Beachwatch 2008 – almost


What a great weekend activity, I think, still labouring under the delusion that my children are happy to go along with my idea of a good, family day out.

So I suggest it, without thinking carefully how to lead them into it gradually, but by bit, until they’re hooked.

“What’s Beachwatch?” asks Ben, suspicious already.

“We’d be helping look after the beaches, by walking around…”

“Walking?” demands Hannah, always on the lookout for the “W” word, and not in a canine way.

“.. and picking up all the litter that gets left there. Then we’d list what we’d found so…”

I don’t get to finish my lame explanation.

“What, you mean we’d be walking about picking up rubbish and then writing about it?” says Ben, the scorn spilling from his lips.

He has a point. So I laugh.

“Yes, I thought it’d be educational and ecological all at the same time. A good, family day out.”

“I don’t think so.”

I know when I’m beaten.
So we went to the zoo, ate our picnic on the grass and bothered the orangutans and gorillas instead.

an award

By the by, I’ve been awarded a lovely picture by the even lovelier Cartside.

I now pass it on to …

Potty Diaries

Not Wrong, Just Different

From Dawn Till Rusk


Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Screen Capture

an example of Hannah’s work

Of course we limit their screen time, and of course they do everything they can to get around the rules.

“Dad, Mum says I can watch telly,” they whine, when I’ve said they can’t but am still at work so unavailable to lay down the law.

“Mum, Dad hasn’t let me on the computer for three days,” they squeal, a desperate look in their eyes that I am unable to ratify until Blog Fodder returns from hashing. By which time they’ve had twice their daily limit.

So I have a look to see what they’ve been doing.
I know what games they play – miniclip mostly, as I won’t pay for anything.

But Hannah’s learned to create folders, and has made worlds within worlds in a virtual construct which exhibits far too developed a sense of organisation for one of such tender years.

I spot a folder called “secruts!“.

Should I? Is it a betrayal of my child’s autonomy?

Sod that, she’s only 7. Her secruts! are fair game for her mother.
So I open the folder.

Inside I find 3 more folders and 2 Word documents. One of the folders is called “persnl stuff“.

I hesitate for, ooh, a second? And then I remember a coach who, when I realised I was late home from a swimming club event counselled –

“May as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.”

I looked at him blankly, and when he explained what it meant I stayed an extra few minutes to show I wasn’t a sap. I was too scared of the welcome I would receive at home if I stayed any longer.

But I’m a grown-up now. So I open the persnl folder. And inside are 3 Word documents and yet another folder.

The folder is called Bbeenn!

What better way to find out what she really thinks of her brother.
So I open it, expecting a tirade of fury or a list of crimes perpetrated by him against his little sister.

But again, there are more sub-classifications. I wonder if my second-born is heading for a career as a librarian.

I remember an interview I once did with a man who started off as a librarian and ended up as a purveyer of fine rubber bondage gear for the slightly kinky masses. So her career path may be anything but straight.

Inside Bbeenn! are 2 folders and 3 Word documents.
I begin to feel like Indiana Jones on a quest to pick the correct folder – the one that gives up its information without making me feel like a devious, diary-reading snoop of the lowest order.

I wonder if that is where I will end up – as a secrut! reader of my children’s teenaged diaries. I will have to advise them never to start writing one, for fear I won’t be able to resist.

The folder entitled “sroundins being good or not” intrigues me. What does she think of her surroundings? Does she mean her new, tiny bedroom with no space to lay out her playmobil? Or does she have more cerebral aspects of her life in mind?

I click. And I begin to fear I will never get to the bottom of this child’s ever-decreasing gyroscope of a mind.

Yet more folders and Word documents.

Eventually I find a document called Maths.
She doesn’t even like Maths – or so she says.

In it I discover –

Martha has 2 bananas she eats 3 how many does she have left – m1
my cat has 4 chooeys she eats 9 how many does she have left – m5
sooky my dog has had an operashon and I don’t know how much it costs
it was 20p more then the current people
there operashon costed 50p
how much did it cost

So not only a closet librarian, but a secrut setter of spoof examination questions.

Which reminds me of a Maths teacher I had who set us a simultaneous equation.
He then spent the lesson wandering about trying to decide which of us to chuck the blackboard rubber at.

By the end of the lesson none of us had solved it. He smiled, rubbed a bit more chalk into his jacket, and chuckled.

“It’s impossible,” he said, “there is no answer!”

Hilarious. 40 minutes of our young lives – wasted.

Mind you, I’ve probably spent the odd 40 minutes on even more fruitless endeavours in subsequent years.

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Aim, Method, Results, Conclusion

the dreaded kits

Science kits – don’t you just hate them.

