Archive for August 2011
Yes, there is such a place. And never, in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would ever plan an entire week’s holiday around a visit to a place designed around a fictitious animated pig.
But child-rearing, it turns your brain mushy until one day there’s a part of you – a sane 40-year-old woman who likes nice handbags – who wakes up one morning in your lovely stylish home and says, “You know what? I think we’ll rent a cottage in the New Forest and visit Peppa Pig World. What d’you think, kids, snort-snort?”
And so we found ourselves crammed into a tiny little quaint cottage in the heart of the New Forest, trying hard not to bash our brains out on the medieval midget doorways, poring over theme park plans and plotting our trip to Paulton’s Park, home of PP World.
Stop sniggering at the back.
I have to say, it was very well done. Despite the crowds of panicky mums hot-footing it to the turnstyles to enter the theme park at 10am, we got in very quickly, “only” about £100 lighter, and frog-marched our way past all the other attractions to the pink land of Peppa-La-Pig.
You couldn’t miss it.
Not only was Peppa herself spinning around at the top of a 50-foot pole, but the theme tune (Ba, ba-ba, ba ba; ba-ba ba-ba ba ba) piped loudly and repeatedly out from behind every fake bush until you did actually want to impale Peppa on a skewer and shove her on the BBQ (or maybe that was just me).
The rides looked great. I can only say “looked” because we didn’t actually go on any. Faced with queues of up to an hour to go on a ride that lasted just 30 seconds, I had a word in DD’s ear, promising the joys of a real rollercoaster if she could tear herself away from the idea of Peppa’s Balloon Ride, Grandpa’s Little Train, or Daddy’s Big Red Car.
“We could queue here all morning and go on one ride,” I pleaded, “or outside PP World, we could go on the train ride, on the rollercoaster, on the Viking boat ride and on the tractors all before lunch. After lunch you could go on the flume ride, drive a digger, go on the magic carpet ride, the ladybird ride, the bunny cars and the UFO ride. What do you think?”
“And then you could have an ice cream? We’d have time for that…”
“Okay Mummy Pig,” she said.
For me, leggings had their moment back in the 1980s, back when I was skinny enough not to look offensive in them. Usually then, I had scrunched-up “Fame!” (I’m gonna live forever!) leg-warmers artfully arranged at the bottom of the leggings and added a tasteful, if middle-aged, green, padded riding jacket up top.
Such was the fashion reality of being a pony mad 13-year-old in the early 80s.
Anyway, as you may know, leggings, jeggings (jeans-leggings) and treggings (trouser-leggings) have, along with the skinny jean (a “drainpipe” to those of a certain age), made somewhat of a come-back in recent years and, while I wouldn’t be seen dead in a pair of bona fide leggings unless they were peeping out from under a decent-length dress, I did find myself in GAP today, trying on a pair of what can only be described as treggings.
They were just Dhs 39 in the Ramadan, Summer Surprises we’re-desperate-to-move-the-stock super-sale, reduced from like a million Dirhams. And I can’t resist a bargain. On they slipped in the changing room.
“Oh,” said DD, lolling against the changing-room wall and injecting more surprise than I liked into her voice. “I like them.”
“Really?” I asked. 40-year-old in a skin-tight black tregging? Hmm.
“Yes, really,” she said. “Y’know, sometimes, mummy, it’s okay (she practically drew inverted commas in her speech) for ladies with fat thighs to wear leggings. I’ve seen some, and they look alright. So you should get them.”
Honest to god, when she’s 18 and fair game, I’ll get her back.
It was a difficult lesson for DD to learn, but I feel it was probably necessary…
Although I try not to let my children watch too much TV in Dubai, they got into a bit of a routine in the UK of getting up early, walking down the stairs holding hands and singing “bananas, in pyjamas, are coming down the stairs,” turning on M..m..m..m..m…m..m..m..More Milkshake on Channel 5 and settling on the sofa for some prime-time viewing while I stole a few extra precious minutes in bed.
The downside of kiddie TV in the UK is, of course, the advertising. Not only did DD want every single toy in Argos (thanks, Ch 5), but my two-year-old DS could sing the Lelli Kelly shoes song word- and pitch-perfect.
