Wednesday, 4 April 2018

A Winter Wander Around Saint-Michel in Paris

My brother and his wife have a 6 month artist's scholarship in Paris so I popped over for a visit on the Eurostar. Our accommodation fell through at the last minute but we found a great place to stay, just around the corner from Saint-Michel metro stop. 

Saint-Michel metro
Saint-Michel is on the left bank, within earshot of Notre Dame. 

Place Saint-Michel on the left bank.
Hotel Albe was a gem, a great chambre with crisp cotton sheets and a pristine wet room. We were there in February, the weekend before Valentine’s so finding a place to stay at très short notice which was superb and not overpriced was a definite bonus.

Albe Hotel, St.Michel, Paris

 The Seine had risen to bursting point and several metro stations next to it were closed. We wandered around the local area past Notre Dame, most all of Paris is accessible on foot.

The Seine, Paris in February 2018

Notre Dame, Paris 2018
The bells, the bells, in Charles Laughton’s like voice.

Brasserie Esmeralda, Notre Dame, Paris
I love to look up at the buildings in Paris there always seems to be a juxtaposition of old and new, the stately buildings wearing their modern graffiti jewellery, the tree shadows on the side below are painted on.

Tree shadows painted on a building's side, Saint-Michel, Paris

I love a bit of Parisian signage.

No entry accept bicycles - Paris

Breastfeeding Advice - updated

I  am re-posting this rather bossy entry on breastfeeding from 2009.

When I started breastfeeding this theory helped me A LOT and has subsequently been linked to helping avoid colic.

Breastmilk changes during a feed, it starts with thirst quenching fore milk and finishes with thicker hind milk. 
Think of each feed as a three course meal, starter, main and a nice rich soporific pudding (no coffee). If you stop after the first or second course, (i.e mid-feed) your baby and breast will start on the first course again at the next sitting. Lots of fore milk = lots of gas = tummy ache. To avoid this, if baby falls asleep on your breast, wake them up gently by stroking their cheek and getting them to feed a little longer; or if they wake hungry after a very short nap continue on the same breast. 
Don’t change breasts during a feeding session. Only when the next feed is due change to the other breast. You’ll get to know when your baby has had their pudding course as they drop into a deep smiley sleep. 

I drank an infusion of raspberry leaf, fennel and cumin which I got from Neal's Yard, religiously every night before bed. My baby didn’t get colic and rarely fussed or cried. (I was very lucky.)

Drink lots of water, eat well, sleep as much as you can, whenever you can.

Having shared stories with many mum's over the past 9 years, here are a couple of things to check for... if your baby is having trouble latching on they may be tongue-tied, this is when the little bit of skin underneath the tongue is tighter than most and prevents them from being able to suck properly. My friend India, did not find out her child was tongue tied until a dentist informed her when he was having a routine checkup - she had been mentally beating herself up for 8 years about not having been able to breastfeed!

Mari and her husband's first baby cried all the time and threw up nearly everything she drank, it turned out she was lactose intolerant, this took nearly a year for them to diagnose, by which time they were two very tired and wretched parents - although they did go on to have another three!

If you want to breastfeed but the milk just isn't coming, don't beat yourself up, get some formula,  go with what works for you, saying that, a newborn baby has a stomach the size of a marble and initially they do not need much from the breast. An interesting fact, breastfeeding for the first six months your baby only needs the same amount from you, whereas if they were on formula they  need to take more as they grow.

If you are able to breastfeed, but are not keen to be tied to it exclusively, you can supplement a bottle at anytime of day, or especially night, this gives you a rest and your partner time to bond. When I say bottle, this can be expressed, but formula is okay too - go with what feels right for you. 

If your baby is crying, a lot, it could be tummy ache, this could be a reaction to the lactose in some formulas (check the ingredients). Or they may not initially be getting to the hind milk in one feed and are never quite sated. Go with the flow and try not to worry too much. 
Love your boobs for their purpose – although I found it quite an alien experience, I'm glad I persevered.

