Sunday, 13 December 2009

Swap Party

Photo Credit: undoneclothing
I hosted my first Swap Party on Wednesday evening.

Nothing to do with keys in a bowl or naked people in hot tubs, my Swap Party involved myself and ten lovely ladies who had been exhorted through email, Facebook and face-to-face invitations to:

"Bring any unwanted clothes, shoes, handbags, jewellery, accessories, books, CDs etc. A great excuse for a girlie gathering - and a chance for us all to update our wardrobes and keep a tight hold on our purse strings.

Come armed with your cast-offs and a bottle of booze/non-alcoholic tipple. Nibbles will be provided. Feel free to bring a friend - the more the merrier."

The day before, I'd decided to forget the nibbles idea in favour of something easier and more filling. The thing with nibbles is, unless you just buy crisps n dips readymade, they are a lot more time-consuming and fiddly to prepare than something like a huge bowl of pasta.

Seeing as I was working off-site all day and would only have a couple of hours between finishing work and welcoming guests to raid Waitrose, tidy the house, beautify myself and make dinner (Phew!) I turned to the marvellous Nigella Express for inspiration.

The other challenge was that, due to the numbers, it would have to be a lap meal for most of my friends as my dining table can only comfortably fit six. I fed my guests Festive Fusilli with Halloumi bites which went down a storm. I even found myself polishing off the leftovers for breakfast. Yum!

As a sweet treat I made my Cheat's Pudding. It's delicious and takes about two minutes to make - so it's a bit of a cheat really, hence the name. Although, when I serve it I announce it as Amaretto Pudding (much posher). Here's the recipe:

  1. Bash a bag of amaretto biscouits with a rolling pin or bottom of a jar/wine bottle (great fun, this bit).
  2. Mix biccies with equal quantities of creme fraiche and full fat greek yoghurt
  3. Add honey to taste
  4. If you're feeling fancy, mix in soft fruit such as raspberries (I used the frozen ones as to buy fresh in Winter is horribly expensive). You can even line a ramekin or wine glass with a layer of fruit first and then dollop the creamy biscuit mixture on top.

So delicious, I guarantee you'll get lots of praise and a few requests for the recipe.

We had such a giggle. We took it in turns to display our wares and if more than one person was interested then the one who looked best in the garment - as voted by the rest of us - got to keep it or, in the case of accessories books etc they reached a gentlewoman's agreement.

Including items other than clothing really helped to get over the size differences. If you just host a clothes swap you need to make sure you have at least two people per dress size so that no one is left out. Surprisingly, most of the girls at my party were size 8-10. Yes, these are my friends! Although a few of us were more 'averagely' sized at 12-14.

To get some of my favourite women together was a thrill in itself, and watching them get to know each other better was wonderful. Of course, some have been friends already for years, decades even, but like most people I no longer have one group of friends who all hang out together like we did in our early twenties. I have friends from different times in my life, who belong to different social circles, siloes of friends whose only link to each other is me.

As it turned out, the masterstroke was encouraging people to bring someone else. There were two people I didn't know at all, and one I only barely knew, which made the evening more exciting. I love meeting new people, it's so stimulating. The three in question are all intelligent, funny, friendly women and so got on with everyone else instantly - so much so, one of them suggested we all go for a girlie night out in January.

What a fun night it was - and a very productive one to boot. I got an amazing pair of shoes, several tops, two necklaces and some books. Brilliant.

My only regret is that a few of my closest friends couldn't make it, for various reasons including childcare issues and illness. Although, I could always host another one....

I'm thinking of a 'swap your unwanted Christmas presents' next. What d'ya reckon?!

Friday, 27 November 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

Photo credit: Kuzeytac
Peanut’s First Photo Opportunity
I had my 12 week scan yesterday. I was surprised to see so much at such an early stage. With Els, I was only offered a 20 week scan. I just presumed that my scan photo this time round would look more like a weather forecast than a foetus. Given that Peanut is only 5.5cm long, I was amazed s/he looked so much like a baby.

J was thrilled, said seeing Peanut move about on the screen made it feel much more real for him. Poor love, missing out on all the things that have been making the pregnancy very real for me - nausea, tender breasts, frequent night-time loo trips and extreme tiredness!

Peanut looked a bit boyish to me. I can't wait for the 20 week scan as I'm really keen to know what flavour s/he is. I want to narrow down my name list to male or female only and start harassing J for his real opinion. So far my favourites aren't his and vice versa. Plenty of time to sort it out though.

Is One Surname Better Than Two?
Talking of names, on the morning of the scan whilst cuddled up in bed together before getting ready for school, Ella told me she wasn't sure about being a Barrass-Higgs anymore. I’ve reassured her that whatever she wants her surname to be is OK with me, but she doesn’t need to make that choice until she’s a few years older. But our conversation did make me feel a bit frustrated. Allow me to explain...

When J and I got married I thought it was a great opportunity to finally share a surname with my daughter (I never have done). Being an ultra-reasonable person, I wouldn't dream of taking her dad's name from her (Barrass) so I thought she could have both names ie Barrass (her dad's) and Higgs (my new surname).

I discussed it with her dad, who wasn't too keen for some reason (it's not as if I was suggesting losing his surname in favour of mine). However, he agreed I could discuss the idea with her and let her decide. I assured him I wouldn't change it legally until she was older and completely sure she wanted to add my name to his.

Having both surnames seems to me an apt reflection of her Shared Care Daughter status. She has two families - her House Family which is me and John and her Boat Family which is her dad and his girlfriend. The House and Boat terminology is Ella's own. Her dad lives on a river boat and we share her care 50/50 between both families.

The Freedom of Choice
Anyhow, as much as I thought this new name was a good idea, I am a great believer in Ella having choices and freedom so I was keen to give her the option of being a Barrass or a Barrass-Higgs. After all, it's her name.

So, I discussed it with her in a very neutral way, said it was her choice and I was happy with whatever she chose.

After a few weeks of quiet contemplation, Ella decided she'd like to have both surnames. So I told the school, doctors etc she is to be referred to as Ella Barrass-Higgs on their records but isn't yet listed as that legally - and won't be until (or if) she confirms she'd like to share my surname as well as her dad's. I thought ten years old would be a good age for her to decide once and for all. If she's still sure then, I'll change her name by deed poll.

