouncy castle plus bubble machine formula triumphed once more. The lad wanted to wear his nylon Buzz Lightyear outfit. With the suit's plastic inability to breathe and the afro of curls on his head I thought he was going to pass out from heat exhaustion but he was clearly in the 'fashion is pain' camp so resolutely kept his costume on.

We trooped off to the beach in the afternoon to cool off in the surf then all back home for a quick shower before going to a 30th birthday party two doors down from the morning's shindig. Sitting in the warm air chatting to friends was a magical way to end the day. The birthday girl is in a band so had set up a little cabana with all their kit to belt out a few numbers. Most of our street were there. We are extremely lucky that we all know each other so well and enjoy each other's company. There are lots of young families on our street. We take in turns to walk to kindergarten, have sleepovers for the children and spend lots of time together in houses and gardens up and down our road. Entering a float in the Christmas parade has brought our community even closer. We live on the best street at The Mount.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Another lesson in idiocy by J Rudd

Whilst brushing my teeth I noticed a slightly red and swollen patch of skin on my forehead with a whitehead in the centre. I tried to put it from my mind and vaguely picked at it for the rest of the morning. Five minutes ago I worried away at it with my fingernails and when that brought no joy, set at it with a pair of tweezers. What was an insignificant blemish is now an angry throbbing pore, and my dermic ineptitude is yet another reminder of my inability to leave what should be left alone.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

All change

I looked at the clock above me. The light overhead hummed in tune with the vending machine stuffed with chocolate and crisps. I reshuffled a pile of order forms in case anyone was watching and tapped away in what I hoped was an industrious fashion. 4.30pm finally ticked over. I tripped over the bin in my rush to leave the brown office.

Looking back I have a strong memory of driving home from Blackburn after work. My little Ford Fiesta hurtled towards Lytham in the rainy dark of a November afternoon and I turned up the volume to sing along with Rui da Silva. I was filled with glee and excitement at the thought of leaping up and down in a dark club to the warm bass and moving vocals on the coming weekend.

Pulling into our driveway I saw Rachel admiring Wiz's new motorbike. Having only passed his test a week earlier Wiz was keen to show it off. In the warmth of our terraced house he gave Rachel and I a mug each which he had bought on an excursion during the day. We were touched. He put Becky's up on the sideboard for her return from work then presented me with a spare helmet. "Come on, let's go for a ride before dinner."

I put on the brand new jacket my mum had bought me for next week's skiing holiday. It was bloody freezing out and motorbikes are not known for their cosiness. Rachel watched from the living room window as I wiggled the helmet on. She came outside and readjusted the strap as I couldn't work out how to tighten it properly. It felt odd, sitting on the back of the bike with my arms wrapped round my friend. I wondered why we were doing this if we didn't need to go anywhere.

"Put your feet on there. Make sure they don't go here. Loosen your grip round my waist." My heartbeat sped up as we rolled out of our driveway.

"You won't go too fast, will you?"

"Dont worry I won't. Don't be nervous. I won't do anything to make you frightened."

At the end of our road Wiz put his foot down on the road to steady the bike while we waited for a gap to pull out into the moving traffic. I fiddled around trying to make sure my feet weren't in the 'make sure they don't go here' place.

The night air was fuzzily orange with drizzle and street lights. We followed the headlights in front as the queue of cars snaked their way towards the outskirts of Lytham. We started to chat but I gave up as the helmet and noise took up too much valuable concentration. A mini roundabout gave way to a stretch of road where Wiz indicated right to overtake the car in front of us. As the middle of the road widened into an empty lane he pulled out. As we curved round the car into the lane another bike did the same thing coming towards us.

"Oh shit" said my sweet, handsome, cheeky nineteen year old friend ten years ago today.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Champion floaters

Each year our High Street hosts a Christmas Parade. This year our street entered its own float. Three mums had regular meetings, sprayed glitter, built white picket fences, fashioned fairy outfits and organised us all onto a lorry. Our theme was a 'kiwi backyard Christmas' so we had Father Christmas, children fishing in a boat, a barbeque accessorized by a Dad dishing out sausages, presents, Christmas carols and numerous children. We chugged our way through the crowds, had a truly fantastic time and drove back to our road to dismantle the float. We were overjoyed to discover we won the 'best float in parade' prize. What a day. We are all full of neighbourly love.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Crystal Meth anyone?

There are a few people in the world who can get under your skin and show you a glimpse of what it must be like to live as a bitter and resentful old hag with hatred and anger hacking away in your chest. This afternoon my twins have done me that insightful service.

Before the screaming and food chucking starts each morning I like to check my emails. Half of my life exists on t'other side of the world so they are first thing I think of when I wake. At 6.30am today I stood naked in the kitchen tapping away at the laptop in hurried fashion. I had an email from a copy writing agency in Hong Kong asking for a quote for a press release which had to be written by the end of the day. As my three littlies had begun traipsing out of their bedrooms and easing the decibels up towards intolerable, I whipped through the information as best I could and emailed back a quote. Although the day ahead promised a hash of familial administration and endless picking up and dropping off to kindergartens, I assured myself that I would get the twins to bed easily for their nap around midday and snatch a few hours to work on the press release.

After spending just short of 4 hours trying to get them to sleep I gave up any pretence of being in control. Their ability to fight sleep would impress a crystal meth addict. As soon as I decided 'fuck it' and cracked a beer to soothe my twitching eye and iron head-scarf they got bored of taunting me and slid into the dreamless sleep of those with no conscience.

Monday, 22 November 2010

World's Best Joke

I'm feeling happy and excitable. In line with my chipper disposition I thought I'd commit to print the world's best joke.

"Last night I dreamt I ate two giant marshmallows. I woke up and both my pillows had disappeared."

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Two lumps or three?

There are some funny old forces at work in the world of peer pressure. When I had my son I became aware very quickly that breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding was a contentious issue. I watched as a friendly coffee between chums turned into a narrow eyed, bile spitting contest. Equally hard to navigate between pregnant mums is the Cesarean/natural birth conversation. Just like the breast v bottle choice, opinions voiced are defined by angry defensiveness or smug self righteousness depending on which side of the fence you sit on. Recently I have noticed another gremlin forcing a blue corner/red corner fight. Two or three children?