Honestly, there’s something wrong with a little boy singing, “Lelli Kelli they’re the coolest shoes – oh yeah!”
You may remember that this time last year DD had been begging for a pair of LK’s following last year’s trip home. I’d managed to palm her off with some Clarks but this year I thought I’d indulge her, so off we trogged to Russell & Bromley Kids, took our ticket and waited in line for DD’s feet to be measured and the LKs fitted.
But disaster struck.
DD’s feet were too dainty for the clompty great LKs. Even with the interchangeable strap pulled as tight as it would go, the assistant could still yank the shoes clean off DD’s feet.
“It happens to a lot of girls, you know,” she said, as reality hit DD and she sat, sobbing, her big, hot tears splashing the floor. “I’m not going to let you buy them. They’re unsafe.”
(Can you imagine a shop assistant telling a customer that in Dubai?)
So DD was palmed off with yet another pair of well-fitting and, frankly, much prettier Clarks shoes, that came with free stickers, but she’s still damaged by the LK incident.
“When I’m old and have four children [two girls and two boys], I’m going to tell them about the day I couldn’t get the Lelli Kelly’s,” she told me at bedtime tonight. “I’m never going to forget it. It was the worst day of my life.”
DD is fascinated by dimples. It started when she noticed that one of her best friends at school – a boy, funnily enough – has them. Then she noticed that both of his parents have them. And she noticed that her brother has them at the top of his peachy bum.
“Why don’t I have dimples?” she wanted to know. “Why don’t you? They’re so nice.”
I didn’t like to point out that I have plenty. They’re just on my thighs.
Anyway, the other night, she surprised me.
“Mummy! You do have dimples!” she squealed. Oh no, I thought, here comes the cellulite conversation. But I was wrong.
“They’re by the side of your mouth and your eyes!”
“Really?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes,” she said. “You have ‘straight-line’ dimples. Here, and here.”
“Oh,” I said, slowly. Other people call them wrinkles.
My joy, that Christmas, when I spotted a Girl’s World-sized box under the Christmas tree, knew no bounds.
I remember all this because my mum – storer of clutter extraordinaire – kept all my toys. I was a careful girl, who’d rather just look at my toys, sometimes, than ruin them by playing with them with anything other than utmost respect, so most were in pristine condition.
Now, each year, when I bring my children to stay at my mum’s, she produces something of mine from the attic for DD to play with – and this year was the turn of the Girl’s World.
Her face is still made-up with the blue eye shadow I gave her back in 1982 (I know this because, always careful to document things, I left a note saying when I’d last played with it – April 18, 1982, age 11).
Along with Girl’s World, mum also got down my old Barbie pony, which I probably played with till I was much older than I’d care to admit. It’s so special to me, I almost didn’t want DD to touch it!
Wow, what memories.
It’s no secret among my friends that I’m not very fond of England. Each trip home is, for me, a lesson in endurance until I return, exhaling with relief, to the UAE. It’s a necessity, I feel, for the children to experience some time each year in the country they may one day decide to call home but, for me, well – let’s just say I try to hide my misery while we’re here.
This summer I broke up the month’s stay at my mum’s with five days in a farmhouse on the Warwickshire-Oxfordshire border and six days in the New Forest.
“If you can’t find anything to love about the New Forest, you’re a lost cause,” my friend A told me as I booked the family into the idyllic-looking thatched (but interior-designed) cottage, where I’m currently staying.
And you know something? I think A was right.
I’ve absolutely LOVED feasting my eyes on the never-ending fields of purple heather and the densely packed and upright trunks of the New Forest’s unending trees, not to mention the beautiful property porn in the real estate agency windows.
And I nearly fell out of the car with excitement when we stumbled across a cluster of wild New Forest ponies ambling along in the road, eating the grass verge and sunning themselves in people’s front gardens. And then, when a donkey stuck its head into the car to say hello to DS, my joy knew no bounds.
We spent today at the utterly brilliant Moors Valley Country Park, where we rode a narrow-gauge steam train and walked an hour-long “play trail” through the forest. It was lovely to see DD’s excitement as she ran through the trees discovering each play station.
Tomorrow should be just as exciting, if not as natural. We’re off to Peppa Pig World.