Fair, yes? Enough said on that topic until she's ten, no need for anymore discussion. Or so I thought.

From our conversation this morning, it turns out El's dad has been chatting to her about how it's not important to have the Higgs on the end of her surname, and giving her examples of other families she knows who all have different surnames from each other.

He’s perfectly at liberty to discuss anything he wants with his daughter, but I was stunned to find this ‘name thing’ has now been playing on Ella’s mind. It was a non-issue for her until that conversation, and I really didn’t think we needed to discuss it again until she becomes ten. I felt quite annoyed.

What’s in a Name?
Ultimately, 'a rose by any other name would smell as sweet' so I agree with El’s dad that it doesn't matter either way. Ella is part of my family whatever her surname. However, I have deliberately held back from influencing her choice as I think it is one she should make for herself
in a few years' time, with no undue influence from me or her dad.

Of course I'd like Ella to share a surname with all the key members in her family - her dad, me, her new brother/sister and her step-dad. But, if she prefers to be a Barrass only that's completely cool too.

So why am I getting my knickers in a twist - over something that is really nothing? Pregnancy hormones perhaps....

I'd appreciate your views on this. What do you make of it all?

On a more positive name note, here are my current favourites (but not necessarily J's!) for Peanut:

Jasper (J likes this too)


Alicia (J likes this..)
Daisy (..and this..)
Phoebe (..and this)

Which do you like best for Peanut Higgs?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Second Time Around

Photo credit: Koecklin
There I am intending to mark these exciting early weeks of pregnancy with voracious blogging activity, and what am I doing?

Watching TV mainly (loving True Blood! So excited about the new Gavin and Stacey!). Oh, and sleeping.

My mojo had left the building.

A combination of pregnancy, a horrible cold virus that drained the last reserves of my energy and the onset of Winter had basically turned me into a sofa-loving, bed-hugging almost-hermit.

But I'm starting to fight back! Nettle tea (thanks for the tip, Sarada), my usual concotion of vitamins and a very Helpful Husband (he even cooks now! Well, if you count reheating Covent Garden soup as cooking) are coaxing back my mojo.

The signs are there. I've started to reach back into the big wide world. I'm going for short walks at lunchtime. I'm phoning friends again. Even meeting them at cafes, and accepting dinner invites. Although nights out still don't seem to have the allure they used to.

Last weekend I blossomed into Uber Mum - it happens sometimes - and had a great time with Ella making novelty-shaped cookies, decorating jam jars to use as tea-light holders, and helping her create scrapbook pages on our (rather excellent) Halloween party.

Oh, and cooking delicious meals, taking her to see Fantastic Mr Fox and hosting a sleepover with one of her best friends. Amongst other things.

So I'm quietly optimistic that I'm starting to 'bloom'. Ten weeks pregnant now and it's not just my demaenour that's blooming. My tummy has got a little confused and clearly thinks it's a good deal more pregnant than it actually is. I've heard this happens second time around.

To be fair, before I fell pregnant with Ella I had quite a small tummy. And was two stone lighter than now (sigh).I'm not sure how much of my bump is actual pregnancy bump or just 'can't be bothered to try and hold it all in now that I can get away with it' bulge. I'm already living in leggings and posting desperate cries of help on Freecycle for maternity gear. Ten weeks! I look more like twenty.

That's another thing about second time around. I can't bring myself to pay for anything I might actually need. Because this time I know I won't need it for long. And living in Henley-on-Thames you get a better class of cast-offs daaahling.

In fact, the second-hand baby gear collection has already started. Apart from maternity clothes, I'm not actively seeking anything. Just welcoming anything that pops up on Freecycle. To date: a good-as-new Brita car seat worth £160 and an Ikea chest-of-drawers-cum-baby-changing-table.

And the other thing about second time around is the books I'm reading. Not much about pregnancy and childcare. A lot about childbirth. I'm trying to convince myself it needn't be such a medicalised ordeal. I'm even considering a home birth, or at least starting off that way with the option to finish off in hospital.

The four 'satisfying' birthing experiences I've heard first-hand accounts of have all been home births. I'm sure there's a correlation between being a bit scared in hospital and having pretty much every intervention known to man. And - before the epidural appeared - the worst sacral pain (back-to-back baby, evil Syntocin)in the whole world ever, so much so I distinctly remember thinking that I wouldn't really care if someone started to saw my leg off because it would pale into comparison with the pain I was experiencing. And I wasn't over-dramatising. It really was that bad. I wish I'd done my homework instead of studiously avoiding the whole scary subject of childbirth.

No more horror-movie style screaming for me. Surely that's not natural? I'm planning to prepare myself much better this time. I want a relaxed, bearable birthing experience second time around.Do let me know about your positive birth experiences. It'll boost my spirits even more..

Friday, 16 October 2009

Bun in the oven

Photo credit: ohrfeus
I have a little bun in the oven.

Actually, according to babycentre it is actually more like a tadpole. So small it isn't even officially a foetus yet.

But it's making me very, very happy indeed.

We weren't trying long (good ole John!) so in a strange way it has taken us both by suprise.

John's volte-face on the subject of trying for a baby (a long-running discussion) was swift and suprising. From "I'm not sure, I'm not sure, I'm not sure" to "oh, go on then let's give it a whirl" in the space of weeks. Hugely helped by two of his male friends having their first babies in the last few months - and exhibiting undeniably Ecstatic Dad signs (along with the bleary eyes and uncontrollable yawning, natch).

So, Peanut as he is currently called is tentatively starting life. Babycentre tells me that this week his brain, muscles and bones are beginning to take shape. His hands and feet resemble little paddles and his tiny heart is beating — twice as fast as mine. Awww.

I say 'he' cos I think it might be. Then again I thought Ella was a 'he' until I dreamed she was a girl and then the scan confirmed it. I seem to have this gender confusion a lot.

Els is very happy that she is finally getting a little brother or sister. "I don't even mind if it's a brother.." she informed me before adding "..because you thought I was a boy didn't you? So maybe when people think it's a boy then it's actually going to be a girl."

Ah. I see what you're trying to do there, bless you honey.

Excitingly, someone very close to me is about 4 weeks more pregnant than me. I'm not sure the news is on general release yet so I won't say. I'm chuffed to bits though.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Secret to Big Boobs, True Love and Losing Weight (3 posts in one to make up for my absence)

Photo credit: Weight Watcher

It's been ages since I've blogged. A week 'holiday' at home with both Els and my niece combined with an annoying computer virus have kept me from my PC. But now I'm back (from outer space..)