If you have two children, there seems to be a bit of an insinuation that you aren't doing enough or that you have failed in the supermum stakes. Having a minimum of three children is worn as a badge of achievement. "Ooh, you can't POSSIBLY imagine how hard my life is as a natural birthing, breastfeeding mum of three but look at me! Hark at my incredible ability to achieve!"

I am, of course, generalising heavily here and many families wisely eschew this rather ridiculous form of competition and get down to the much more fun business of enjoying their life without giving a fuck about how anyone else decides to run theirs. I would say rather shamefacedly that I suffer slightly from sitting my opinionated cake hole in one corner of some of these conundrums but that I wholeheartedly admire those who don't.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Way out of leftfield

lad: Mummy why do girls have fannies?

me: it's the way all girls are made

lad: well then why do boys have willies and girls have fannies? what are they for?

me: [deep breath] well......

lad: what are skateboards made out of?

He keeps me on my toes, the lad.

Monday, 1 November 2010

All is well with the world

Please cross the following off my list of cumbersome infant luggage essentials:

2 x cots

2 x cot mattresses

a drawer full of cot linen and waterproof matress covers.

5 x baby sleeping bags

When we took the beds apart my fingers caught on the splinters where little teeth had worked through the toxic varnish and soaked the wood soft with saliva. There were dried drops of milk from the thousands of litres I had poured, bleary headed in the pool of light from the fridge into plastic bottles designed to emulate a mother's breast (really? do they?). The stain on the mattress took me back to the night when I had stripped so many sets of vomit covered sheets that I was loading the washing machine at 2am.

My little girls look like cartoon characters in their beds. They are tiny. Someone asked me why I was in such a hurry to get them into beds. I spouted off about never getting into a fight with a travel cot again but the real reason becomes obvious the first night you tuck your littlie into their brand new, grown up bed. Kneeling on the floor I lay my face on the pillow and looked straight into the eyes of my little girl. We smiled at each other in the half light of the hall lamp. I couldn't stop staring at her. Her smell and whispered babble billowed all nagging worries about the minutae of my life out of my head and settled with a deep, deep softness in the very core of my heart.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Don't cause friction here

On the surface sharing is an unambiguous concept. Splitting things equally, taking turns, giving something of ours to someone else when they have none. When we use the word with our children however sharing loses its wholesome halo and darkens. Consider its definition from the persective of a child or a parent.

The lad sees twin1 sitting quietly in her room playing with a small plane she dug from his toy box where it has lain neglected for about a month. He tries to peel her fingers from it whilst shrieking "she's not sharing with me". He emerges from the screamfest victorious and lavishes his fascination on the hitherto forgotten toy. Having asked her to share with him, he is now operating a 'possesssion is nine tenths of the law' policy in the face of her reaching fingers and tear stained face.

Last week I took my three to a friend's house so that we could gnaw to death a bit of gossip while our children had a play. Twin2 and the friend's youngest daughter had the same taste in toys which inevitably led to a tug of war accessorized by the kind of screaming which puts blood vessels in their eyes at risk. I leant over and said "darling can you share the doll with your friend?" What I really meant was "give her the doll, go and find something else to play with and forget the fucking doll. Don't cause friction here."
Aren't we teaching our children just the most wonderful lessons?

Monday, 18 October 2010

The world's easiest teatime recipe

I'm a bit of a twat when it comes to cooking. I absolutely love it and rarely see it as a chore, even after a long day of relentless childcare. Sometimes I spend a Monday morning preparing the whole week's evening meals to store in the fridge. Most days I have cooked dinner by about 10am. Often in the afternoon I visit friends or have them at my house and don't want to have the question of 'what's for dinner?' hanging over me while I enjoy their company. As much of a twat that I am, however, there are days when the prospect of cajoling three littlies to consume the kind of meals which make Jamie Oliver all excited makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a rusty can-opener. On these days I take the children into the garden, hand them all a can of rice pudding and a teaspoon and sit back with a glass of white wine. Five minutes later they are all in the bath, tummies full of the kind of carbohydrates which aid lengthy sleep and the kitchen is in the kind of state which makes me smile.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Sunday was a cracker of a day. The sun shone with spring warmth and we threw a birthday party for the lad. The bouncy castle was installed by 9.30am and bubbles filled our garden. All 3 chiddlers had a nap so at midday the husband and I blew the froth off a couple and played swingball. A couple of hours later and the party was in full swing. Nothing could be more wonderful than a garden full of shrieking, happy children and their relaxed, sun warmed parents. Twin1 ate more cake than anyone should put inside their body, twin2 was wide eyed at the joy of dummies (why couldn't she have stumbled upon that little miracle when she was a baby?) and the lad hauled his birthday brontosaurus around in delight.

I love being around lots of people. I'm not particularly private or much of a loner, I can talk the arse end off a donkey and am never the first to leave a party so Sunday was pretty goddammed perfect.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

lad turns 4

I awoke this morning to the question "Mummy am I four now?" I sleepily smiled a yes and pulled my big, grown up four year old son in for a cuddle. We have had the most wonderful day. The birthday present of a brontosaurus model was a massive hit, he chatted to my parents and brother on skype, played swing ball with the husband's parents and giggled with his sisters and cousin. At his request we went to the airport and watched planes land and take off followed by McDonalds. I watched twin2 turn into a deranged lunatic in her efforts to protect her bottle of juice and vowed to choose water next time.

Tomorrow we have all lad's friends round to enjoy a bouncy castle in the garden. He has been entranced at the 'getting older' part of his birthday. "Is it still my birthday? Am I still four?" And informing strangers of his age all day, brimming with shiny eyed glee. I am so proud of my little lad. He loves conversation and finding out how things work. His favourite programmes on TV are David Attenborough narrated nature documentaries and cookery programmes featuring Jamie Oliver. His happiest days have been spent helping his Daddy pour concrete into foundations and planting the vegetable garden. He has a great sense of confidence in himself and others and is fantastic company. He can concentrate well on a task and is interested in talking to adults. I love my special little boy. Happy birthday, son.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Tits, ass, God and drink induced psychosis

Friday brought with it all manner of shennanigans. The choir I sing in performed our first concert. As I walked smartly down the aisle in our local church behind my fellow choristers I noticed my husband and friends occupying the last three rows on the bride's side. Their cheering and whooping wasn't consistent with the rest of the audience but I loved it. I was immensely, tearily grateful that they had all come to support me on a Friday night. Most are in young families so paying for a ticket to listen to something they wouldn't normally is a stretch. They stood up and waved their arms around, cheered and clapped loudly. Their energy was fantastic and roused us all into giving our very best performance. After the concert, the choir wandered out into the night under the full moon, trying to gasp in oxygen after expending the energy from every cell to sing a glorious anthem written in celebration of the monarch's coronation. Each of my friends tripped across the lawn to hug me and say hello. It was then that I realised they were, to a man, absolutely plastered. What an impressive effort after spending the last two hours in church.