 Another plus pointed bra - it is heaps cheaper, the only thing I bought was a nice pashmina to wear when I was out and needed to feed Erbie. I did not purchase any maternity wear or nursing bras.

Ask for help, watch youtube videos, find a local lactation consultant or breastfeeding clinic and don't forget you are amazing.

I breastfed Erbie exclusively for 6 months and eventually for a year supplemented with solids, as when I attempted to wean him at six months I discovered he was allergic to casein the protein in dairy but that's another story! 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Save The Bees.

I slipped off my coat in the waiting room after a sunny morning at the allotment and a honey bee flew right out of it. Could have stung me easily but had just been keeping warm, I guess. He flew straight towards the rickety old lead lined windows and started banging against them frantically. I knew my session was about to start but felt compelled to free my bee, I slipped into the chamber and opened a window grabbed a tissue and began swiping my bee towards freedom. Whilst doing this I heard Janis emerge from her chamber to find the waiting room empty. After a couple more provocotive flaps of the tissue my bee found the window and flew off. I closed the window and quick footed it back to the waiting room.

We talked about slipping back into old habits, labelling things, addictive behaviour, and self-hate. Asking why I hate myself is bringing nothing up so how about: ‘What do you hate about yourself?’

Later in the day as I walked the boys back from school I saw a big fat squashed bumblebee on the pavement, next to him another struggled. I put my finger down for him to crawl on and lifted him to the safety of a nearby garden full of Spring bulbs. Erbie's friend screamed in fear, they only sting if they're scared or about to die I say.

I save bees - I don't hate that about myself.

Image: ©

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Heart Shaped Stone.

I wake in Erbie’s platform bed, he is next to me, soft with sleep and cuddling bunny. I turn my back to him and curl up putting my head underneath the pillow. I can hear TheGr downstairs getting ready for work - it's 6am. I lie motionless, silently listening, will he acknowledge my existence when he leaves or just lean across me to kiss Erbie goodbye.

I hear him come into the room, feel the bed rock as steps up, he seems cheerful this morning, kissing Erbie and me.

“There are mouse droppings in the bedroom again, can you hoover up today - would you mind?” he asks in his best, polite, morning voice.

“No, I don‘t mind, of course, I will, no problem.” the words tumble out in random order.

He leaves. The house is quiet. a slither of sunshine blasts through under the black-out blind, it’s just before 7am. I groggily manoeuvre myself down the ladder, my is mouth dry, wisps of last night’s argument flickering through my head. The name calling, the tears, insinuations and accusations all seem so futile in the bright morning light.

I make myself a two egg omelette and a pot of coffee and contemplate the condensation on the window. I feel the knot in my chest, like I’ve swallowed a stone, a heart shaped stone, I smile wryly to myself. It’s back.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Art of English Pronunciation

I found this poem today - and adore it.

 THE CHAOS (Study English Pronunciation)

Dearest creature in creation,
  Study English pronunciation.
  I will teach you in my verse
  Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
  I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
  Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
  Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
  So shall I!  Oh hear my prayer.
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! 

  Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
  Dies and diet, lord and word,
  Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
  (Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
  Now I surely will not plague you
  With such words as plaque and ague.
  But be careful how you speak:
  Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
  Cloven, oven, how and low,
  Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

  Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
  Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
  Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
  Exiles, similes, and reviles;
  Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
  Solar, mica, war and far;
  One, anemone, Balmoral,
  Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
  Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
  Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

  Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
  Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
  Blood and flood are not like food,
  Nor is mould like should and would.
  Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
  Toward, to forward, to reward.
  And your pronunciation’s OK
  When you correctly say croquet,
  Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
  Friend and fiend, alive and live.

  Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
  And enamour rhyme with hammer.
  River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
  Doll and roll and some and home.
  Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
  Neither does devour with clangour.
  Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
  Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
  Shoes, goes, does.  Now first say finger,
  And then singer, ginger, linger,
  Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
  Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

  Query does not rhyme with very,
  Nor does fury sound like bury.
  Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
  Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
  Though the differences seem little,
  We say actual but victual.
  Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
  Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
  Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
  Dull, bull, and George ate late.
  Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
  Science, conscience, scientific.

  Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
  Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
  We say hallowed, but allowed,
  People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
  Mark the differences, moreover,
  Between mover, cover, clover;
  Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
  Chalice, but police and lice;
  Camel, constable, unstable,
  Principle, disciple, label.

  Petal, panel, and canal,
  Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
  Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
  Senator, spectator, mayor.
  Tour, but our and succour, four.
  Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
  Sea, idea, Korea, area,
  Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
  Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
  Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

  Compare alien with Italian,
  Dandelion and battalion.
  Sally with ally, yea, ye,
  Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
  Say aver, but ever, fever,
  Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
  Heron, granary, canary.
  Crevice and device and aerie.

  Face, but preface, not efface.
  Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
  Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
  Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
  Ear, but earn and wear and tear
  Do not rhyme with here but ere.
  Seven is right, but so is even,
  Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
  Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
  Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

  Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
  Is a paling stout and spikey?
  Won’t it make you lose your wits,
  Writing groats and saying grits?
  It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
  Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
  Islington and Isle of Wight,
  Housewife, verdict and indict.

  Finally, which rhymes with enough --
  Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
  Hiccough has the sound of cup.
  My advice is to give up!!!

 by Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité
(Netherlands, 1870-1946)

My mother would have loved this poem and as it would have been her 82nd birthday today, I am sharing it in her honour. Mum taught me that Cholmondley Featherstonhaugh is pronounced Chummlee Fanshaw (whom I have recently found out was a character created by AJ Carothers) and we all know what a stickler she was!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Don't Come Home

I'm sitting in a cafe.

It's school picking up time.

Usually I'd be picking up Erbie and taking him to swimming later, but Huston has told me not to collect him today, not to come home tonight or come back to the flat until 2.30pm tomorrow. When this has happened before I've begged, gone running, cajoled, apologised, cried. Today I decided I'd had enough of being bullied, so I have not gone to collect Erbie. I have asked the mum's to look out for him, but no news so far so all must be well.

I popped in to see Erbie at lunchtime under the pretence that I was taking him a coat and said he would be having a boys night and I'd see him tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning I have my first Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) appointment...

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Work in Progress

John Huston
Do I know myself?

This is a question I asked myself as I walked down the hill this morning.

Danny Huston

Angelica Huston as Morticia in
The Addams Family

Jack Huston in Broadwalk Empire

I have decided to rename TheGR as he is no-longer The Guardian Reader, hasn’t read it for over a year in fact if not longer. I shall rename him Huston, 
a) because he is a huge fan of the Huston clan from grandfather Walter to  father John, son Danny, Angelica and nephew Jack all of the Hollywood acting, writing, directing dynasty 
b) as in        …we have a problem.

Which in turn means I have a problem as I still love him. I’m beginning to realise I am not to blame for everything, that it may not all be me, that his happiness is not dependent on me or mine on him.

Growth. It’s going to be ouchy.

Walter Huston in Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Chelsea Flower Show 2016 - Highlights

Chelsea Flower Show also celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday this year, with a debut display from New Covent Garden Flower market in The Pavilion. Designed by Ming Veevers Carter, who has been going to the Flower Market for thirty years, it is a two sided display. One side shows the  Queen’s head outlined in various blooms each painstakingly watered and checked over daily and the other 112 typical flower buckets used to sell flowers at the market in a refined palette of whites and greens. The stand took 6 months of planning and weighs 2.5 tonnes, the same as the Diamond Jubilee State Coach.

Chelsea 2016
Chelsea 2016 - New Covent Garden Flower Market 
The ‘Brand’ New Covent Garden Flower Market opens at Vauxhall in January 2017.

Chelsea 2016 - New Covent Garden Flower Market 

The rear of the New Covent Garden Flower Market display at Chelsea 2016.
The rear of one of the gentlemen at the potato display in the The Pavillion, Chelsea.

Every year there tends to be a trend at Chelsea, this year for me, the most common theme seemed to be grasses, lots of grasses interplanted with flowers continuing the naturalistic approach of recent years. And amongst the purple and white beginning to appear were splashes of the orange spectrum from peach to rust especially I noticed rusty orange specked bearded iris, which I only saw on one stand last year, this – they were everywhere. I suspect a lot of chosen plants were unavailable due to the late flowering.