Bigger Boobs
So, what's been going on? My boobs have grown. Mainly due to a) eating too much b) drinking too much and c) getting fitted properly at
Rigby & Peller where you instantly increase 2 cup sizes if you usually get measured at M&S or similar.

Making the Course of True Love Run Super Smoothly
Oh, and I've fallen back in love with hubby. Yes, I know we've only been married since March but hey you know how it goes. You don't? Let me enlighten you - most married couples will agree that the first year of marriage is the hardest. Although J's (divorced) brother sagely pointed out that it's actually the last year that's the hardest.

We have argued more in the last six months than we have over the preceeding two years. Weirdly, I have also doubted our relationship quite seriously at least three times since our nuptials and I never had an ounce of doubt before (otherwise I wouldn't have married him).

To be fair, these doubts usually last a maximum of 24 hours and are usually only expressed to my sister or to Sarada. Both of whom know I appreciate J's qualities and know that he's the only man capable of keeping me interested and happy for the next 50 years or so.

So, I've fallen back in love with J in a big way, as opposed to falling in and out of love on a bi-weekly basis as has been the case since that perfect Friday in March when I became Mrs Higgs.

The secret? It's simple yet effective.

I've just been looking for, and praising all the good stuff and letting the rest go. And fantasising. No, not like that. Nothing to do with
Brad Pitt or that yes-I-know-he's-gay-in-real-life-too dashing Captain from Torchwood. Mmmm.

Where was I? Ah, yes, fantasy. The kind where you start off being grumpy because he's left his breakfast plates, jam and crumbs all over the counter in silent expectation of you being Mum and cleaning up after him (though to be fair I usually don't. I just opt to live in a hovel until one of us caves in).

Your mind runs away with similar thoughts of his neglectful, uncaring and damn right rude ways. And then you realise you could be making yourself happier by harnessing your imagination in a more positive way.

So you purposefully indulge in a fantasy of him coming home with flowers, cleaning the kitchen, putting out the washing. Without even being asked. It's addictive. You can get quite carried away with this kind of daydream.

And guess what? It's helped me to remember the times when he has actually done these things in True Life (an Ella-ism there. Much nicer than Real Life seeing as reality is just a subjective construct. Actually, truth probably is too.), and so I'm a Nice Wife when he comes home instead of a grumpy one.

More often than not, strangely, True Life starts to follow my domestic fantasies pretty darn quick. For example...

This morning I woke up and started to get myself in a grump about 'we never go out on dates any more. If we do anything it's because I suggested and organised it'. Then I did my fantasy thing, dreaming of John asking me to the cinema or out for a drink, and thinking 'oh, that will be nice when that happens'.

And it did.

This evening J said 'Do you have Els on Friday night? No? Great, shall we go to the cinema or maybe out for a drink?'. Hallelujah!! I've unwittingly discovered both how to stay in love with your hubby and how to get what you want from your hubby - without even having to ask.

Let me know if you get amazing results from this Jedi Mind Trick too.

Losing Weight
The other brilliant thing that has happened is that I've finally started dieting properly - and I love it! I'm not boozing, not drinking coffee, not eating sugar and I feel fab. Well, most of the time. Sometimes I'm dreaming of chocolate and a smooth, oaky Rioja. But not as much as you'd expect.

I'm doing
Rose Elliot's The Vegetarian Low Carb Diet and really enjoying the food. Because it's high protein my appetite has decreased and I'm quite happy with the one snack I'm allowed a day.

J is eating what I'm eating, but bigger portions and occassionally adding some meat/fish/potatoes and he really likes the food too. I gave up the coffee and booze a couple of weeks before that, so it's just the sugar I had to give up when I started the diet. It's Day 8 now and I've lost two pounds so far...just another 16 to go....

I really recommend it if you don't mind going veggie for a few months. You're allowed alcohol after two weeks but I think I'll lose weight faster if I stay off it.

I've discovered the only way I can drink enough water (2 litres a day!) is to drink nice herbal teas. I really like the
'Yogi Teas' and 'Pukka' brands, most supermarkets stock them but you often get more of the range at a helath food shop. They're tastier than most of the others (Twinings etc) I've tried. My current favourite is Yogi Tea's Throat Comfort - it's really sweet and comforting. Ella loves it too.

When I crave coffee I drink
Good Earth's Jasmine Tea (also in Tesco's etc). It's green tea with Jasmine. An acquired taste if you're not used to green tea but persevere and you'll quickly grow to love it. It perks you up and calms you down at the same time. Magic stuff.

I'm quietly optimistic about my chances of fitting into size 10 jeans again. I'll let you know how I get on.

Well. That was a bloody long post. I look forward to your comments. I've missed you x

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Ocean Hotel, Butlins

Those lovely people at Butlins invited me and mine, along with some other British Mummy Bloggers, journos etc to the launch of their new hotel, The Ocean in Bognor.

Never one to pass up a decent freebie, we jumped at the chance. It was a great end to
our camping holiday in the Witterings, and the sun continued to shine for us. That's nearly a whole week of golden rays for us. Mmmmmm.

Before the launch, we were put up at the Premier Inn, where Els beat J in a pillow fight and we laughed our socks off to Ice Age 3 in the cinema near the hotel.

The Ocean hotel was GORGEOUS. Really funky, bright and modern (see Els' Pop Art style room in the photo). And they have a 'no monsters under the bed' guarantee with underbed lighting. Nice touch.

The redcoats were positive and helpful without being annoying or insincere. I was impressed. Really impressed.

Kitschy disco lifts, complete with UV lights and funky '70s sounds, had us grooving with strangers whenever we left our room. In
fact, during the tour our group included the Mayor of Bognor Regis in full bling, er, regalia and I'm sure I detected a little wiggle from her on the way up (to Disco Inferno).

By some clever trickery with lights and sensors, an interactive-seeming floor kept Els amused making the fish swim away from her feet.

Kids clubs and various on-site entertainment are included in a Butlins stay. Shame you had to pay extra to go into the lovely spa. But hey, at least there was a spa!

I thought around £100 per night for a family of four (midweek low season) was a pretty good deal considering our room at the Premier Inn was £84. Although I guess we're in high season now so I'm probably not comparing apples with apples.