We skipped off to the pub and formed a merry bunch at the bar. When the bar closed we realised we hadn't had nearly enough to drink so repaired to the world's least glamorous strip bar. In our happy little troupe were a couple of members of the choir who cut a fine dash in their bow-tie and tails. We pole danced (some better than others), drank beer and laughed. Although I have known my friends here for less than three years and some for barely three months, it felt like we were on some sort of naughty school trip. There was a distinctly 'all in the same dormitory' chumminess as we linked arms, hooted at each other's jokes and swapped drinks and cuddles all evening.

As our littlies were staying at their grandparents for the evening, the morning was a highly relaxed affair. The husband and I chatted and relived the evening's events and I nearly burst with love for him when he told me how proud he was of my singing in the concert. I lay back in the spa pool and my mind lazily recalled the taxi drive home, the beans on toast and large glasses of water. But my brain went cold as in a flash I recalled my next movements.

My neighbour had generously leant me a black bustier to wear for the concert. She tucked a safety pin under the zip so it wouldn't fall down. It's a gorgeous little top which she has had for ages and looked after lovingly. Sadly it fared much worse after a mere four hours in my care.

Following baked beans on toast at 2am I tried to get undressed to go to bed. Unable to undo the saftety pin holding the top up, I tried to pull the garment over my head. As I became more entangled and trapped, I began to panic. I felt my chest constrict against the fabric and followed the single remaining course of action. A pair of scissors cut a rough but effective escape down the length of my friend's beloved bustier. I carefully placed it in the bin (to 'hide' the evidence) and wandered off to sleep deeply.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Older than her sister by 20 minutes, twin1 is the boss. She has a steely spirit -she wins most toy-tug-of-wars, can cry the longest and hardest and knows when to sit back and when to dive in. When she was a baby she was often poorly - she suffered from eczema terribly and definitely preferred to sit on a lap and be cuddled rather than explore. At nearly two years old there is not so much of a whiff of the sickly infant about her. She can target the make up pocket in my handbag and deftly locate the more expensive items. Lancome's Juicy Tubes are the favourite, presumably because they are glue like and smell of watermelon. She gawps in awe of her big brother and despite being the smallest of the three, can hold her own in any sibling scrap.

I love her humour and can see so much of her big brother in her. Although my girls are identical twins I often think twin2 looks very much like my family whilst twin1 has a strong resemblance to my husband's side. She is a glorious little thing and I adore her.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


Tempted as I am to regale you with the story of my being run over as I skipped tipsily through Soho on my 30th birthday and the subsequent farcical drama, I have reminded myself that one of the reasons I started to write the blog was for my children to read about themselves and our family life. With that in mind I thought I would write a post on each little chiddler. In reverse age order. So, twin2, you are up first.

Twin2 loves:

TV, sucking her fingers whilst tickling her ear, spending time in the bathroom with the door shut so she can quietly unwrap all manner of sanitary products and shove them down the toilet, cuddling, walking straight out into the ocean, shouting "don't" whilst pointing at other toddlers in a menacing fashion, saying "pardon me" after she has burped and consuming vast quantities of anything leaning towards edible.

She will happily share food with twin1 or the lad. I love her sunny disposition. Although the little twins have spent a sizable portion of the last two years bawling, twin2 has a calmness which pools out from her little being. She has always waited her turn with goodwill. Her ability to eat almost anything is rather impressive. This morning I found her in the bathroom squeezing violently strong, mint toothpaste into her mouth. Upon my entrance she guiltily chucked the tube on the ground and jogged past me. Gorgeous little thing she is. I love her to bits

Sunday, 19 September 2010


There is a wild storm hovering over New Zealand. Yesterday the husband woke up worried about the house he is renovating. I had to work all morning so he packed our 3 into the car and drove the hour up the coast to check on the house. As the children fought in the car, he clambered all over the roof attempting to tie down the tarpaulin as it whipped around him in the screaming wind and rain. His mood was surprisingly chipper when he walked back in the door. He then won his weight in brownie points by organising a babysitter and booking a table for dinner.

Our romantic evening ended up being a lively dinner for us and four friends, Cadillac martinis and collapsing into bed at 2am. Fun and a half.

This morning I broke my toe. I failed to negociate the sofa and gave it a hefty kick. It's rather inconvenient for the constant dropping down to knee level that motherhood necessitates. The husband's advice as I writhed around on the floor, clutching my blackening little digit and trying not to sob? "Run it off, Ruddy".

Saturday, 11 September 2010


It has been a long, long time since I scratched any kind of musical itch. When I was young I played the clarinet, the piano, the violin, the recorder (which I adored) and sang in the school choir. Over the last couple of years I have been yearning to play music. My dodgy arm makes singing a much more favourable option than other instrumental pursuits. The sound a group of people make when they drop their jaws and let rip has always moved me.

A few months ago I joined the Scholars Pro Musica. The choir was formed and is conducted by a young English guy who is deeply passionate and knowledgable about classical music. When I met him to audition I expected him to tell me I wasn't right for the choir. The music is ancient, ecclesiastical and complicated. The ability to read music well was imperative and I worried that I was way out of my depth. The audition comprised singing along to a few scales which I belted out with twin1 on my hip (she gazed in surprise at my face during the entire process).

For the first few rehearsals I sank towards the back of the alto section, mouthed a few words and wallowed in utter confusion. It was disheartening. The nineteen other members of the choir seemed much more on the ball than me. It has been 25 years since I last read music and the pieces we we had to learn were challenging.