Ben was given one for Christmas/Birthday at least 8 months ago, and I thought I’d managed to hide it somewhere he’d never find it.

But I’d forgotten that this is the child who can smell a confiscated Nintendo DS at 20 paces.

Se he found it, carefully buried beneath toys I thought he’d given up years ago.
It’s amazing how appealing a few toy hamsters can be when it’s raining and your weekend TV limit has been decisively breached.

So he found the big box filled with dangerous chemicals, evil-looking implements and unintelligible instructions.
And I was the only adult at home – Blog Fodder having slunk off in shorts for his weekly hash with the Crapauds.

I did my best.
Chemistry was never my favourite subject, and just distinguishing the Iron Sulphate from the Sodium Sulphate sends me back in time to the days of Miss Mason and her infernal Bunsen burners.

Ben is keen to get started with the explosions, but first I have to find some old yoghurt pots to use as petrie dishes, and a ruler to measure stuff.

It doesn’t take long before I get cross.

Ben spills iron sulphate all over his pyjamas, leaving 2 large yellow stains.
And he’s wearing the bottoms from one set and the top from another – so that’s two pyjama sets with no re-sale value.

Then he moves on to the next experiment before finishing the first, which, as a main-lining Completer-Finisher, sends me into a sharp decline.

And this second experiment requires the mixing of sodium hydrochloride solution before we can even start.

It’s like getting half way through a recipe and finding that before you can cook the cake you have to make your own chocolate. It’s just too much.

Before my brain explodes, Blog Fodder arrives home. Sweaty, yes – but up for a bit of chemical mixing.

So I pass on the baton and retreat to the Archers.

Five minutes later I decide to pop back into the kitchen to check all is going well and spillage is not on the horizon.

As soon as I show my face, Ben makes it clear I’ve had my chance and blown it.

“Mum, it’s my job to think. It’s your job to screech and complain.”

“And isn’t she good at it,” Blog Fodder adds, helpfully.

The Archers win the day. They don’t answer back.

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is it Worth it?

Ben and some curtains

My little boy – well, he’s 9 now – asked me a question at bedtime tonight.



“Can you change your job?”

Uncertain silence from me. Then the question to which I do not want to hear the answer.


“Because I don’t see you enough.”

And with that his voice wobbles and breaks and he starts to cry.
Not for effect or from anger or because he’s really hurt himself.
But for real.

“I ‘specially miss you at bedtime.”

Now this is odd, because it’s almost always me that puts them to bed.
I point this out, and he sobs,

“When you went out with your friend the other night Daddy didn’t even bother to come up and close my curtains. I had to go down and get him.”

I refrain from starting a rant along the lines of –

“Curtains? He didn’t pull your curtains? He wouldn’t notice a curtain if you wrapped him up in it and rolled him down a mountain. He’s the same with unmade beds, empty loo rolls and dirty socks scattered across the floor. They do not reach his cerebellum. They stop somewhere around the level of – its only a duvet, it’s not that hard to chuck it on a bed, can’t you do it? – with a note of injured fury in his voice.”

Instead, I climb up into Ben’s very high bed for which there is no ladder, and lie next to him for a cuddle.

We talk for 20 minutes or so, about working, school, Mums and Dads and bedtimes, until he’s feeling happier.
Then I have to climb down again, without the aid of a ladder, to communicate our conversation to the Father Who Does Not Notice Curtains or Other Minor Irritations Because he has his Mind Fixed Firmly on the Bigger Picture.

He’s in the middle of his crossword, but when I tell him of my conversation with our son he shows a modicum of remorse and leaps up to pull the curtains closed against the gathering darkness.

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Life in Bullet Points

From Dawn Till Rusk has tagged me with a nightmare task that has taxed my memory, my sense of decorum and my rusty editorial skills.

I have been asked to summarise the last 15 years of my life in 10 bullet points.

I’d never heard of bullet points until 1991, when the manager of the radio station where I worked initiated us into the joys of flag poles and things you should fly up them, bullet points and making a mental note at the top of the page.

In honour of Mr B, I will give it a go.

15 Years in a Nutshell:

My task is to think back on the last 15 years of my life.
What would I tell someone I hadn’t seen or talked to for 15 years?
I have 10 bullet points to summarise me
At the end of my list, I have to tag 5 more people and share the torture.

So, setting aside the fact that if I saw someone I hadn’t seen for 15 years I wouldn’t bother to update them on anything much at all, here are some random facts I’m willing to reveal.

    15 years – or those bits of it I can still remember…

1 – 1993 – I was a sensible-sounding BBC radio journalist, but still near enough to my previous life to dangle from the occasional fast-spinning rope in my spare time.

