Monday, April 30, 2007

International Relations

My talented friend and artist Lizzie in Omaha painted this amazing oil as a gift to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our friendship.

Homage to Sabine is a tribute to the wonderful trilogy Griffin and Sabine, about an extraordinary correspondence between people on opposite sides of the world. If you haven't read them, put it on your list of 43 things.*

For years we relied on letters, then email and now chat regularly on Instant Messaging. Very occasionally, we talk on the phone.

I was calling to speak to Lizzie recently and got her eldest daughter Juliane instead. As we chatted, Tiddler appeared with a question.

Shh, I gestured. 'I'm talking to Juliane in America.'

'Oh.' He pauses for a minute, then says loudly 'Is she an American Idiot?'

The party invitations are drying up by the day.

*More of that later

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Starter for Ten

Shh. It's 6.20am. I have crept into the bathroom in the hope of having a bath without an audience.

Duck's bathtime has become a participation sport in our house. Nostalgia takes me fondly back to the days when I could wallow in hot water, book in hand, football on the radio, glass of wine balanced on my flat stomach. (Yes, yes, a long time ago...)

Nowadays it's more open house than private sanctuary and locks are no deterrent to Little Ducks.

I spend an age running the water quietly, so as not to wake the household. I step into the bubbles, open 'The Dance of the Voodoo Handbag', wriggle contentedly...

and Tiddler staggers in.

Without so much as a hello, he removes my towel from the toilet seat, wees, farts loudly, sits cross-legged on the seat lid* and fires the first question. Not fair. I'm not prepared for this right now. - There's no big black chair, no revision time, no horn fanfare.

1. For my 5 (sic) birthday, can I have wax in my hair?
2. How many days until we go to Devon? (104 - we're on daily countdown and they've already packed their rucksacks)
3. (In two parts) You know how poo is green before it comes out and then goes brown? - How does it do that?

I elect for a time out. 'What makes you say that Tiddler?' 'It's in the book.' 'What book?' - mentally scanning the bookshelves in his room. 'JP's Big Body Book'. Ah. Inspiration - plays Joker - 'You'll have to ask Daddy that one'.

Without pausing for breath, we move on.

4. Can I wear my batman costume for Hallowe'en?
5. When I'm 5, how many pairs of pyjamas will I have?
6. Girls wee out of their tinkle don't they? Do they poo out of their bottoms like boys?
7. When can we go to the safari park?
8. Am I going to school today?
9. When is my Manchester United kit coming?**
10. Can I have little cereal packs for breakfast...?

I close the book - dinosaur bookmark in the same place as yesterday, and the day before, and the day before.

*To be fair, both little ducks remember to put the seat down after use, although I'm sure they're genetically predisposed to lose this skill as they get older.

** Yes! Yes! There is smoke from the Vatican chimneys. He has chosen!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Click the play button in the bottom left corner to relive the goals from last night.

Friday, April 20, 2007


It was my turn on school run this morning, which means feeding and dressing the Little Ducks.

'Can we have little cereal boxes for breakfast?' pleads Tiddler, my face buried in his tousled, golden hair in my first babysmell fix of the day.

'No Tiddler, they're just for treats and you had them yesterday. If you have them every day, then it won't be a treat. You can have Weetos.'

As a deprived child, we NEVER had Variety Packs, despite endless pleading to Mrs Duck Senior and promises to eat them all - even the Bran Flakes*.

Who in their right minds would include Bran Flakes in a Variety Pack? Unless Kellogg's has a grudge against big families and is keen to punish child #8. Oh, and 6 and 7 if you count the disappointment of ending up with Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes or any other non-sugar/non-chocolate-coated variety.

Anyway, authority established, I sent them downstairs. Following a few minutes later, I enter the kitchen to find them sitting like angels at the kitchen counter, munching happily. My first thought is that Mr. Duck has prepared it before leaving and I resolve to look kindly at golf items on the credit card bills, but JP pipes up 'Look mummy, we got our own breakfast'. They both smile.

My heart swells with love and pride, until I notice that they are eating Coco Pops and Frosties - and the tell-tale small packs are strewn across the counter as evidence. Devious little sods.

I melt a little when I realise they have sourced bowls, spoons, climbed chairs to reach high cupboards, opened packaging, and acquired and poured milk without spillage - all by themselves, for the first time.

Epiphany! I no longer need to provide meals. They can fend for themselves, provided the culinary inducement is sufficient.

So, Little Ducks, if you're reading this:

Tonight there will be chocolate spread sandwiches, ice-cream, green pringles and Easter Eggs for tea. Help yourselves!

*Obviously lying here.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Of course, we've only got ourselves to blame.

As devotees of Friends for many years 'Ugly Naked Guy' has been the affectionate term used for nudity in our house, whenever the Little Ducks are unclothed.

Pointing and shouting 'Ugly Naked Guy/Mummy/Daddy' became something of a Duck Family source of amusement and was one of JP's first phrases. Pyschologists can make of that what they will.

Why do small kids love to take their clothes off and race around naked? I suppose it's because they have yet to observe gravity gradually sucking their body down through the floorboards until they look more like Barbapapa than Barbarella.

Unfortunately, Tiddler has started to take this harmless game to its (un)natural extreme.

It began on the way to school one morning, when he mooned me for castigating him about not holding my hand to cross the road. Not surreptitiously - but brazenly marching 5 yards ahead, dropping trousers and pants and sticking out his bottom - in front of dozens of parents and other Tiddlers on the school run. This was about 3 weeks into his first term. Needless to say, we don't get invited to many reception class parties.