It has been exactly the kind of challenge I need. Engaging my fusty cells up top, I have snatched the odd half an hour here and there to learn the music. You Tube has been invaluable and we are lucky that our conductor goes out of his way to help. When I pootle off to choir practice on a Sunday evening I'm usually absolutely exhausted but I love it. It makes me feel elated yet balanced. I love being in my choir. Each voice combines with the others to produce a magnificent wall of sound. The beauty in this sound is extraordinary. It makes me want to cry whilst singing.

Friday, 10 September 2010

My 'off switch' is faulty

"I won't be late darling, I'm just going to have 2 glasses of wine, have a quick chat and come come" I said as I hauled on my skinny jeans and high heels last night. Come midnight I was guzzling Corona in a Brazilian bar and elbowing aside the singer of the band to show them how it's done.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The art of shit parenting

I won't be winning any mothering awards this week. Yesterday I got the children ready to go out in the car. I told the lad to play in the front garden but not to get in the car. He, of course, got in the car and rearranged the dials, switches and indicators from the comfort of the driver's seat. I leant over the verranda which is at the top of a flight of stairs and overlooking the garden and bellowed at him. I had left the keys in the ignition from an earlier trip so was keen for him to make a smart exit. As he hopped out he smartly pushed the lock down and slammed the door. My rage put me at risk of a stroke and I screamed 'for fuck's sake Dusty'. Unfortunately my pulpit served its purpose well and carried my rage down the street so that everyone could get a lesson in how not to parent.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Holding back the years

Having children and the concept of time are linked in the most extraordinary way. I have talked before about time and how it is awarded to you and taken away as your newborn baby morphs into something with legs and the ability to scurry round creating mischief.

This morning I was watching my three eat their breakfast. They scooped cereal into their little mouths, legs swinging under the table whilst giggling at each other. The lad was teaching twin1 how to say something appalling and they all looked happily crumpled and twinkly eyed after their night's sleep. I wanted the little scene to stretch on forever. The joy derived from observing your children living their lives cannot be overstated. At the same time as wanting time to stand still and keep my littlies as nearly two and nearly four year olds, I can't help but be excited about the future when they bring friends home, have hobbies, make choices and create the noise and laughter of a big family Christmas. I spent much of the twins' first year looking forward to them being able to walk and talk. You shouldn't wish any time away but it was hard to relish some of the endless arse and floor wiping.

At each stage there are wonderful moments. Hold these in the palm of your hand, whispy and ethereal. Whenever you wake in the night and worry or feel lonely, open your palm and let the golden memory warm you and chase away the demons.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The witching hour

Although frenetic, tea time and bath time are some of the most enjoyable moments of the day. Whilst the 3 littlies sit round the table and eat their tea I often cook, watching and listening to their conversations. The lad dominates the conversation with his two year advantage but the twins have enough words in their armoury to communicate. Their target practice has improved no end so cleaning up is becoming a more manageable task. The twins rarely eat solely what is put in front of them but rather pass their food back and forth to each other. The lad loves to spoon feed twin1 and maintain his management role. Whilst still at the table I strip the girls off to their nappies and they toddle off to watch the water make frothy bubbles in the bath.

Perching on a stool next to the bath I love to watch my children transform from grubby little street urchins to lavender scented, clear eyed angels. They delight in the watery games and hold their arms up to be lifted out and gently dried. All fractious exhaustion from a busy day has dissipated into a compliant haze. Cuddles and stories send them into a soporific trance. Each day I thank the universe for our happy, healthy children. Nothing could make you happier.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The furthest point on the planet

I miss my parents. In quite a consuming way. I think about them most of the time. It isn't just because I love them, it's because I enjoy their company so much. I love chatting to them, we like doing the same sorts of things, they make me feel great about myself, they make me laugh, they are positive and generous and they love life. I never feel like I need space from them and however much time I spend with them, it feels like it's not enough.

When we decided to move to New Zealand in 2007 I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get on the plane and fly to the furthest point on the planet away from them. In my 'the world revolves around me' fantasy (which the husband assures me it doesn't) my parents live next door. We live in a chocolate box cottage with wild flowers climbing all over the walls and apple trees dotted through the garden offering dappled shade. We are continuously planning adventures and there is a constant stream of people of all ages through our house, drinking tea, eating cake and quaffing wine whilst doubled over with exquisite laughter. All my mates live within spitting distance and our children run wild with each other. All this takes place in Devon, the Isle of Wight or Stamford in Lincolnshire where I went to school.

I also miss English things like people saying "ooh, I'll put the kettle on" as a reaction to any drama ranging from missing out on a parking space to a death in the family. I miss the kind of dry humour found particularly in the north where my parents live. My Dad recounted a conversation he overheard between two elderly gentlemen yesterday. "Hello Frank, it's been a while hasn't it? How have you been?" Frank replied "Well I woke up this morning so I can't complain."

Since returning from Auckland last weekend I have felt rather unsettled and raw. That always excacerbates my homesickness. My parents rang today and told me they have booked their tickets to come and visit in January. I'm so lucky they are happy to travel here as often as possible.
The photo was taken by the lad as I stood on a chair to talk to my neighbour over the fence. It tickles me to see the world from his height.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


There are pieces of music which do something to me. I was driving back from Auckland today and listened to 'Unintended' by Muse. As the opening bars unfurled the song's rich, sweet melody I could feel a welling up inside my body. A nostalgic yearning for both the past and the future bubbled in my chest and tears filled my eyes at the intensity. My heart opened as a gaping maw and spewed emotion. My voice box couldn't produce enough decibels to convert the energy into noise. It often takes a day or so for these feelings to slowly muddle back and allow my brain to resume its position as the boss.

Some of the songs which have this effect on me are:

(I did warn you of my questionable taste in music)

Roam, B-52s

Saturday, 7 August 2010

City glitz

I am writing this in Auckland. As the husband is in Sydney for a few days, I dropped the ankle biters off at my generous Aunt's house and settled in the car to indulge my fairly dire taste in music. Expelling vast lung fulls of air, I murdered Madonna's Ray Of Light and pointed the car towards the bright lights of Auckland. One of my dearest friends moved to Auckland a few months ago and I was so excited about catching up.