I think a 3-night stay at The Ocean in high season is £800 for 2 adults and 2 kids. I'd rather take myself off scuba diving in the Red Sea for a week, and take Els camping on my return for that budget. But that's a personal choice, I'm sure many of you would disagree.

Anyhow, the Premier Inn didn't have a Bob the Builder show, huge soft play contraption or fairground rides thrown in. Butlins certainly did.

And some amazing circus acts.

I wasn't too keen on the plethora of sweetie machines and crappy gambling/arcade games in the main entertainments hall though. Cue much wheedling and 'it's not fair'. You'd haemmorhage money if you stayed too long in there. Probably best to pull the little dears swiftly past the tat and towards the swimming pool which was fab. Whirlpool, jacussi section, little slides, flumes..

One teensy criticism of the pool though - Els isn't a small 6 year old but still was too small for all of the flume rides. Even if she had made the required height, we wouldn't have been allowed to go on them together - unlike the flume at our local pool - so that would have put her off anyway.

All in all, we had a lovely time. The Ocean Hotel certainly changed my perceptions about Butlins.
Not just mine by the looks of things: Ocean Hotel Reviews.

P.S. NixdMinx's miniminx is adorable, And one more makes 4 I really enjoyed our chat and meeting your lovely family!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Thank you for Waiting

Back Soon
Originally uploaded by redcrayon
Camping in the Witterings; having my perceptions changed at Butlins; increasing two cup sizes on my birthday; reviving my natural healing abilities; falling back in love with my husband; being a reflexology case study.

Normal blogging service will resume shortly. We thank you for your patience.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

It's a Girl!!!

I took Stripe to the vet's today to have his claws clipped. He's so wriggly, it was quite a task.

The vet looked at his records, checked out his undercarriage and then said to me "You do realise Stripe's a girl, don't you?".

Ah. That will explain the lack of testicles - we just put that down to Stripe being young. It also explains why she hasn't chilled out yet.

Male rats are more laidback, actually lazier, than their female counterparts. We purposefully asked the pet shop for a male rat, knowing he would turn out to be more of a lap rat than a girlie rats who tend to be more active.

El's with her dad until we go camping tomorrow. I called her this afternoon as soon as she finished holiday club. She was as incredulous as me at the news.

Somehow, and this is wrong of me I know, I love Stripe all the more now that he is a she.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Time for a Lie-in

A lovely thing happened today. Something beautiful and rare.

Ella woke up at seven this morning as usual, and stayed in her room for half an hour until it was the official 'wakey up time'. What's my secret?


Last night we finally got her new alarm clock out and played the Teach Me Time Game. Ella got to level 3 and was chuffed to bits.

I then programmed it to go off at 7.30am, and explained that now she is a Grown Up with her own Alarm Clock it would be lovely if she played in her room and only woke Mummy when the clock went off.

It was a long shot, I really didn't think she'd do it.

But she did.

The Teach Me alarm clock has now risen to Top Birthday Present ever in my book.

When I ordered it I was a bit unsure as it's quite pricey for a teaching toy which at the time (scuse the pun) I wasn't sure if she'd use much or not. But it's clearly worth its weight in gold.

We're off camping soon and I can't wait. Going to Wittering with friends as Part 1 of my birthday celebrations - see here for the rest. Not sure I'll get away with keeping Els shushed up in her partition for another lie-in as, in my experience, kids+camping=much excitement and early waking.

Still, there's enough kids going that I can just chuck her out to play with them in the mornings and stick my ear plugs in for maximum snooze time. Bliss.

A couple of friends have gone to the campsite already. The first report is very promising. Sarada's text last night said:

'It's fab! Rain stopped and blue skies emerged as we were arriving - amazing nearly full moon lighting up the sky! Still settling down the kids (at 11pm). They're so excited. If we're quiet we can hear the sea - I love that sound. So we're all looking forward to a wonderful weekend.'

So am I!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Just a quickie.. say that I'm fabulously busy with socialising (I haven't got a free weekend for a month) and knitting (!!) at the moment. I'm attempting a chunky, stripey scarf for isn't the most beautiful thing but it's being made with love.

Camp Bestival was lovely. More kids than adults, very relaxed and such fun that we didn't even make it to the knitting tent. I'd recommend it to anyone with kids, even festival virgins.

Do check out my lovely sister's new blog In her own words, she is:

Urban Pixi - a single mum with an earth spirit, boxed into a house in a town desperately trying to pass on a connection with the earth to my offspring. I work part-time as a social worker and moonlight as a face painter/hair braider for maximum job satisfaction!

Enjoy xx

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Chick With Sticks

Photo credit: Sexy Knitters Club
Ella's My First Knitting kit that I got for her birthday has spawned an unusual urge in me.

I thought knitting was the preserve of lavender-scented grannies until I started to help Els work out what to do with her new knitting kit.

Yes, I confess that I now want to learn how to knit. In fact, I've started already and now have my own sticks (needles) and the marvellous Stitch n Bitch book.

I wasn't prepared for the zen-like feeling of peace through the meditative click-click of the sticks, and a sense of being connected to my ancestors and my ancestors' ancestors through this ancient craft.

I've only spent a few hours but know how to
cast on and do a basic knit stitch, plus the theory of how to cast off (but I haven't quite got the hang of that one yet).

Els and I will be making a bee-line to the knitting tent at
Camp Bestival which will hopefully boost our fledgling skills.

I'd like to start a scarf in a few weeks.

Poor ole J, a lifetime of homemade jumpers, scarves, hats and socks begins.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Six and Thirty-Six Celebrations

Photo Credit:Birthday Balloons
That's how old my baby is now. Six!! Such a Big Girl.

In true like-mother-like-daughter form, El's birthday morphed from a one day event to a three day event.

Actually, she has some catching up to do as my upcoming thirty-sixth (yes, yes I know I don't look it) birthday is going to be celebrated in the following ways:
  • A three day camping trip with some of my mates and our kiddies

  • Taking myself to Rigby and Pellier for a hands-on bra fitting (they don't use a tape measure I've heard) and subsequent lingerie splurge on my actual birthday followed by a trip with J that evening to see Bill Bailey

  • A Friday night out in Reading with my good-time girls (and boys) shaking what my mama gave me

  • A Sunday garden party chez moi - avec les enfants, natch
Milking it? Moi?!