2 – One year I co-produced the local pantomime with the long-term boyfriend I was in the process of splitting up with – not a relaxing Christmas.

3 – I was helping my Gran live in her own home after my Grandfather died – she had Alzheimer’s and was finding it more and more difficult to cope. We had many conversations about missing plates, imaginary visitors and non-existent cats. It was funnier than it sounds.

4 – I missed out on a trip to New York on Concord after picking the wrong straw. I did get a free flight to London – not quite the same.

5 – I spent my birthday evening in 1996 with a friend of a friend among the cacophony of ten pin bowling and the swearing of spotty youths at Plymouth Superbowl.
I agreed to go because I didn’t want to upset the friend of a friend who was being kind. I’d rather have stayed Home Alone.

6 – On Christmas Day in 1996 one of my presents was a dead duck. It was wrapped up in Christmas paper, in a box. We ate it later.
I am still friends with the person who thought this was a good joke. I’ve always got on well with dysfunctional people.

7 – I hooked up with Blog Fodder at work – so prosaic – in 1997.
By January 1999 Ben was born and life changed. I became familiar with the night-time hours in ways I’d never considered before – ways that didn’t involve dancing, drinking or that other popular night-time activity of the non-new-parent.

8 – Hannah joined the mix in 2001 and just about survived the brutal programme of initiation designed for her by two-year old Ben.
They are now great friends and it’s lovely to see their developing relationship – except when a minor disagreement escalates into slammed doors and sulks.

9 – Since moving to Jersey, Ben has given us a taste of what life might be like as parents of a teenager.
Peer pressure has kicked in. He now recognises brand names and wants a mobile phone. And, of course, there’s the lovely Sandra.

10 – Now, it’s 2008 and I no longer twirl at the top of spinning ropes, which saves me from the little pinpricks of blood which used to speckle my hands with the centrifugal force. But I am much more familiar with bullet points than I was.
I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

In the spirit of sharing, I pass this task on to man about the house, Devon Life, and My New Notebook.

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | 2 Comments

Suddenly child-free

So what did I do – in those pre-child days – when time after work was mine for the taking?

When tea-time was spent in the gym and bed-time was a vague concept adhered to only on the eve of exams, early shifts or Big Days of one kind or another.
And it was only my bed-time I had to consider.

Was the telly really this bad in those days, or did I have better things to do?

Didn’t I go to the theatre, to the cinema (art house stuff, not Mr Bean on Holiday), to other people’s smart houses for stimulating conversation and delicious meals unaccompanied by plaintive cries for ketchup?

Surely that was my life?
If only I could bring to mind exactly how I filled the hours in those days.

Did I not realise how precious they were, those long hours filled with… with what?

I do remember in the early days of babies and nappies that I longed to get those hours back again.
But, like an addict immersed for too long in her drug of choice, I can no longer remember what it was I was yearning for.

What was it that I wanted to do?
I could do it, right now, if I could only recall what it was.

I have just returned from a weekend in France.
I’m alone, having left the rest of the family to enjoy watching time trickling slowly by in the garden, on the beach, on bum-sore bike rides.

I, however, am back at work.
I’m a glass half full kind of person though, so I’m looking around for ways to make the most of my few days as a singleton.

I’m getting in touch with friends I don’t see enough of.
I may go jogging.
I’m going to get my hair cut.

But what then?

If you can remember what it was that filled the hours of the day pre-children, please tell me before my time is up.

But do bear in mind, late nights and over-indulgence are no longer an option. And art-house cinemas are fairly thin on the ground over here.

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Model Child

on the catwalk, I mean ferry

Ben has a new career path in mind.

He’s been through policeman, spy and footballer already. But now he has another plan.

It was prompted by some news I told him today. One of his friends has landed a lead role in a TV drama.

“A big part?” asks Ben.

“Yes, one of the main parts.” I reply, and watch his mind whirring.

“I want to be a model,” he announces, “My face is beautiful and I’ve got lovely big eyes. It’s just my hair I’m worried about.”

Well, what does a mother say?

Of course I think he’s beautiful, but I would, wouldn’t I?
And normally it’s me saying he looks lovely while he scowls at me and moans –
“You’re my Mum, you’re going to say that aren’t you. It doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Perhaps the lovely Sandra has been complimenting him on his looks.
He’d believe her over me any day.

I point out to him the difficulty of working as a model when we live on an island, a flight away from what I assume to be the centre of the modelling world.

I stop short of scuppering his ambition by listing the many ways in which his temperament militates against any kind of work which involves patience, stillness and – most importantly – trying on clothes.