A Friday night out with girlfriends in the big smoke. What a delight. We giggled, drank champagne and poured ourselves into skinny jeans. We had so much glitter on our eyes that blinking sent silvery clouds shimmering onto our shoulders and decolletage. Teetering into Racket Bar we laughed and danced our way through the evening. It was obvious who I had befriended in the bar as they were coated in a sprinkling of glitter. The clever, open minded traits of city folk blended with the Kiwi warmth makes Aucklanders a convivial, fun bunch. My friend attracted the attention of the most smoulderingly sexy bloke in the bar who was also charming and polite. I woke up to silence and have spent the day chatting. Tomorrow I'll go home very happy.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

I think we might need to section Mummy

For some time now, perhaps 400 days or so (give or take) the twins have been bawling their little eyes out and clinging to me as one would to the last dry mast on a sinking ship. That is until 10 days ago (exactly). I took them to a friend's house a week last Sunday afternoon so we could chin wag and drink cold Coronas. Imagine my staggered, mildly suspicious surprise to see them totter from the car to her front door and play with the toys, giggle at the older children and generally enjoy themselves in a way that makes parents pleased to be parents of such well behaved children. My chum noticed the lack of histrionics too. I barely dared to breathe of the change to anyone else in case I cursed it. Two other friends have remarked upon the uncharacteristic calmness of the girls this week too.

I'd like to say their turn in behaviour was down to the suggestion my sister in law made some time ago when I was looking for an au pair. She wondered if they wouldn't benefit more from daycare rather than reinforcing the clingy behaviour by bringing another mother figure in. The lightbulb popped in my head at the obvious genius of her suggestion and I bustled them off to our local preschool. The first few weeks at dropping off and picking up time the girls managed to give the soundtrack to 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' a run for it's money but of late they toddle in and out quite happily, used to their new routine.

More likely the reason is this. The twins have watched in beady fascination as they pushed me to the raw, ragged limits of patience and just as I tipped, spinning eyed and gnashing over the edge of the abyss they decided they were bored of that game and started to behave like gorgeous little angels.

As far as developments go, this one's a whopper. To celebrate, the husband and I are going bowling this evening.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Are you sure?

Last night we went out for dinner with some friends. I overheard the husband saying "in a couple of years, we may have another baby. It's possible." Instead of spitting my wine out in blusterous, indignant rebuttal I tilted my head to the side and smiled in consideration.

What is wrong with us? I can't believe we would even consider it knowing how hard it has been and still is. We are clawing our way to the surface slowly and yet would consider submerging ourselves further with another baby.

In other, more exciting news you can buy clothes and shoes from Matalan on line

Monday, 19 July 2010

Dusting off the cobwebs between my ears

Last week was extremely busy. I started to feel slightly panicked at what I have taken on. For some time now I have been desparate to do some work. The challenge was to find something both enjoyable and which fit around my little family. Freelance writing looked like the most likely candidate to fit the bill. A friend suggested I start writing a blog to practice writing. It has been no hardship writing this little diary. It's rather addictive actually. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet the editor of Simply You magazine who very kindly gave me the most fantastic opportunity. In September I will have two pieces published in this New Zealand fashion bible. I'm so excited! My clever brother has built me a website so now I can officially say "I'm a writer."
Last week I had a taster of what I hope will happen more often - I had deadlines to meet. The almost obsolete cogs of my brain clunked into action and managed to pull two more articles from its murky depths for Look Magazine. Such intense mental activity after a 4 year break necessitated a boozy, cackle filled lunch. So that's what I did from Saturday lunchtime until 11pm that night.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Across a crowded room....

Homesickness does not seem to be abating even after nearly 3 years. Instead of writing about all the things I miss about home I'll write about something I love about New Zealand.

Deep in the remote depths of the South Island lies the town of Queenstown. It sits at the edge of Lake Wakatipu and is guarded by the craggy Remarkables. Its personality and character are vast for such a small place. It's known worldwide for being the centre of the adrenaline universe and if you've been there, chances are you'll have lobbed yourself off the edge of something. The beauty of the place is beyond words. In my own tiny universe it is particularly special for this was the place I first set eyes on the husband. It was an auspicious start. I stood at the edge of the dancefloor in The World Bar and watched him arms aloft, eyes closed, punching out the beat as he tottered to the bar and order two Coronas only to discover he had lost his wallet.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Aah, sweet mystery of life

Last week I went to see a medium. Nearly 10 years ago I was riding pillion on my friend's motorbike. We had a head on collision with another motorbike and both my friend and the other young driver died. Ever since then I have wanted to talk to Wiz. It was as if our conversation stopped midway and I was left, slack jawed, waiting for someone to press play so we could continue. For months after he died I would get a taxi to the graveyard in his pretty little village, sit by his grave in the cold, grey air and chatter to him. At first it was just a mound of freshly dug earth. After a while his gravestone was added (Richard Wilson, Wiz, truly a star). Flowers came and went, new graves were dug, the earth settled, the weather grew warmer and I continued to visit. I loved it. In the loneliness which followed the accident, I felt comfortable and less hollow sitting on the gravel and wet grass by his body. Sometimes I just sat and listened to Harry Potter stories on my walkman (the big bang to my nut had affected my ability to read - the words wouldn't sit still on the page for a good year). When the cold had seeped into my bones and made me stiff I would amble over to the pub adjoining the graveyard and drink a hot chocolate in the corner, studiously ignoring the interested stares from locals who were all in sad shock at losing Wiz.