Rust coloured iris
Peach iris
Coral peony
Iris and grasses
Chelsea Flower Show 2016
Chelsea Flower Show 2016
The Mathematics Garden
Heuchera and grasses
Other odd photos, The Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street by Chris Beardshaw

Morgan Stanley - Great Ormond Street garden

 Alliums and Hostas inside The Great Pavilion, which covers 3 acres.

Lily of the Valley with a striped leaf - interesting.

A foxglove with a split flower called ‘Pam’s Split’

Digitalis purpurea - Pam’s split
Digitalis purpurea - Pam’s split
White Verbascum - Flush of White.

Flush of White - Verbascum
  Look closely at this orchid and you may be able to spot a dragon’s head.

Tolkien orchid

Sculptures at Chelsea Flower Show.

James Doran-Webb driftwood sculpture were there again, each made and shipped from the Philippines Chelsea is his only UK show case.

James Doran-Webb
James Doran-Webb

Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet too.
And lest we forget  - what started out as two Australian ladies knitting a tribute of 120 poppies to honour their fathers for Remembrance Day 2013, now has an estimated 50,000 contributions in recognition of Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) Day 2015 and now here at Chelsea Flower Show in 2016. An amazing sight.

50,000 crocheted Anzac poppies
A sea of remembrance poppies
Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Saturday, 14 May 2016

A Week in London from drinking rosé to selling ice lollies

Having just read Sasha at LibertyLondonGirl’s, lovely email update - titled: A Week in London, from drinking rose to licking popsicles, which cheered me up no end, I got to thinking about my past week, which also involved rosé and ice lollies.

Monday after dropping Erbie off at school, I escaped to my allotment with a flask of tea and some digging shorts secreted in my French shopping basket. The sun was shining and the allotment was an oasis of calm. There is always, always something to busy oneself with, especially at this time of year. I set myself to clearing weeds, adding compost and digging over a small patch, which I then planted up with sunflower seedlings and peas. I added some topsoil to the freesias I planted in the greenhouse, I’m anticipating their heady scent filling the space. I spread a rug on the grass and drank tea whilst listening to the distant noise of children at playtime. Properly recharged for the week ahead, I redressed for the school run and picked myself a bunch of black tulips with some contrasting grey artichoke foliage. 

A friend asks me to collect her child as she has a vet emergency, I bump into another friend who has been contracting and off the school circuit, it turns out to be her boy’s birthday, I end up taking the 3 boys to their house whilst she takes her little one swimming. This is excellent as they have a large garden and the birthday boy is made up not to have to tag along with his little sister. They play football in the garden but suddenly someone puts their hand on a bee and gets stung. Tears, lots of screaming, I get the sting out, and try to google ‘bee stings’ then call his mum to check he is not allergic; the boys console and make each other laugh, I let them play a shark game on the iPad. My friend and her daughter return and I accept a rather lovely glass of chilled rosé while I watch her finish icing a fabulous blue birthday cake with a Jaws-like shark atop. 

In the shower later I realised I had acquired a ridiculous digging tan on my back, complete with bra strap marks. 
Black tulip
Black tulips under my fig tree.
Ridiculous digging tan
On Tuesday The GR woke with a face full of cold sores and a temper to compliment, he spent most of the day barking at me whilst I took him for a walk around the local wood and down to Crouch End, I buy a variegated ivy for the bathroom as I recall reading somewhere that ivy helps remove air-born faecal matter. We were due to visit TheBelleMere after school for a BBQ, however due to ill feeling on TheGRs part about an unfulfilled promise I visited alone with a bottle of wine. I listened to TheBelleMere bemoan the tax office; having recently gifted a lot of money to various causes she discovered this would not lower the amount of tax taken from her pensions at source. I attempted a positive stance and arranged to visit on Friday morning when temper and wine were not in the mix.