It has now become full frontal exposure - most recently from the top of the climbing frame in the garden, directed at our neighbours' two young daughters H and Em, watching incredulously from the patio windows.

I guess we won't be going to neighbourhood parties any more either...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


When Smith emphatically marked his first European start of the Season with the second of the magnificent seven, 72,000 believers danced in ecstasy and began to chant for more.

Something extraordinary was afoot.

I stood in my favourite place in the whole world, in perfect harmony with all around me. As I contemplated my feelings, my senses afire, it dawned on me that this was pure, untempered joy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Mating Game

There being Spring sunshine, we took to the park for a game of football. There is a fenced-off, dog-free compound with climbing equipment and picnic tables, but JP, Tiddler and I chance it on the open grass area, using the space between two fenceposts as goalposts, in the absence of jumpers.

JP is in full Mersey Red kit - just to annoy, and Tiddler in full England kit - equally annoying. The game is going well, with me in goal.

Then we spot M - JP's girlfriend of the past year, with her mum and one of her mum's friends. The mums are drinking Grolsch in the park at 4 in the afternoon! I am impressed - although not as impressed as if they had been drinking draught Guinness.

JP puts his head down and fiercely concentrates on his free kicks. When a complicated step over goes awry, he nonchalantly passes the ball to Tiddler, and fiddles with his laces - thus demonstrating clearly that he has a trainer problem rather than a skill problem.

M strolls away from the play area over to the fence to pretend not to watch. She declines to join in.

No greeting has been exchanged and glances are furtive.

After a while, and without acknowledging her presence, JP walks into the compound and wanders over to the monkey bars. M drifts back to the play area. JP manfully climbs up the ladder and swings across the bars, dropping a few feet from where she is standing. 'I am hunter/gatherer and can provide for you' - his actions are saying. M continues to ignore him from anear.

M sprints up and down the tarmac path. She is a very fast runner and is keen to show off her prowess. JP shrugs and does a few bunny hops*.

Eventually they come together for a race. JP cheats and sets off before M. She flounces away from the finish line in second place - disgusted. Clearly he has a lot to learn about courting women.

Later, when they think no-one is watching, there is a brief hug by the slide. They quickly spring apart.

In a suddenly bold and romantic gesture, a blown kiss from JP is received wistfully by the fence as we depart for tea.

*For as long as any of us can remember, JP has spent hours bunny hopping for no reason other than he can. Many have tried and failed to keep up with him, and should this become an Olympic sport, he is a cert for a Gold medal and Sports Personality of the Year.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Things You Encounter When You Haven't Got Your Gun #2

When Tiddler turned toast into luminous green vomit for the third day running, it was time for a bank holiday trip to A & E. Last bank holiday trip to A & E was New Year's Day when Tiddler swallowed a large ball bearing from the Mousetrap game. I'm already booking my spot for May Day when I fully expect Tiddler to wedge a saucepan on his head.

Anyway. I arrive at A & E to report in for our 3 hour wait. Tiddler is Koala Beared around me, moaning quietly. A Hyperactive Toddler is tearing around screaming with mum, older brother and grandma in pursuit - desperately trying to restrain him.

Mum's solution is to get him a bottle of Coke and some chocolate from the vending machine - a massive sugar fix! Light the blue touchpaper and stand well back.......

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Guess My Animal

We have devised our own guessing game to rival I-Spy and 20 questions called Guess My Animal*. It can hold JP entertained for hours on end, but can get a bit tricky for Tiddler who doesn't know his arachnids from his elbow most of the time.

It's testing enough when it's JP's turn - given his encyclopaedic knowledge of animals in general and dinosaurs in particular. Woe betide the contestant who isn't familiar with the differences between deinonychus and mononychus.

It's practically impossible when Tiddler is IT. He changes his mind about who he is supposed to be, has only rudimentary understanding of the difference between land and sea creatures, no feel for diets or habitats and cannot count legs.

The Ducks-in-Law were over at the weekend and we decided to have a game of GMA in the car.

Tiddler's turn went something like this:

Tiddler: Guess My Animal

Duck: Are you a mammal?

Tiddler: Yes

Mr Duck-in-Law: Do you have four legs?

Tiddler: No

Mrs Duck-in-Law: Do you have two legs?

Tiddler: No

JP: Do you have no legs?

Tiddler: No

Now at this point we're a bit stumped. Any amount of legs over four suggests that IT is unlikely to be mammalian.

Tiddler: I'll give you a clue - it's got three legs.

There is an awkward pause until JP pipes up...

Is it a dog having a wee?

* The rules. Whoever is IT thinks of an animal. Everyone else has to ask questions to deduce what the animal is. Questions may only be answered 'yes' or 'no'. There are no limits to the number of questions you can ask. Email me for a starter pack of questions to get you going if you're interested.

Monday, April 02, 2007


While using the facilities at Old Trafford on Saturday, it occurred to me that the ladies' toilets at a football match differ from those offered anywhere else in 3 fundamental ways.

1. There is no queue.

Despite the fact than men's facilities outnumber the ladies' by 3 to 1, the queue is always under the sign of the Stick Man. Why do they show a Stick Man with his arms out to his sides outside a gents? As far as I can tell, men looking for a toilet always have one hand reaching for the entrance to their flies long before they reach the entrance to the gents. And generally exit the same way. Too much, boys! Save it for the cubicles.

2. No-one is doing their hair or applying make-up.

There are no fumes from hairspray, Impulse or perfume and no-one is adjusting the tit tape on their cleavage. The mirrors are provided purely to check that the badge on your hat is facing the front.

3. Lots of people are wearing exactly the same outfit

- but no-one minds at all.