The medium said "There's a young man here who'd like to talk to you". She asked me if there was anything I'd like to ask him. For 10 years I've been having a one way conversation with Wiz. I have whiled away a great many hours fantasising about talking to him, playing out scenes in my mind where were would talk about what had happened and the affect it has had on our families. I looked at the floor and could feel an enormous surge of energy billowing through my organs and blood. It felt like some of Wiz's soul was inside my body. I couldn't articulate even one word in response.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Mummy sick came out of my bum

On Sunday evening I was rushing around at 6.50pm, trying to do a few last minute jobs before choir practice at 7pm (that's right, folks, choir practice. I am a member of a chamber choir - the Pro Scholar Musica). The lad sauntered into the living room minus his pyjama bottoms. "Mummy, sick came out of my bum".
Barely looking up I replied "darling, please don't say shit, I've told you that word is just for adults."
"No mummy, SICK came out of my bum". This got my attention and I followed him into the toilet. Peering into the bowl my shoulders sagged. Indeed, I understood why my son had described the pale brown lake as sick. More disheartening than the troubled state of my son's bowels though was what the beige custard was coating. The little twins are obsessed with all things toilet so we try to operate a strict 'closed door' policy for bathrooms. They had capitalized on a window of opportunity when a door had been left open by shoving as many toys as they could into the loo. There were pools and puddles of bum sick over everything. Fifteen minutes and half a bottle of disinfectant later and I was warbling in church. I hope I get into heaven.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Cry Me A River

The little twins are 19 months old. At birth they rated about average on the crying scale. They have progressed to having some of the most frequently used tear ducts in the southern hemisphere. For the first 7 or 8 months I could let the sound of dual screaming wash over me whilst plodding on the with the required tasks in the correct order (make food, shovel food in, wipe up excess, undress screamers, soak in bath, lather in 'no tears' shampoo, laugh at the irony, notice that my laughter is drowned out by warbling twins and so on and so forth). At 15 months old my patience was starting to be stretched. At 19 months I can barely string a coherent thought together. Sometimes I feel like my brain merely functions to be irritated by the sounds of crying or try to stay calm despite the crying. Soon the very last shred of patience will dissolve into my own screaming.

I'm writing this on a Friday night, drinking a glass of wine and watching old episodes of Sex And The City. The silence is gorgeous.

Monday, 14 June 2010


Enter the new man. Let's not make any bones here. He is still as wilfull, cheeky and cocksure as he ever was but there is a whole new 'lad' about him too. The last year has been a battle. The preceding hour of each meal and bath was enough to feel like your heart had been replaced with lead and that your endeavours would yield a higher success rate if you had attempted to climb Mount Cook backwards in the dark. 'No' was his favourite word and I felt like my parenting was turning him into a Dark Lord.

Luckily it seems he has tired of/grown out of this behaviour. He is now the kind of person who bounds to the table with the first call of 'dinner's ready' and is earnestly teaching his little sisters to carry their empty plates to the sink. He stops at each road to wait for me before crossing and plays generously with his mates. I love his ability to stand up for himself in an articulate, inquisitive manner.

As of this week the little twins will be starting at nursery for a couple of afternoons per week. I asked the lad what he would like to do with me. Come Thursday we'll be slurping hot chocolates and watching planes take off and land at our local airport. I can't wait.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


going to the pub on a Friday night with husband and chums
breakfast in a cafe on Saturday morning with the husband
SATC2 on Saturday evening
walking on the beach with the husband
reading English Grazia on the sofa
sleeping for 12 straight hours

That's right, a whole weekend without my children. My lovely, saint like Aunt and her generous husband offered to have the 3 of them for the weekend. We just picked up the happy little sunbeams this afternoon after an utterly relaxing two days. I couldn't be more grateful

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Time takes on a different form when the whole package of 24 doesn't belong to you and you alone. It started when the lad was born but is much more noticeable now with the twins thrown into the mix. When the babies were little tinies the Time God held out his hand and gave me twins who slept all the time they weren't feeding. With the other hand he snatched back a good chunk of the day by making feeding time last nearly 2 hours. How I used to long for the day when I wouldn't be pinned to the sofa by milk addicts. A few months later a clever girl showed me how to balance a bottle of milk on a teddy sitting on each twin's chest. I could have wept in gratitude. Cha-Ching! A few more precious hours. As they became more adept at holding their own bottles I was able to wander off and do a few jobs. Perfect. The Time God then woke from his reverie, sniffed at my relative freedom and made sure those little twins needed their mother to spend a significant portion of her day settling them into high chairs and spooning tiny spoonful after tiny spoonful of carefully steamed and pureed vegetables into their mouths. The rigidity of their needs has driven me a bit nuts over the last year. When they get to about 3 years old then spontaneity happily trickles back in. We'll be pootling off to the beach at 6pm armed with sausages and bread in the late afternoon heat of summer, eating roast dinners all together surrounded by friends as hoards of children make dens in the garden and race down the drive on their bikes.

Both twin1 and twin2 are now up on their feet and walking all over the place. It seems to have brought their 'twinness' to the fore. I get such a kick out of seeing their beautiful little curly tops bobbing round after each other. Although they come from the same egg and so should be perfectly identical, their faces are quite different. Trying to differentiate them from behind though is another matter entirely. It's a good job they are so adorable looking as their screaming, scrappy fights for attention are reaching fever pitch. This very morning I spoke to a lovely girl who would make the perfect au pair for us. She's not available until August though and I fear the husband and I may have been sectioned by then. The search continues.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Au pair extraordinaire, s'il vous plait

The hunt for an au pair continues apace. We have signed up with an agency who try and match us to someone who will fit into our little family. Rather naively I assumed that they would line up a series of pony tailed, lively, enthusiastic little freshies for us to meet, interview and get to know before they moved into our house. Apparently this is not the case. We can chat on the phone in their home country and if we're lucky we'll be able to see them on skype. A couple of years ago the thought of inviting a strange teenager to live with us for a year would make me slightly nauseous. Now I can't think of anything better.

Our 4.26am start today elongated the latter stages of the day somewhat as well as diminishing my already weakened ability to deliver a tightly administrated 4pm-7pm witching hour. The husband is a legend at diving head first into the fray the minute he walks through the door from work and we are muddling along in a dishevelled fashion but I can't wait to have someone to help. Even more excitingly, I'm hoping that I'll be able to start working again. My grey matter has been swilling around rather aimlessly for some time now. Time to dust of the old brain cells and see if they have any use beyond building planes out of lego.