I fear this last issue is the main sticking point.

He will sit still when he’s reading, and he can be patient with small children and guinea pigs.
But he will not try on clothes.

I think he imagines modelling to be one, big, happy Boden catalogue kind of life – with lots of jumping on beaches and striding across sand dunes.

I’m hoping this modelling idea will go the way of fencing, tennis and French Club – to be replaced by the career equivalent of his current passions – football, cricket and Sandra.

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Hearts and Flowers


It’s been Activities Week at the children’s school all this week.

For “Activities Week” – read “Tax payers’ money spent on days on the beach” week.

They’ve been to Sark (Ben), St Ouens Beach (Ben), Greve de Lecq beach (Hannah), the Amaizin Maze (Ben), Val de la Mare Reservoir (Ben) the cinema (Hannah)… need I go on?

They have had nothing but fun and are exhausted and ready for 6 weeks off.

Sark was the setting for Ben’s first purchase of a love token.

When I fetched him from the harbour, he showed me his spoils…

“I got a bottle of coke, some sweets, a key ring so I could remember my trip to Sark – but I didn’t have enough for any presents. Not for you anyway.”

“Did you get something for someone else then?”

“I got Sandra something.”

So, his spare cash is now going on his “girlfriend”.

“I spent £2.75 on a rose quartz crystal in the shape of a heart.”

How sweet.
How much? £2.75?

I told him that if he continued with this kind of romantic gesture into adulthood, he’d have girls falling at his feet.

He smiled his Charlotte Harvey smile and turned the colour of the rose quartz.

“I’m quite popular with the girls,” he said.

“Are you? How do you know that?” I asked.

“Well – none of them really hate me!”

So that’s what constitutes being popular in his Year 4 world.

But at 9 he’s got more romance in his scrawny little body than most of the men I’ve passed the time of day with.

On a girl, when he could have bought more sweets?
More amaizing than any maze.

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Leave a comment

Young Love

Well, it’s happened.
Young love is blooming and Ben is wearing his “Charlotte Harvey” face.

Charlotte Harvey was a little girl at Ben’s nursery whose hair he fell in love with first, followed by the entire girl. If he talked about her, his face would go all woozy and he’d smile a special gooey smile.

We called it his “Charlotte Harvey” face, which made him blush all the more.

We invited her to his 4th birthday party and among her many memorable utterances she said to one of Ben’s older cousins –

“If ya look at me I’ll kill yer!”

I’m hoping his current beloved is a little more eloquent.

She’s called Sandra and she’s in his class.
He’s liked her for weeks but she was spoken for. And then one day I was home first from work when Ben burst into the house and grabbed his bike without even speaking to me.

“Hello,” I say, “how was piano?”

“Fine. Mum, I’ve got to go. I’ve got my first date. What time do I have to be back?”

Hell, I think, and I hold my breath.
He’s nine years old. Why am I having to deal with this now? What questions do I need to ask? Do I have to delve deeper than “What games did you play?” and “Who did you play with?”
I decide to play dumb.

“With Sandra?”

“Yes, of course, and Ollie. We’re going to play forty-forty.”

I breathe again. A date seems a bit of a misnomer, but he’s so happy with himself he can’t keep his face calm and he can’t believe Sandra is his.

“I never thought someone I loved would love me… except for you and Daddy,” he adds as an afterthought.

“But you’re gorgeous, of course other people will love you.”

“Mums always think that,” he smiles.

So now he is officially part of a pre-teen couple.

I’m not sure what difference it makes to his everyday life, as he and Sandra don’t seem to play together much.
She’s into netball and he’s obsessed with football, which doesn’t bode well for a harmonious future.

But it’s done wonders for his self-esteem, and he’s started brushing his hair without being nagged.
He’ll be volunteering to take a shower next…

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The B Word

It’s hard to tell whether this is a Jersey thing, or an age thing – the children’s age, not mine.

The other day, Hannah, who’s just 7, was telling me what she’d been doing while playing outside with her friends.

These are friends who are available after school, rather than friends we’ve arranged for her to play with.

She said –

“Some big kids came past and started swearing at us. So we swore back at them…”

I raised my eyebrows and added a parental response –

“You should just walk away if people are nasty to you when you’re playing outside.”

She ignored my interjection and carried on –

“… we didn’t say anything really bad like c***. We just said the b word and the s word.”

Oh, my, god.

I’m hoping this will stand her in good stead for when she’s older, out on her own with friends and in need of a substantial dose of street-wisdom.

In the meantime, Blog Fodder is under strict instructions to impose a more rigorous after-school supervisory regime.

Posted in Beta Mum's Blog | Tagged , , | 4 Comments