Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Town and Country

Half term seemed to come and go in a flash last week. I was working for most of it, and had conveniently found the boys a sports camp to go to (thank goodness these seem to exist in the UK too), but I did have Monday and Friday off, so I decided to treat the boys to some London culture.

We visited the National Portrait Gallery, which was a somewhat mixed success. The half term drawing workshops I'd noticed on their website were fully booked (something I should probably have anticipated) and by the time we'd taken a bus and two tubes to get there, the boys were already hungry.  Nevertheless I marched them around the Tudor Gallery. Littleboy 2 has a big Henry VIII obsession, so he was interested to see the six wives as well as various portraits of Henry himself.

Littleboy 1 was more interested in Queen Victoria so we had a look at her, and found various other monarchs including a very bizarre portrait of Charles II as a six month old baby. But other than the Royals, the boys took little interest in the line up of the great and the good that the NPG offers.

We did like this picture of Michael Caine, and Littleboy 1 was very intrigued to hear that he voices Finn McMissile in Cars 2.

After that their hunger could not be staved off, so we went off in search of a burger and found one at Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Now, the boys are really missing our new York favourite, Smashburger, and gbk offers a similar experience (order at the counter, sit down and wait for your food, kind of half way between a McDonald's and a proper burger restaurant). And the food was pretty good. But I have to say that Smashburger is half the price. Why does London have to be so expensive I wonder? And then, on the way home, we decided to go into St Paul's Cathedral, but stopped when I realised it would cost about 50 quid for the three of us to look round. What's that all about?

Our second treat of the week was The Lego Movie. I'd booked tickets in advance, knowing it would be hugely popular at half term, and the boys were super-excited. And we did enjoy it. But I have to say, after all the hype, it wasn't quite as fabulous as I was expecting. Making everything out of Lego was, of course, enormously creative, but the script felt it had gone through a lot of rewrites and some of the jokes felt like they'd been done before (in movies like Wreck-it Ralph and Toy Story). But things do perk up when Will Ferrell appears and it all gets a big meta. We hummed "Everything is Awesome" all the way home. What did anyone else think?

The week was rounded off by a trip to see some friends in the deepest Kent countryside. Despite the fact that the UK countryside is now one big marshland, we managed a beautiful walk, seeing spring lambs gambolling and crocuses and daffodils blooming. So I think we got the best of both Town and Country during half term, and maybe the boys are starting to understand what living in England is all about.

Monday, 17 February 2014

All About Me

The lovely Iota has tagged me to answer some questions in an All About Me post. (The idea is that I answer her questions, then think of some of my own and tag some other bloggers.) So here goes....

1. What is the view from the window of the room where you are currently sitting?

My view is of a quiet South London street, and at the end of it, a lot of very tall trees. The trees are in a very grand and large old Victorian cemetery where I occasionally take the boys for a walk. (It's quite hilly, and good for scooting, and they don't seem to mind that it's a graveyard). If I poke my head far enough round the end of my desk, I can see the Crystal Palace television mast.

2. Do You buy lottery tickets?

I have only ever once bought a lottery ticket, and that was on the night the National Lottery launched, when I was a student back in 1994 and it was a big news story. Needless to say, I didn't win, and after that, I lost interest.

3. If you had to live in the Arctic Circle or The Equator, which would it be?

Definitely the latter. I cannot stand being really cold and the dark winters would kill me. Whereas I could happily live somewhere like Singapore, given decent air conditioning and a swimming pool.

4.What's the novel inside you, you know the one everyone is supposed to have?

I've had several novel plans over the years, and still plan to write one set among the yummy mummies of South London. As a teenager I planned a Gone With The Wind style epic set in Hong Kong in the 1930s, and I actually have several unpublished teenage works among my files, including one about a girl detective solving a murder set in a chateau (I had been reading a lot of Agatha Christie at the time) and one about a teenage tennis player who goes from being crap at sport to winning Wimbledon (I had been watching a lot of Wimbledon). 

5. Do you still have your wedding dress?

Yes, it's hanging in a cupboard. I don't know what will become of it, though, as I don't have any daughters to hand it on to. Maybe one day I'll dress up in it and sit around like Miss Havisham.

6.Is your big toe longer of shorter than the one next to it?


7. Name a guilty pleasure.

Facebook. Total time waster, but I do like to look at it. Occasionally reading Grazia. And watching I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, which I blogged about here.

8.If you could change one thing you've done in the last week, what would it be?