Anyway, Ella's sixth birthday...

El's dad took her and a friend to Legoland on Saturday. Then on Sunday (her birthday) she went to her Nonna's then to a small family party at my house, and on Monday I took her to the
Kenton Theatre to the theatre to see The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse with another friend, Molly, her cousin Sulis and my sis Jules.

We went for a collection of smaller pressies this year, and they went down a storm. Notably, the
Teach Me talking alarm clock which I discovered on Find Me a Gift, and fully expect not only to help Ella learn the time (in analogue and digital) but also to buy me precious bed time on weekend mornings - when its face turns green that means you can wake mummy, until then you're playing in your room kiddo (here's hoping...)

Other pressies that hit the spot included the kids' Learn to Knit kit from Hobbycraft and her favourite...wait for it...a Hello Kitty A4 ringbinder that's a bit like this.

Yes, the ringbinder file was her top pressie. Picked up as an afterthought for £2 from WH Smiths. Bless her cotton socks.

My personal favourite is the knitting kit, but more about that later...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Another Big Bump...

Photo credit:Bump Head
Poor J, he took today off as his knee hurts (not sure how, he thinks a combination of driving over the w/e and being 41!).

Being a plumber, er, sorry...Heating Engineer he spends a lot of time on his knees. Just thought I'd qualify that in case you were thinking a sore knee is a flimsy excuse for a day off work.

He's very industrious is my J.

Anyway, this morning I was getting ready for my day as 'corporate chick' working on-site at a big software client's HQ in London. Before I left, I made my beloved a cup of tea as a parting Florence Nightingale gesture.

I brought it in to him in bed. As he sat up, he trapped the curtain behind his back (our window is directly behind our bed). He gave the curtain a little tug to free it, and the whole curtain pole plus big-thick-wood-thing-with-nails that the pole was attached to came crashing down on his head!


Though as soon as I knew he was OK (blood, big bump but nothing major) I must confess I did chuckle. What a way to wake up.

Rented houses hey...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A Really Big Bump

Photo Credit:Mr Bump on the move
My Regatta plans were foiled this Satruday. No sipping Pimms with my friends and gazing at the fabulous rowers for me this year. Thank God Susanna at a Modern Mother did that for me

What I did instead was have a Very Big Bump at the tricky staggered junction outside Thames & Kennet Marina where Ella's dad lives.

It's hard to explain what happened without drawing diagrams, but basically I had to cross three lanes of traffic, two of which are split by a 'Keep Clear' box which is used for people entering and leaving the Marina.

I got across 2 lanes and paused in the box in line (at right angles) with the row of stationary traffic (a filter lane with a red light). The last lane I had to cross had been clear on my approach but I knew it might change and their lights may be I started to creep forward slowly to get a better view (it was blocked by the stationary cars) and - BANG!!

I got hit on the passenger side right on the wheel arch (it must have been at 20 mph+ as the other driver's airbag deployed). We span a little, I screamed, glass tinkled, Ella cried.

Result: El had a small bump on her head, I got minor whiplash (which I only noticed that evening as I was in shock all day) and my car looks like it's a complete write-off.

Paramedics, police, J (my hubby), Paul (El's dad), El and I cosied up in kiddie A&E for hours...

Thank God we were OK though. It really shook us up.

Sunday was much better. Some friends took us to see Romeo and Juliet at The Globe, we had a late lunch then enjoyed the street performers at Covent Garden.

El stopped by with Paul yesterday morning to grab a school dress and her bump has completely gone. She's in good spirits, and I have her again tomorrow. Really looking forward to lots of cuddles...

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Jedi Mind Tricks for Kids

Photo Credit:Young Yoda
At the moment my parenting focus is on helping Ella to manage her negative emotions without repressing them, or letting them completely take her over.

So, if she’s scared of wolves in her bedroom at night we start talking about happy thoughts like our recent trip to Euro Disney.

If she can’t get the wolves out of her mind, we talk about how they are like dogs and how she can choose to make them her pets in her imagination: take them for walks, tickle their tummies.

I’m keen to encourage her to realise that she can control her thoughts, which in turn makes it possible for her to change the way she feels.

I think it’s one of the most valuable life skills I can teach her. Although I must confess, being quite a sensitive soul as I am at times, I am still learning that trick myself.

Master it I will...

Friday, 19 June 2009

Get Lost in Music...

Photo Credit: PhilipZeplin
Until recently, I’ve been stuck in a musical rut.

I want something new to listen to and I don’t want to be permanently plugged into Radio 1 to discover it. Their inane chatter in between tracks is too off-putting when I’m working.

So, I was chuffed to bits when I recently discovered Last FM. You type in a band you like and it creates a non-stop-music radio station for you - featuring your chosen band and artists of a similar genre.

It’s fab for discovering new music - and rediscovering old favourites. My current fave is Polly Scattergood (no, I’d never heard of her either). Check out her very beautiful Poem Song and Other too Endless. You can even create your own playlists - and send the URL to your mates. Please share your discoveries with me!

Ella's dad recommended Spotify to me the other day. It’s like a jukebox for your PC.

Basically, you download it (for free) and type in any album or artist. You can then listen to all their stuff for free (but can’t burn it to CD/download it onto your MP3 player).

It takes all the risk out of buying new music ‘cos you can listen to an album as many times as you like before popping to the shops/ordering it on Amazon.

It’s also great for keeping up with your muso friends – whenever they mention a band/singer you should know about (as happened to me re. PJ Harvey), nod sagely then scurry on home to listen to their entire back catalogue on Spotify. Like what you hear? Discover more bands like them on Last FM...

The soundtrack to my life just got a whole lot more interesting.

I’m currently working my way through the Camp Bestival line up so I know who to make a beeline for in July. Although I’ll need to keep my plans flexible...

CBeebies’ Mr Tumble, Angelina Ballerina with the English National Ballet and Will Young will be vying for Ella’s attention. Strangely enough, El’s most excited about the Knitting Tent.

Rock on, Ella!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Yummy Mummies Meet at the Rainforest Cafe

Photo credit: traci*s retro

Now I must confess that I used to think meeting anyone from an internet 'community group' was completely nerdy. The kind of thing best left to World of Warcraft-ers and Second Life-ers.

Basically, I thought that meeting people you'd only ever met virtually was suitable for people who didn't have any real friends.

But times move on, and I with them.