Monday, 17 May 2010


Every time I walk out of our house and cross the road my eyes are drawn down its length to the beautiful sight of an ancient volcano. He sits sentry at the head of the spit of sand upon which our little town sits. He gazes down over the impressive, enormous, natural harbour on one side and on the other to the Pacific Ocean which stretches so magnificently into the distance I should imagine it makes the volcano feel quite insignificant. I love the sense of perspective one gets from both the volcano and the ocean.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


This morning during breakfast the cacophony reached new heights. The screaming and incessant crying finally pushed the husband to yell over the din "Let's get an au pair." I have taken a break from scouring the world wide web looking for pink cheeked, trustworthy, sunny dispositioned potentials. I thought I might try and articulate the excitement on my blog but I'm not sure there are the words available so I shall merely say this....HURRAH!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Slamming great ray of sunshine

Over the past week or two I have been feeling increasingly ground down by the antics of my littlies. Twin2 has been crying most for most of her waking hours over the last four weeks. The belligerence from the lad is astonishing. This morning he yelled "I'm in charge" at me as he ate scrambled eggs. The complexity of the night time musical bed routine is impressive. Two nights ago 4am saw me getting up to retrieve a screaming twin1 from her cot. I crept back down the corridor with her to the lad's room where I had been squashed in the corner with twin1 since 1am. At midnight the lad had been scared and wanted to cuddle up to his Daddy in our bed and there started the relocation program.

The following day twin2 excavated the lumpy contents of the toilet (the lad tends not to flush). Leaving bubbling pots and pans on the cooker I thought I'd run a quick head count. The lad and twin1 were watching Peppa Pig in the living room. Nice. Twin2 was armpit deep in the toilet bowl, flicking the water and other more substantial items around the room with a brown flecked toilet brush. The pool of liquid about her feet was seeping into her socks. She smiled as she saw me, dropped the brush and started to raise her hand to put her fingers into her mouth. Not quite as nice.

And then a slamming great ray of sunshine beamed down upon me in the form of a few hours with my daughter. Each Tuesday afternoon, the lad has fun at kindergarten with his chums and the girls take it in turns to go to daycare. This week it was twin 2's turn to potter about with her ma. We took our lunch down to the boardwalk by the beach. As we walked together, we held hands and she smiled with her mouth open in delight as we watched little birds hop across our path and surfers whip their boards across the huge waves. We sat down on a bench underneath a tree and ate vegemite and avocado sandwiches. It was just so perfect. My sweet little girl.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

hunkering down

As it cools down here in New Zealand it is warming up at home in England. In our front garden is the most enormous pile of neatly stacked wood which already has a bit of a dent in it. In the words of the husband's idol Bear Grylls "there is nothing to boost morale better than a fire." Hear, hear.

It has been quite a few weeks since we have had any rain. This weekend I'm hoping for a deluge (to quench our thirsty garden), fish and chips from the Tauranga fish market and to sit inside our cosy living room, fire blazing while we watch films. Hardly the most ambitious way to spend your time but I am craving some time en famille.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Christmas Tree planting in May

Today is my wedding anniversary. Four years ago we stood in the church behind my parents' house and promised to love each other, take care of each other and build a life together until one of us kicks the bucket. The traditional gift for the fourth anniversary is fruit and flowers. Probably one for the girls I should say. I bought the husband a Pohutukawa tree. As it grows it will produce festive looking, bright red, thistle like blooms which come to the fore in December and have earnt it the moniker New Zealand's Christmas Tree. I love the pride of the nation in this ancient looking adornment to many beaches and gardens here and feel excited about watching it grow in the garden of the house my husband lovingly built for his little family as we build our life together, loving and taking care of each other.

Monday, 3 May 2010

No room for political correctness

Last Saturday morning our little family wandered across the road to the park and sports ground and watched our friends' son play rugby. He is 8 years old and rather impressively scored a try whilst managing to bowl a few others over in the committed yet gentlemanly fashion as befits the game. His team played well and beat their opponents convincingly. As the boys ambled off the field, cheeks flushed with victory they grouped together to have a post match debrief. I was so pleased for them and expected the coach (a father) to clap them all on the back and dish out an enthusiastic "Goodness me, aren't you a talented lot! Well done to one and all. Look at what you can achieve when you play so well as a team." Not so it would seem. This is what they got.

"Yeah not bad boys. There's a lot of work to do but luckily we've got all year to do it. See you on Wednesday at 4pm sharp for training."

According to the try scorer's mum this was quite encouraging compared to other weeks. The previous match they had lost and had been told that as they all played so badly there would be no man of the match awarded. In a year and a half the lad will be playing each Saturday. Judging by his current behaviour he will benefit enormously from the rough and tumble of a weekly ruck. During the match he ran off to play with some of his friends. He came back to the throng of parents and I watched him walk round and look up at each mum. When he had located his target he punched me heftily in the thigh as I assume some form of greeting or possibly a show of love and then ambled off.

Friday, 23 April 2010

A New Low

Yesterday I went to see a friend and her children for a catch up and a play. She is highly intelligent. She has a degree, has written a children's book and is about to launch her own company online. We chattered away for a while, refereed a few tiffs between our 6 chiddlers and ate cake. Just as I was about to leave, I noticed a large brown box in the garage.

Chum: I bought a new washing machine the other day with a 7.5kg drum so now I'm down to doing just 1 load of washing per day.

Me: Really? I'm not sure how big my washing machine drum is.

We go into her laundry room and she lifts the lid on her sparkly new, 7.5kg drum washing machine. As we gaze into the impressively roomy appliance, we both suddenly realise how low we have stooped. Time for her to get stuck into publishing that book and for me to get a job.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Fasten your seat belt, please

(photo: the lad eating noodles in Changi airport, Singapore on the way to the UK)

Time and circumstance change one's perception of the same activity so much. A few years ago I considered long haul travel a real drag. The uncomfortable seats, the never ending nature of a night flight, counting down minutes from take off to landing, the lack of personal space when crammed hip to hip with someone for 13 hours whilst trying to doze or eat. I found the whole thing quite irritating and intrusive.

Last week I flew back to the UK for 2 weeks with my son and left the little twins here in NZ. Even before the flight I was excited at the prospect of spending 30 or so hours alone with the little chap. The experience lived up to my excitement. We chatted lots, held hands, read stories, watched TV, wrapped ourselves round each other to sleep, walked round the plane and looked out of the window at the clouds, tiny dots of light far below and cuddled and giggled together. I'll never forget either the journey to the UK or the one back for the golden opportunity to devote my full attention to one of my little chiddlers.

