Sunday, November 24, 2013

A fortnight of red cup joy

My life doesn't revolve around Starbucks. Honestly it doesn't. I mean, yes, our friends Jo and Christian might have mentioned a Starbucks latte in the (somewhat customised) reading they did at our wedding. And, yes, I might have recently written a moany little blog post obsessing about how much I missed my daily Starbucks visits. But please don't judge me. I'm not fixated. Nor do I believe, as this article about the cutesification of society puts it, that civilisation peaked when it created the technology to make a red cup. I just really, REALLY love a gingerbread latte at this time of year. Am I a sucker for marketing from an evil capitalist corporation? Probably. But happiness is happiness however you look at it, right?

Imagine my joy, then, when I managed to get four (yes, that's FOUR!) gingerbread lattes in over this past fortnight. All of which, really, is a rather long winded way of saying that here is a catch-up on what I've been up to recently through the medium of coffee.

THE 'HUMOURED BY MY HUSBAND' RED CUP: We headed to Granny Pat's house in Sussex on Samuel's birthday, and whenever we venture that way, we drive past a tiny little Starbucks in a place called Hooley. After dropping several million hints upon approach to Hooley 'Oooh, we're almost in Hooley!', 'Am I mistaken or is there a Starbucks in Hooley?' etc), James rolled his eyes and very politely asked if I would like to stop there to get a gingerbread latte. He's a good man. And, cor, that coffee tasted good.

THE 'WE NEED TO GET THIS TEETHING BABY OUT OF THIS RESTAURANT BEFORE SOMEBODY KILLS US' RED CUP: The other week, Samuel and I set off on an adventure to London Bridge to meet L on her lunch break. Samuel was teething and a little bit grumbly on the train there, but I kept him nice and calm with my excellent mumming skills (that is, I kept throwing rice cakes at him and hoping for the best). Borough Market was bustling as usual. The last time we visited it was a scorching summer day and there were stalls selling cooling Prosecco spritzers, but this time the same stalls were selling steaming beakers of mulled wine. It was well festive. We didn't sample them, though, and instead headed to a Pain Quotidien to meet L and enjoy a nice tart. L was brilliant with Samuel and somehow managed to keep him entertained with her red fingernails and the super cute Spider-Man T-shirt that she's bought him for his birthday. Unfortunately, by the time the nice tarts were served up, Samuel's grumbles had turned to wails, the rice cakes had lost their magic powers, and we weren't the most popular of patrons. We had to take it in turns to bounce, jiggle and walk him around the place and then bolt down our lunches. We escaped as quickly as we could ... to the Starbucks around the corner where we got red cups to take out and strolled around the frosty streets trying to cram hours of gossip into the ten minutes that were left of L's lunch break.

THE 'WE'VE SURVIVED A LONDON TOURIST ATTRACTION ON A SATURDAY AND WE DESERVE THIS' RED CUP: Last weekend, my lovely NCT friend arranged a day out to the London Sea Life Aquarium for our whole group to celebrate all the babies turning one. It was a top adventure. Samuel loved banging on the tanks and getting up close and personal with the sharks and stingrays and speedy little fish. He was a bit non-plussed about anything slow-moving or the crocodile, which looked like it was playing musical statues. It's an absolutely massive place with so much to see, and if you have older children you could easily spend half a day there. We discovered, though, that with babies like Samuel who have specific nap-time needs, you kind of need to whizz around quickly, because by the time we made it to the penguins, Samuel was screaming with tiredness. We all ducked out before lunchtime, leaving the crazy-busy hoardes behind us and took a long and leisurely walk along the South Bank. We stopped off at Starbucks and treated ourselves to red cups to celebrate surviving our first big touristy outing as families. And yes, I may well have been the instigator of that stop-off.

THE 'YIPEE, I'M ON MY OWN AND WEARING DRY-CLEAN ONLY CLOTHES' RED CUP: Joyously, Brunch Club with C, L and V was on again this past weekend. Only it wasn't really Brunch Club at all. For one month only, Brunch Club became Afternoon Tea Club (it was on C's list of things to do before her baby comes along in March) and the destination was Brown's Hotel in Mayfair. I wore a silk top, a fake fur jacket, a smudge of eyeliner and not even a hint of baby sick. It was nice. It was great to catch up. We treated the unlimited nature of the afternoon tea as a personal challenge and wished that C wasn't the only one with an elasticated waistband. I rolled back to Victoria and saw that I had a while to wait for my train, so naturally, I headed to Starbucks to wait with a red cup. Every cloud and all that.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Into the numbers

So how do you do a first birthday? Samuel's big day was fast approaching and, as with most of the other parental quandaries we come across, we didn't have a clue what to do. On one hand, we knew it wasn't like he would ever remember any of the festivities. But on the other, we knew that we needed to mark the occasion with some kind of fuss and photographic evidence if we are ever to expect him to take pity on us and convert his garage into a granny annexe in 30 years' time when our meagre pensions have run out and we're eating tins of supermarket own-brand cat food. Evidently a party needed arranging pronto. 