I was excited, I was nervous. Sunday came and Ella and I traipsed off to London for the British Mummy Bloggers get-together at The Rainforest Cafe.

Organised by Susanna at A Modern Mother - truly the Queen of the British Mummy Bloggers - it was a great opportunity to match some (very pretty) faces to blogs.

Ella had a great time on the kids table and loved her goodie bag, especially the Rainforest Cafe wallet which prompted her to ask for some pocket money. Hmm. Is five too young for pocket money? Probably. I gave her some anyway.

I had a lovely natter with NixdMinx during which we discussed the burning desire to occassionally 'let rip' in anonymous blog posts.

We all slightly self-censor at times, knowing that friends/Romans/Countrymen read our posts. It would be great to have a place for us mummy bloggers to vent, to expose the raw, naked truth at those times when we can't on our own blogs for fear of reprisals. NixdMinx suggested the name 'AnonyMums'. Love it. I'll let you know when it launches...

I met Emily from Maternal Tales and her cute, cheeky daughter who had me and NixdMinx in stiches. I chatted to Home Office Mum and More than Just a Mother (whose current post I urge you to read. It'll make you chuckle) and waved manically to Notes from Inside My Head as for some reason I was convinced I'd met her somehwere before. Turns out she thought the same of me. We don't even read each others blogs (though I will now). Spooky.

And then there was the ripely preganant and glowing Tasha from Wahm Bahm who impressively managed to combine working at home with a two week old baby the first time round. Living, breathing proof that you can have, and do, it all.

And last, but certainly not least, I met Metropolitan Mum and her gorgeous little Baby L. What a delicious group of yummy, funny mummies. I am proud to belong to such an intelligent, interesting completely non-nerdy group.

There were more mummy bloggers I didn't get a chance to say hello to (I was wedged tightly in the corner, as it was a large table in a very small room, and I only ventured out of my seat for loo trips), but I hope to meet in due course.

We all enjoyed a free lunch - courtesy of the lovely people at Silver Cross who only asked for a few minutes of our attention while they discussed their ethos as a company (British, committed to quality and innovation, open to feedback from customers) and demonstrated two pretty cool products.

My favourite was the Halo pushchair which combines a travel system with a lightweight stroller so it will last Junior all the way through from birth until s/he progresses to walking/scooting/cycling.

Impressively, it folds down so small you can fit it in the boot of a Mini. The old style Mini.

Now I just need the baby...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Top 5 Tips for Enjoying Disneyland Paris

Ella and I had a great time at Euro Disney this Tuesday and Wednesday. The weather was amazing, the queues bearable (the longest we ever had to wait for a ride was 30 minutes) and the atmosphere happy and upbeat.

I had steeled myself for an onslaught of unbridled consumerism and in-your-face American-style Disney overkill but was pleasantly suprised.

I'm not denying that food and merchandise were expensive, they were. But the French are, well, French and so their Disney-ness was expressed with a smile and a 'Hello Princess' (for Ella, not me). They were charmingly free of faux enthusiasm, tending towards friendliness instead. A refreshing experience for any visitor to Paris.

The peculiar thing about Disneyland, Paris is that you can't get a decent coffee for love nor money. Not in the park, the studios, the village nor the hotels. There wasn't a Gaggia in sight.

I had to make do with Nescafe espresso or, worse, Nescafe cappuccino - the kind that started life as a dry powder and owes its foaminess to E-numbers. I'm surprised the Disney staff haven't mounted a strike in protest.

For those of you who haven't yet been, here are Ella and my recommendations for Euro Disney:

Top 5 Tips for Enjoying Disneyland Paris

  1. Make it a Mini Break
    We went for one night and two days. At the most, I'd recommend two nights and three days. Yes, there is a lot to do but it is very tiring walking around the Park's 140 acres -and the Walt Disney Studios' 50 acres.

    A mini break gives you enough time to do the best rides, and see a few shows, and frees you to suck up the expense without wincing. We spent around £140 on souvenirs, food and drink over the 2 days.

  2. Go Off Peak
    A bit of an obvious one, this but strongly recommended. To find out the best times to go, select 'book now' on the
    Disneyland Paris hotels page, and click the 'arrival date' link which will bring up the calendar. The cheaper dates (shown in yellow) are the best times to go - both for your purse and for your sanity.

    Don't feel guilty about pulling the little darlings out of school. Remember, you're creating magical memories that they, and probably you, will cherish for ever. Corny but true.

  3. Know your Rides
    This one is tricky, but it really does pay to do your research, talk to friends and friends of friends (thank you to MJ for her amazing itinerary), trawl the whatever you can before you go to find out what your child/children are most likely to enjoy.

    We made the mistake of thinking
    Big Thunder Mountain was a family ride. Disney bill it as such, Ella exceeded the minimum height requirement and from where we were standing the ride looked fairly tame. We were so wrong.

    It is not a fast train ride. It is a roller coaster without the loops. We closed our eyes and screamed through the entire ride. I know that's de rigeur on roller coasters. But we were both uncomfortably scared. Although, later in the day I must admit that we looked back on the experience and felt a stoic sense of achievement.

    So be warned - what Disney, or others, think is age appropriate may not be, depending on how fearless you and your child are. Els and I are fairly evenly matched. Clearly, she has a better excuse for being a wimp – she is only five.

    I, on the other hand, am old enough to know better but cannot sway my strong sense of self-preservation by thinking of the impecccable safety record of most roller coasters, the laws of physics being on my side etc. etc.

    For what it's worth, our favourite rides were
    The Pirates of the Carribean, Buzz Lightyear Laserblast and a tame-looking but great fun Orbitron

  4. Get Up Early
    If you stay in any of the Disney hotels you are allowed access to the Park from 8am to 10am. That means you get two whole hours before the day tripping hoardes descend. Bliss.

    They only open up two areas of the park, and not all of the rides in these areas are open, but it is a doddle to get on the rides you fancy and it is a relaxing experience wandering around an almost-deserted Park.

    The first hour (8am-9am) was the best because a lot of families at the hotels clearly hadn't finished breakfasting and getting ready. Ella and I had both hit the sack at 9pm the night before, so it was easy to wake up early and make the most of our two hours.
It was a great mini break, and a fabulous Mother-Daughter bonding opportunity. We smiled and giggled and 'wowed' our way through two of the best days we have had in a long time. I highly recommend that you go.

