Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Could you be more explicit?

Tiddler has reached the swearing boundary, peered over the top and likes what he sees.

Sly V-signs with the extended fingers innocently rubbing against the face - when I put the Chocolate Fingers into the special biscuit tin with electric fences, combination locks and attack dogs*

'What's the word for a female dog, Mummy?' - as I wrestle the remote away to switch from Clarkson to Candleford.

'The F-word rhymes with Duck, doesn't it Mummy?' - watching me remove the Football Legends sticker residue from the newly-painted bedroom door with nail varnish remover.

And I'm fairly certain he flicked me the Bird from the bath under the cover of bubbles when I pointed out that he'd been luxuriating in the waters for 45 minutes.

I am now discovering that song lyrics can be a minefield when you have tender but sharp-eared Little Ducks.

'Here's my new download list for my iPod please' - begins JP, handing over a Post-It with blue glitter writing and little kisses and hearts on it**

'Have you got any money?' - (more in hope, than in expectation)

'You can use your iTunes account, can't you?' - the logic of which, of course, settles it.

It's not a bad list - Glorious - Andreas Johnson, The Reason - Hoobastank, The Fear - Lily Allen, Wire To Wire - Razorlight. So I set about the purchasing, copy the new tunes to both their iPods***, and burn a mixed CD for the car including the new tunes.

The Fear comes on. We are all humming along merrily - trying to learn the verse lyrics (we nailed the chorus from the radio weeks ago)

Life’s about film stars and less about mothers
It’s all about fast cars and cussing each other
But it doesn’t matter cause I’m packing plastic
and that’s what makes my life so
fucking fantastic

Clear as a bell and definitely not in the radio version. Too late I recall the big, red EXPLICIT warning next to the song menu on iTunes.

Quick as a flash, Tiddler pipes up triumphantly.

'Lily Allen sang the F-word. That means we can sing it too when we sing The Fear.'

'No you can't sing the F-word - we'll sing Flipping Fantastic instead.'

'But it's part of the song and Lily Allen sings it' - he persists.


I can't see him in the rear view mirror, but I can feel the Bird through the back of my seat.

*He still manages to get in
** I think he thinks it softens the blow
*** For iPods read Pirates of the Caribbean MP3 players - way cooler than my black 8g Nano.

Friday, February 13, 2009


JP and Tiddler have entirely separate approaches to surviving school.

Not that it’s a school that requires surviving. It is an excellent, over-subscribed primary school and we are fortunate to live within its catchment area.

JP has sailed his way effortlessly through the first four years with reports of enthusiasm, excellence, hard work and peer popularity. He is currently wowing Male Teacher with gifts of stick insects and requests for extra maths homework Рobviously making up for the video expos̩ earlier this term.

Tiddler has trodden a somewhat rockier path, particularly in Reception with visits to the Head’s and Deputy Head’s offices after Jason-style threats to his peers and numerous

‘Could I have a quick word about Tiddler please, Mrs Tiddler?’ - from Stern Teacher

to the extent that I used to dread picking him up and took to wearing dark glasses and a wig to remain incognito.

Things have picked up since then and he is negotiating year 2 and its forthcoming SATS testing with aplomb.

But this week he has surpassed himself. He asked if one of his friends could come for tea after school on Tuesday. I confirmed with Tiddler’s Friend's mother and we entertained a small dark-haired boy with football, NotRats and sausage and mash, before taking him home as agreed at 6.20pm.

I knock on the door to deliver my charge and am confronted by the Deputy Head.

My initial confusion and panic that somehow Tiddler had found a way to turn an innocent play-date into infant kidnapping and that the Police were lurking behind the Head with cuffs and a caution, turned to relief when I realised he was smiling.

Genius! Tiddler has recognised the power of influence and networking and gone straight for nepotistic gold.

His new best friend is the Deputy Head’s son.

Nice one Tiddler!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Suburban Stick Insects

When I hear the words 'Stick Insect', I immediately think of tropical rainforests, Attenborough voiceovers or the vivarium at the Manchester Museum. Exotica at the very least.

So when the Chicken Farmer offers me some as pets for the Little Ducks, I jump at the chance. He has hundreds as they breed like rabbits, apparently, but are not as evil*

I beg an empty Bensons Licquorice and Blackcurrant jar from the lady at the sweet shop and prepare for our new arrivals.

The NotRats lick their lips and gnash their orange teeth in anticipation - then remember that they are vegetarian and return to flicking poo and chewing their playtunnel.

10 stick insects of varying size turn up on my desk in a jar, with a net cover like a jam pot. There are extensive instructions printed on the side.

'Eat privet and bramble. Spray once a day with water'

Privet? How suburban. I am fascinated.

I had been scoping out the local garden centre, looking at rubber plants, palms, cheese plants and banana leaves and working out the cost of keeping the little Peperamis happy. But privet? I picture Sir David striding through the jungle, showcasing the privet topiary as he exposes the secret suburban life of our fauna.

Unfortunately, Friendly Drive was built in the 60's - and the front gardens are open plan and largely festooned with Laurel and Leylandii.

I decide to check out 1940's and 50's suburbia, by taking secateurs out on my running routes. But there is a problem. The kind of people who have privet front hedges are also the kind of people who keep them closely clipped (and have pictures of ivy on their wheelie bins) so finding somewhere to pause and snip a few branches proves difficult.

Eventually I find a house with both green and variegated privet - shockingly neglected and ideal Stick Insect food. I knock on the door to ask permission. Cash In The Attic is on the TV, visible through the greying net curtains in the small bay window. No answer.

It is the only untrimmed option in the row of terraces, so I ignore the 'No Hawkers' sign on the door and knock again.

Now to be fair, If I peeped round the nets and saw someone in lycra Capri pants with a see-through crotch**, a baseball cap, a swanky iPod armband, brandishing secateurs and jogging on the spot on my doorstep, I probably wouldn't answer either.

I backtrack 50 yards, assume the start position, take a deep breath and perform a perfect run-by pruning.

I make it back to Friendly Drive in record time, put the week's insect food shopping in some water and touch my toes

- in the kitchen.

* Actually my evil rabbit theories have now been confirmed on national radio - I heard a vet talking about them last week saying they were insuitable pets for children as they can be evil and vicious. I sat in gridlocked traffic with a smug face for at least 20 minutes.

** I kid you not. I didn't notice when I went out running in them for the first time with red lace knickers underneath, until I was touching my toes as part of my warm down on the driveway afterwards.