We decided on an intimate soirée rather than a massive tented bash with live entertainment. This was for several reasons. Firstly, he doesn't have any friends. Secondly we don't have many friends. Thirdly, The Grumbleweeds weren't free. And, finally, given that he's a baby who's been known to have a full-on emotional breakdown when a packet of Snack-a-Jacks has been rustled in his direction, we felt that party overkill wasn't the way to go.

So we did what felt right. We bought cute dinosaur party hats. We ordered, and stuffed our faces with, Curly Whirly Cake from Konditor and Cooke (Samuel was quite taken with the frosting). We put up bunting. We called Granny K and Aunty Lucy and got them to hop aboard southbound trains to join us. The next day, we took him to visit his Granny Pat for further cake action. 

As far as birthday weekends go, it wasn't half bad. A little boy with a party hat on his head, a slice of cake in his hands and all the people who love him in front of him.

I'm still hopeful about the granny annexe.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday morning

Samuel coughs. I look at his pale face. A thick, yellow candle oozes from one nostril. Wasn't there once a band called '... And you will know us by the trail of snot'? I wonder, absentmindedly. We'll be staying indoors again today, I think. I really need a coffee.

I lay him down to change his nappy, but he doesn't want his nappy changed. He howls and screams as I wrestle his trousers off. I look at the time. I used to step into Starbucks every morning around now, I think.

Just as I manage to whip off Pampers's finest, we hear a noise of deep, guttural discontent behind us. The cat is throwing up her breakfast. Red cups, I think. I bet the red cups are out now

Samuel looks at me. Then he looks at the steaming pile of cat sick. Then he looks at me again. A grin spreads across his face. He wriggles free of my clutches and makes for the vomit at lightening speed. A new toy, he thinks. 'Catch me, Mum!' he thinks. There is poo all over his bottom. miss those daily gingerbread lattes, I think. All resplendent with their cinnamon sprinkles.

I chase him with baby wipes in one hand, wildly swatting off what I can, while using the other hand to slow him down before he reaches the toxic heap. It's like trying to stop Roadrunner. His arms and legs are still scrambling forward determinedly  but he's going nowhere. He isn't happy about it. 

Eventually I manage to pin him down with my leg and clean him up. His little teeth gnash at my pyjama bottoms. Then I set to work on the snotty nose. He's even less happy about this. 

I release him. He smiles a smile of instant forgiveness and crawls off to play with a story book. I turn my attention to the cat sick. 

Oh, for a red cup in cashmere-mittened hands, I think.

Monday, November 4, 2013

That work thing

One day last week Samuel and I spent the morning playing, listening to 6Music and dancing to Doves and Public Enemy. We were both still full of cold but it didn't stop us giggling. Later, when he'd gone down for his nap, I did the usual chores, had a leisurely lunch and then surprised myself by cranking out a few rows of my long-neglected knitting project. It was great.

As I sat there, I had a thought. It had taken a year to get here, but this was it. This was exactly how I'd hoped maternity leave would be.

And then I had another thought. I'm not actually on maternity leave any more. 

The fact of the matter is that I handed my notice in at work a few weeks' ago. It was such a difficult thing to do. My role had been a dream one - a copywriter at a cancer support charity that I love with all my heart. A charity which helped my family and I beyond belief when my dad was ill. A charity with a fabulous tone of voice that fully complemented - and even encouraged - my love of puns. Jobs as good as that are hard to find.

But I know I made the right decision for us. Childcare costs are astronomical - way too prohibitive for someone on a charity copywriter's salary - and my gut instinct tells me that I should stay home to look after Samuel myself. I've gone and got quite attached to him, truth be told. So that's that then.

Except that it isn't. Not quite. Writing is still important to me. Punning is a big part of who I am (few things beat the thrill of seeing a completely ridiculous headline of mine in print). And I'd be lying if I said that after years of earning my own crust I've found it easy to be financially dependent on James. I haven't. And that's why I'm going freelance.

I've no idea if it will work out, if I'll pick up much work at all or if I'll be able to find that elusive work-life balance that you hear mums talking about. But I'm rather excited about it nonetheless. So if you hear of anyone who needs some nice words, funny words, luxurious words, inspirational words or persuasive words, do tell them to give me a shout.

Now all I need to do is rustle up an online portfolio and decide whether or not I should include a headline I once wrote to promote a Lionel Richie album (Hello! Is it this CD you're looking for?).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A suspicious silence

You know that thing they say about how you should worry when your child is quiet? Well, they're not wrong. 

Yesterday we sat there drinking tea and remarking upon how much we were enjoying a chilled out Saturday morning and how great it is that Samuel can amuse himself so well now. He'd been quietly playing for ages on his play mat with his back to us. Hmmm.  

We took a closer look. He was eating our post. Munching away on a 10% discount mailer that James's team had produced. And ironically, by the time we'd got wise to his game, he'd eaten 10% of it. Mathematical skillz.