Spelled someone's name wrong in an article I wrote for work -- a complete rookie mistake for a journalist, and totally my fault.

9. What's your middle name (come on, we're all grownups now, it's not embarrassing any more)?

Mary. And I've never been embarrassed by it - it's a good solid name that you can't argue with.

10. Can you say, with Edith Piaf, Je ne regrette rien?

Definitely not -- see above. But in the biggest matters of life, I have few regrets.

11. What fairy story do you most identify with (don't over-think this one).

At the moment I feel a bit like Goldilocks, as I'm looking round people's houses and trying them on for size.  They're either too big or too small, but I'm sure as soon as I find one that's just right the three bears will come storming in and kick me out.

Right, here are my questions. And I'm going to tag:

Metropolitan Mum
Flower Fairies and Fairy Cakes
Nota Bene

1. What's for dinner tonight?

2. Do you read a daily newspaper?

3. If you could take off on a no-expense spared holiday next week, where would you go?

4. What was your favourite book as a child?

5. And who is your favourite author as an adult (it doesn't just have to be one).

6. Do you buy your underwear at M&S?

7. What's your dream career, and do you wish you'd done it?

8. Do you ever Google people you meet afterwards? (and not for work reasons).

9. What was the last thing you saw at the theatre?

10. Do you use Pinterest - and if so, do you get the point?

11. What's been your proudest moment as a parent so far?

Monday, 10 February 2014

A child's eye view

I learned two things about children this morning.

The first is, they don't automatically know how to tuck a pair of socks together. I am fed up of finding just one of their socks on the floor, so had given them a big lecture about putting them together, only to have them protest that they didn't know how. I scoffed, and demonstrated. But when they tried to copy me, they didn't get it at all, even after several tries.

 It's strange - I don't even remember being taught this particular skill (unlike tying shoelaces or a bow), but it must be something that we are all at some point shown, and it doesn't come naturally (at least, not to my boys).

The second is: you forget how literally children think. On the drive to school, Littleboy 2 pipes up from the back seat: "What does that sign mean, NEW ZEBRA CROSSING AHEAD?"

As I started to explain, I suddenly realised why he was confused. He clearly had an image in his head of herds of (new) zebra crossing the road at the rather grim junction outside the local railway station, having stumbled there somehow from the African plains.

On a cold, grey, rainy morning in Southeast London, it was a lovely thought.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Six months in

We've been back in the UK six months.

In some ways it seems to have flown by - in others, it seems as if America, Long Island and everything we did there seems very far away.

Already, the boys have virtually lost their American accents. They don't even say "awesome" very much any more - although I've noticed that British children now also use that word quite frequently too. They talk about "break" instead of "recess"; "shops" instead of "stores". But yesterday I heard Littleboy 2 refer to a chocolate digestive biscuit as a "cookie", so it hasn't all gone.

Littleboy 1 now plays rugby and football, not "soccer", and will soon be learning cricket. He's made some friends and had some playdates, although he still misses his best friend in America and keeps a photo of him next to his bed. He loves his new school, and has developed a real passion for reading thanks to an inspirational Library teacher (very Dead Poets' Society). He's still enthusiastic and eager about everything, with a confidence I think is ingrained in children in American schools.

We haven't had the little annual rituals of Martin Luther King Jr Day or drawing pictures of Lincoln's Log Cabin for Presidents Week, but  Littleboy 2 is enjoying learning all about British history - he loved The Tudors (obsessively drawing pictures of Henry VIII) and is now full of enthusiasm about World War II, earnestly explaining about me to about ration books as I drive him home from school.

Valentine's Day is coming up and I think they'll be surprised that not everyone in their class sends a card to each other. (They did, however, write Christmas cards - something that didn't happen in America.) I'm just relieved that we won't have a bagful of pink tat coming home on the 14th of February.

I'm missing the beauty of Long Island, but appreciating being back in the City again. Work has become a lot more fun; I'm still with the New York company, but being their "woman on the ground" over here means I can go to more meetings, do more interviews and meet interesting people. Socially, I've chatted to a few more playground mums, but I still feel like the new girl and I suspect I will until the next school year starts.

The Doctor has finally sorted out his job, and after feeling for a while that his time in the States had been wasted, it now looks as if it has got him exactly what he wanted all along, which is a mix of clinical work and academic research.

Now we need to find our family home for the foreseeable future. The estate agents are still circling, we have yet to get an offer on our house, and we haven't found anything quite right either (except for one place that 's currently way above our budget).

Wish me luck.