Crouch End
Variegated ivy with whale.
Wednesday - I went into town to work at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden. Collected Erbie from school and took him swimming. We get a lift with a lovely mum who takes her 2 children to the same pool. Erbie has just started and is the oldest in his group (for the first time at anything) and it is really boosting his confidence, which he needs, lamb chop. They splash around in various ability levels and five teachers in the water whilst we watch from the viewing gallery. I frequently get too hot but refuse to keep taking off and on my outer layer so remain very still and focused on Erbie who looks up and waves frequently sticking his thumbs up. Changing room, shower, lots of children, vending machine, popcorn, car, traffic, knock knock jokes about poo from the three in the back, roadworks, home. TheGR placates himself with some rather good television, Silicon Valley, Gomorrah and Game of Thrones. I have an early night.

Thursday, shorts to school, not me - Erbie. I collect cold sore medication from the doctor for TheGR. After school, myself and another mum take our boys to visit their school friend in Great Ormond Street hospital. He is recovering from a second operation to rectify a rather botched op on a burst appendix carried out by another hospital. He has been very poorly for weeks, however today he is up, smiling and eating, the perkiest I’ve seen him since the beginning*. The relief from his mum is palpable. She tells us that coming to Great Ormond Street from the previous hospital was like going from a tent to a 5star hotel.
*They are allowed to go home later and he continues to improve

Erbie and I walk back through Queen’s Square past throngs of workers enjoying a drink in the sun, we wiggle down the side of Russell and Bedford Square (where Erbie had his 1st birthday) have a quick look in Tiger on Tottenham Court Road and then jump on a bus home. TheGR is in a rage, barks more and also takes considerable umbrage to my taking Erbie to Great Ormond Street. I go to bed.

Erbie, Bedford Square
Erbie, Bedford Square, London
Friday. Erbie does not wake until 8.55am, school starts at 8.50am, I deliberately let him sleep-in as this is only the third time it has happened. I write ‘late’ in the school book and take Erbie down to his classroom, the teacher beckons me in and explains that the class are all making individual cards for their poorly friend and that Erbie can deliver them. I let them all know that he came home last night and is now properly on the mend. I go to visit the Belle Mere picking up almond croissants and some freshly ground coffee from W. Martyn. She refuses my hello kiss and mutters something about me buying coffee as I don’t like hers. - ‘No, it’s a gift.’

I listen to TheBelleMere rage about her ex-husband and how unfair life is, she tells me about a visualising scenario where she once put someone in a leaky boat and tied a weight to them and watched them sink in the middle of a deep lake. After a couple of hours I help her complete the unfulfilled promise on the computer. It dawns on me why TheGR’s default stress button might be anger.

I go home, TheGRs cold-sore medication is working and his mood is lifting. I do another load of clothes washing and whiz the hoover around. At 2pm myself and another mum go to a superstore and buy up a substantial amount of ice lollies to sell in the playground for ‘lolly Friday’. There is much calculator use and recounting of boxes, I know only two types out of the many innocent looking fruit lollies are actually dairy-free. We sort them all into cool boxes and stick them in the back of the car; school, trestle tables, float, mad ice lolly sale, we make a profit for the school and the kids play until we finish. Erbie has his birthday mate coming over to play, we give him some bicycle accessories we bought in Tiger and walk him home after tea, posting the class cards through poorly boy’s door on the way. I pick up a bottle of Prosecco and invite myself in!

Back home after Erbie goes to bed, TheGR and I share a bottle of wine and make a playlist on Spotify of the sixty or so songs he has learnt over the past few years on his guitar. It is very eclectic, from Am I A Man or Am I A Muppet to A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash. I can’t keep my eyes open any longer and go to bed without TheGR who tells me I deserve a medal.

Other nonsense

Quote of the day

‘They tuck you up your mum and dad...’
Anon - after Larkin

“Philately will get you everywhere”

“It’s not the despair, I can handle the despair. 
It’s the hope I can’t deal with”

“Each new friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Anais Nin

‘Come on Dover move your bloomin’ arse’.
Eliza Doolittle