But if you're watching the pennies (and who of us isn't these days?) do hurry up and book soon. Kids under seven stay and play free until 8th November this year. If you're lucky, you may even get free travel on Eurostar for the little darlings too (very much subject to availability - we couldn't get this deal on the dates we wanted to travel).

Bon voyage!

Monday, 1 June 2009


J and I spent the weekend with Sarah and Mike, lounging in the sunshine and flying kites. I was totally made over when Sarah told me they are going to try for a baby soon.

It seems to be Maternity Year.

Two of J's friends' wives are about to have their first babies, a good friend of his has recently announced her first pregnancy and two of my friends are about to pop. Sarah is the second girlfriend to tell me they're 'going for gold' in the next few months.

I wonder if it's catching?

I have some exciting news of my own.

I'm taking Ella on a suprise trip to Eurodisney, Paris. I am sooo excited. We're catching the Eurotunnel tomorrow morning. I'm planning to keep the secret at least until we get to St Pancras.

Au revoir!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


I seem to be winning.

The gaps between the sofa and the wall, and the sofa and the floor, are plugged with plumber's lagging hose (courtesy of J).

Stripe generally steers clear of the 'weakest link' corner where he could easily squeeze through our defences and cause merry havoc chewing behind the sofa.

Why does he stay away? I have Super Nanny to thank for that. Not only has she helped me through those dark, desperate toddler years (terrible twos? Bah! My own experience and a quick straw poll confirms the tantrumy-try-your-patience stage to run from approximately18 months to three and a half years), her techniques seem to work equally as well on pet rats.

As soon as Stripe goes near the illegal zone, I clap loudly (rats have sensitive hearing), say 'No!' firmly and put him in his cage for a few minutes of Time Out. Works a treat.

He also has some new chew toys in his cage and I am more vigilant when he's out playing. Although I've been finding it hard to keep an eye on him and watch Britain's Got Talent. Isn't it just compulsive viewing? Ella and I have been riveted.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

My Rat Baby

Photo credit:missy
Stripe has been with us for four weeks now and we all love him to bits.

I wanted to upload a photo but he won't stay still long enough, and when he's sleeping he's curled up into a small ball of fur in the corner of his cage which is cute to the naked eye but doesn't make for a good photo through the cage bars.

So, here's a photo of someone else's rat who looks a lot like Stripe.

Pet rats, or fancy rats as they're often called, make brilliant pets. They don't bite, they're as intelligent as dogs (Stripe already comes when you call his name), they can be litter trained and they are very low maintenance.

Ella does her teeth in the morning with him sitting on her shoulder, chattering his teeth and squeaking contentedly

I first had a rat, Rizzo, in my early twenties. He was a baby substitute. My hormones were going wild and I was aware that my hash dealing, thrash metaller boyfriend was unsuitable father material. Rizzo was something small and cute to lavish affection on whilst waiting for my situation to become more motherhood-friendly.

Fast forward a decade or so and Stripe is probably fulfilling the same function - baby substitute (J is not too sure he ever wants his own child). Stripe also has another role - sibling substitute for Ella. She even refers to him as 'my rat brother'. Bless.

Working from home, I let Stripe have free range of the sitting room. He's great fun to watch - inquisitive and intrepid he gets into, on, under and behind everything. He's currently sliding down the neck of my guitar. Rather tunefully I might add.

Stripe didn't come out to play much last night as he was relegated to the naughty corner. J and I had discovered rat nibbles in the sofa. The NEW sofa J spent hundreds of pounds on. It nearly caused a domestic.

Apparently, there are solutions. I can put cuttlefish bones, bird blocks and mineral blocks in his cage to chew on. I can spray Johnson's anti-peck on the sofa (marketed for birds but apparently works on rats) because it tastes horrible. I can also cover the sofa with thick throws when Stripe's out so he chews on those and not the sofa.

I will try all of these things, but I know that if a rat wants to do something there's no stopping him. Man vs rat is an age-old battle. Usually man only wins by using rat poison. Obviously not an option for us.

I am a big rat fan. Despite the chewing. Stripe is affectionate and fun. He likes strokes and cuddles. I can leave him in his palatial Freddy Savic if I need to go away for a weekend and know that he's perfectly content.

Stripe is a great pet. He's even muted the ticking of my biological clock. I'm sure J will agree a nibbled sofa is a small price to pay, considering he's been let off the hook. For the moment anyway.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Logs and Dogs

Thank you for all your kind comments. You've really helped to cheer me up :-)

I knew Ali since she was about 18. Over that decade, our friendship has ebbed and flowed but always against a steady background of love and respect. It's taken me a while to feel comfortable with the fact that we were on an ebb before she died. 

No arguments, no acrimony but some conscious distance because aspects of Ali's recent lifestyle shift weren't sitting easy with me. Her changed value set rankled me a little, she wasn't fully the Ali I knew and loved, and I thought a little time and space would smooth the edges of our relationship and I could throw myself back into being a loving friend in say three or six months when she was, well, a bit less hectic.

I ignored a few of her texts and voicemails over the past few months. Ummed and Ahhed over whether to invite her to my hen night - and didn't. Left our friendship in suspended animation for a while, knowing that she's always surrounded by friends, living life to the full and was unlikely to notice my temporary retreat.

I smiled at the news that she'd met someone special and, on my return from honeymoon, thought 'I really must call her, meet her new man, spend an evening with her on her bus (where she lived) and get me a dose of her positivity and warmth.' I was starting to miss her.

You can imagine how shocked, and how guilty, I felt when she died. What a waste. Of her life and of our friendship. Wasted time, wasted opportunities. I wished I'd known, I wished I'd seized the chance to create new memories of Ali in the six months where there was just a few ignored messages and some snatched news from mutual friends.

Ali was a free spirit. More recently, she embraced the traveller lifestyle and was known for her passion for open fires and dogs (logs and dogs!!) - at one point she was looking after eleven dogs & puppies. On a bus!! She used to be a gardener and worked without gloves because she loved the feel of the soil.

She was a ball of energy. So immediate. Famed for her wide, welcoming smile and her bounciness. She had been conceived at Stonehenge, and she had a kind of magic that you don't often get to experience. 

I know in my heart that if she's around she will forgive me my embarassment, my pettiness and just remember the love. She was all about love was Ali. 