There have been a few flights between those taken as an impatient single gal and the last one with the lad. I have flown backwards and forwards to the UK quite a bit over the last four years. Here are the combinations and permutations...


me and husband

me, husband and 8 week old son

me, husband and 1 year old son

me 15 weeks pregnant with twins and 21 month old son

me 30 weeks pregnant with twins and nearly 2 year old son

me, 9 month old twins and 2 and a half year old son

me, husband, 10 month old twins and 2 and a half year old son

me and 3 and half year old son

Needless to say travelling with three small children was pretty ghastly. I won't bore you with a blow by blow account of those harrowing hours but there was plenty of vomit involved, oxygen had to be administered, emptying of nappies containing matter worse than nuclear waste and all with the four of us crammed into three seats towards the back of the plane.

At the end of the journey to the UK ten glorious days in England with my parents unfolded before the lad and I. We had such a wonderful time and I am eternally grateful to my aunt, husband and mother in law who all took it in turns to look after the little twins so that the lad and I could surprise my mother for her 60th birthday. How lucky we are to live in an age where long distance travel is possible.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Into the Wild

This evening the husband and I will be preparing for the week ahead. The excitement is palpable in our house as we are going on holiday for a whole, glorious week on our own. Our week will be spent walking, kayaking and camping along the Abel Tasman track, spending the night in Nelson then driving down the west coast, seeing where the will takes us, staying with some friends and flying back home. So the first job is to set out all our kit to see what we need to go and buy. The husband showed me the tiny stove he has zipped up in a neat little pouch and the spanking clean cooking pots designed purposefully for camping. I can barely contain myself at the thought of chatting, making tea and beans in the morning, walking through paradise, swimming and sleeping out in the open.

I have even bought the kind of shoes I have always laughed at people for wearing. Check them out. In the true style of being a mum, even though I know there is nothing wrong with leaving my children in the infinitely more capable hands than my own of my parents, I feel guilty about not taking them, guilty that I can't wait to relinquish all responsibility for a week and sad that I'm not going to see them for 7 whole days.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


You learn something new every day.

There are a million things I would like to write about . I'm not sure why but I don't feel like committing the last week to print. Except for this which really tickles me.

For the last two years I have been party to most things my brother's family does as we live very near to each other. I love it. We are extremely close. Our life is as open to them as theirs is to us. I know exactly what my sister in law like and dislikes. Or at least I thought I did. It turns out she has a prediliction to fishing magazines. You learn something new every day.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


The day before Christmas Eve I saw this painting. I felt a pull and knew that I could look at it forever. Having brought it home for the night to see what the husband thought of it and how it would look in the house I began to panic. What if he didn't like it? What if we couldn't afford it? What if SOMEONE ELSE ended up buying it and I couldn't suspend my mind before its inky silence ever again? The husband feigned indifference then hid it and gave it to me as a surprise on Christmas Day. What a kind and loving superstar he is.

The artist Ellie Lawler painted it. I have met Ellie a few times as she lives next door to one of my friends. She is an amazing soul. Deep and gentle with wonderful insight. I liked her very much from the first second I saw her. To discover she was the artist made me love the painting even more. When I look at it I can feel a serenity steal over my mind. I love the togetherness of the jellyfish as they slowly pulse through the mystical, magical world of black water. Jellyfish have no brain and yet they congregate on their wandering journey. No purpose, no rush, no sadness, no arguing, just beauty. The hypnotic effect this piece has on me reminds me that nothing else is important. Just be.

Aside from the energy of the Moonjellies there is another reason I love it. For the last 2 years the lad has been interested in the natural world underwater. We often find jellyfish on our beach, watch the fantastic 'Blue Planet' series on DVD and chat about jellyfish, squid, sharks and all the other things which so fascinate little boys. The Finding Nemo scene featuring a pink, waving mass of pink Jellyfish ignites further talk of their tentacles, what happens when you touch them, what they eat and where they live. When the lad set eyes on the painting he smiled and pointed to it. He loves it too.

This afternoon Ellie came over to chat about the painting and tell me about its story. I'll write about it tomorrow.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Me and Nigella's chocolate frosted nipples

Tomorrow night the husband and I are going to a party. A proper glam one with a marquee and a DJ. Can you imagine my excitement? As I am well versed in the Kiwi etiquette I duly rang the host to ask what I could bring. All New Zealanders reading this should be nodding sagely at my appropriate behaviour. My English compatriots will be wondering what the hell I had in mind to bring to someone else's party (apart from perhaps lashings of booze). Let me enlighten you. When you are invited to someone's house for dinner in these southern climes it is customary to offer to bring something to add to the meal. "Yes we'd love to come, shall I make pudding?" would be a standard response to such an invitation. The offer to make pudding/salad/whatever is usually gratefully received. So when you are dining out, instead of kicking back and thinking how brilliant a night out of the kitchen will be you are back under the spotlight to rustle something up which will be under the scrutiny of more eyes than just those of your ravenous husband.

The first few times I invited friends over for dinner I was almost offended when someone turned up with a random dish to add to the menu I had already planned and cooked. I was shocked that they had had to put in some effort when all I wanted them to do was turn up with a bottle of wine, drink plenty of the stuff, eat the food I'd cooked and be fun company. Having been here for a while now I can fully appreciate this joining together of effort. For a start, New Zealanders are delightfully, singularly unsnobby. If you offered to make pudding then turned up with a slab of ice cream and a pack of maltesers then no one would bat an eyelid. They'd be just as grateful for your contribution if you had spent the last few hours sweating over a handmade millefeuille of frothy cream, buttery pastry and mascerated strawberries. These days I hang somewhere between my fairly strict, British upbringing and my more relaxed, adopted New Zealand approach. If someone brings food or offers to make something then I gladly work it into dinner. However there is nothing I love more than to spend an afternoon mucking about in the kitchen knowing that when my guests arrive no one has to do anything more than eat and enjoy themselves. I hasten to add I'm not a Nigella wannabe salaciously licking meringue off my fingers (although I do love the woman).

Back to that phone conversation asking what I can bring to the merry gathering. The answer? Absolutely nothing. Perfect. Tomorrow evening I can shovel spaghetti on toast down my children, slather on a bucket load of make up and divert my attention to wrapping up a gorgeous engagement present for the happy hosts.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


Aching limbs, head full of stamping horse hooves, stomach an industrial washing machine, thank the universe my parents are here to sort out the ankle biters.


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