So DH and I have been married for 14 years today.
In these times, that’s quite an achievement, and one I feel should be rewarded with some sort of special “material” – you know, having worked out way through the paper, tin, wood and loo-roll anniversaries, by 14 years you expect to be getting to something a bit nicer, no?
But no, apparently, 14 years is ivory – a material that both DH and I feel looks far nicer on a live elephant than it does on our mantelpiece, so we celebrated instead with a trip down t’pub for a glass of wine and a spot of grub.
As we sat there, enjoying our 14th wedding anniversary dinner, watching the door for invasions of hoodies and hoping riots didn’t kick off at the bus stop outside (slight issue when my “bean burger” actually arrived as a real burger with beans on top, but we got past that), we remembered fondly all the other dodgy dinners we’ve had on our various wedding anniversaries.
Dodgy anniversary dinners seem to be quite a theme, and a lovely one at that.
So, anyway, back to the present. I was rather hoping that 14 years would turn out to be the “Cartier” anniversary, having just fallen in love with this beautiful watch.
It didn’t – but a girl can dream.
I’ve just got back from a week in the country. It was very remote (40 mins from the M40!). We had only cows, sheep and roosters (cock-a-bloody-doodle-bloody-doo at 4am) for neighbours as we stayed in a barn converted into a stylish and modern four-bedroom home by its architect owner.
On the site, we had roosters (obv), a duck pond complete with three ducks so beautiful that, if they were handbags they would be Tod’s, badgers, an otter, a pony, 100 hens who kept laying fresh free-range eggs, a treehouse, children’s adventure playground and, for mummy, WiFi that sometimes traversed the 10-foot-thick stone walls.
The house was at the end of a long single-track lane that wound through fields of sheep and cows. It was beautiful.
But in the middle of nowhere.
And, while I can appreciate the beauty of a green field, a ploughed field, or even a shapely cow, you have to admit that all “remote” means to a mother of small children is: A long way to the shops. A long way to restaurants. A long way to a doctor. No Tesco, no M&S and no take-aways. And no-one else with whom to divert the children. Next time, I feel, a city break may be in order.
How much bread can ducks eat, anyway?
You haven’t heard from me for some time, not because I’m lazy but because, at my mum’s, I’ve been facing technological challenges equivalent to climbing Everest, backwards, in Jimmy Choos.
Let me explain. Last week, I met up with an old Dubai friend. She was my first “Dubai best friend” to leave Dubai. Since the day I choked back my tears and drove her to Dubai International Airport in 1999, I’ve met up with her both in Hong Kong and in Cape Town. Since then, there was a long, Facebook-fuelled gap as she moved to Australia, but this spring she moved to the UK and was staying just 30 miles from my mum’s house.
I was overjoyed to see her.
So, she came over and we took our “issues” (Indian word for children,) who didn’t exist last time we met, out for lunch. As we left, mum’s phone rang. Two pizzas, two large glasses of sauvignon blanc and three kids’ meals later, we returned home to find my mum full of the joys of spring.
“I’ve been on the phone the whole time you’ve been out!” she trilled. “Some chap phoned and told me my computer was being hacked and that if I handed over control of my hard disc to him, he would fix it! I paid him £80 and he’s doing it as we speak!”
Pausing only to stifle a silent scream, I dashed up the stairs, Burberry trench still buttoned.
Sure enough, “Mr Brown” was rifling through my mum’s hard disc, stealing passwords, bank details and her personal identity. As I took in the mayhem, 2,000 fake credit cards in my mum’s name were probably already on their way to South America.
“I gave him my address, home number, email address and credit card details,” said my mum, starting to look a little worried, as I ripped out cables like a crazy woman.
“You are not using this computer again until the hard disc has been CLEANED!” I shouted. “What were you thinking?”
“He said he was from ‘Windows’,” she whispered, and I felt a little sympathy. She’s not usually that daft. “He was very persuasive.”
Within minutes she was on the phone to the bank, cancelling her cards and reporting the call to the fraud squad.
No lasting damage seems to have been done, other than the loss of £80 and us having no computer for however long it takes to clean up a mess like that. Hence no blogs.