I miss her. I wish I could have shared one more moment with her.

Ali will always be an inspiration. A beacon of light and unrelenting positivity. A call to grab life by the balls and do what you want NOW because that's what she did. Always. She had a short life, but a full life. I think she herself would have recognised that as her life faded from her.

As for the rest...when someone you love dies you eventually start to wonder if they still exist. Has she stopped like a clock that can no longer be wound? Or has her vital force left and gone on to some other plane? Somehow, you think if they could they would let you know, if they could reassure you in any way they would.

Thinking this, a few days before her funeral I fell asleep thinking of Ali and reaching out to her, asking her to give me a sign. Not in the manner of someone desperate and inconsolable. I was sad, yes, but also inquisitive. Ali had Shamanic beliefs. She saw all of existence as being animated both in the here-and-now and in the forever-after. If she could let any of us know she still existed then I am sure she would throw her full self into piercing the veil.

I dreamed of Ali that night. She was there, and she was communicating with me by text message. I was so frustrated in the morning because I couldn't remember the content of her text. All I could remember was me, in my dream, saying 'Ali, that's amazing. How did you manage to text from the dead?!'. Bollox to my memory.

At Ali's funeral, my friend Sarah showed me something both banal and amazing. I am sure there's a logical explanation for this. I'm not sure I really want to find it though. I like it how it occurs for me right now.

Sarah, who is notorious for being rather scatty and very late for everything, had also recently asked Ali for a sign. In a rather more considered way than me, she had lit some candles, held some rose quartz and had a good old chat to the ether - hoping Ali might hear. 

The next day she got a message in her phone calendar (a function she has never used and is unlikely to ever do so). It was for the day of Ali's funeral, at 8am (the time Sarah had to leave to catch the train in order to get there on time) and it just said 'A'.

8: A.

Sarah hadn't put it there - she doesn't even know how to work her phone's calendar. Unfortunately, she still managed to miss the funeral (a mix up with St Peter's Church in Didcot and the one she actually needed to be at - in North Moreton). But she was there for the wake - a fabulous, emotional gathering in a field by Ali's mum's house with drums, guitars and a huge log fire. Very Ali.

It's only in the last few days that I remembered something I've known for ages. That the figure eight lying on it's side is the symbol for infinity. Make of that what you will. I'm still undecided, but a large part of me is smiling and thinking 'clever Ali. Thank you!'

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Feeling Quiet

I know I've been really quite recently. I will be back on top blogging form soon I promise.

For a week and a half after our honeymoon I was going to bed as soon as I'd read Ella a bedtime story. That's about 7.30-8pm. Yes, really. Call it jet lag, call it post-marital fatigue. I call it bliss actually. However, sleeping so early leaves little time for any other activity (such as blogging).

Then, after we'd got back from an Easter camping weekend in Corfe Castle, Dorset at the excellent Woodlands campsite I got the tragic news that a beautiful friend of mine, Ali, had died in a car accident, along with her boyfriend. 

She was only 27, and the smiliest ray of sunshine I have ever known. She'll always be remembered with love - by me and her many, many loved ones. Her funeral is this weekend. I'd like to write more about her but not just yet. I haven't really felt like writing at all.

I promise I'll be back - soon. 

Keep checking...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Six Reasons Why England Rocks and Thailand Doesn't

On honeymoon I truly got to grips with how fabulous dear ole Blighty is. 

For those of you dreaming about paradisical beach destinations, I'd like to remind you of a few  
Photo: I was here, dreaming of cloudy days and decent puddings 
advantages which our own green and pleasant land has over many exotic locations - in this case, Thailand: 

1. Mosquitos are few and far between
They are bastards. I'm veggie - yes I fell off the Vegan Wagon a little while ago - and respect every animal's right to life. I gladly make an hypocritical exception for mozzies.
2. Sanitation
Drinkable tap water+flushing loos=happy campers. 

3. Weather you can walk in
No rushing back to air-con retreats between the hours of noon-4pm for us. A distinct lack of daily sweat-soaked clothes and I've-just-smoked-five-neat-hash-bongs-in-a-row type lethargy.

4. Reassuring National Figures
As a curvy lady, it's easy to be self-assured amongst a wonderful range of Brit figures - mainly pear-shaped, occassionally waif-like. The Thai National Figure is more size 6 - your average English Rose is a size 16. By our standards I'm slim (well, way off the national average anyway), by theirs I'm a heifer.

5. Friends and Family
They're all here, a walk, short drive, cheap phone call, email or text away. I love them. Those I see every week to those I see once a year. I need them all. They add colour and charm and excitement to my life. I can't take them all on holiday with me. J is everything I could wish for - but without Ella, Jules, Anton, Anna P, Sarada, Helen, Sut, Kath W etc my world would be a half-lit, muted place.

6. Decent Desserts
Going out for a meal (albeit a delicious green curry) just isn't as much of a treat without a delicious pud. Banana fritters just can't compete with creme brulee, chocolate mousse, apple crumble and custard, treacle pudding, chocolate cake...I'll stop right there as I'm salivating over my keyboard.

Of course, there's also a lot to be said for sparkling white sands, rippling azure seas and hanging out (literally in my case) in a bikini for two weeks. But if the credit crunch forces you to forgo your long haul holiday this year, take it from me - there really is no place like home.


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Big Day

The sun shone, my boobs looked (and I quote a friend here) “magnificent” in my dress - thus having the desired effect of detracting from my expanded waistline (which was less expanded due to the miracle of Spanx).

And no, I’m not up the duff. I’ve been a lazy, greedy piggy for a long time and two weeks in a bikini has convinced me to do something about it NOW.  Photo: Me, J, Ella & Sulis

The ceremony was short, sweet and special. The flower girls and my sister looked gorgeous. Lunch was great, and very generously paid for by the best man.

I won’t say too much about the wedding night other than J was like a man half his age and drinking champagne in the hot tub at the Angus Suite was a blissful experience which I think we should repeat on every wedding anniversary. 

We had our wedding party the following evening. I hardly spent any time with J and wished I could spend more time with my good friends but speaking to 70+ guests over five hours was challenge enough.

I surprised myself by doing an impromptu speech, and an inebriated J surprised himself by responding to cries from his friends of ‘J do a speech’ by grabbing the mic off me and saying “Yeah…ditto. I agree with everything Anna said”. A good start to married life.