Tuesday, 29 May 2007

BLW -- it's, like, totally the new trendy thing

No, honestly, look at me in there with a hot new trend. Unbelievable. Well, at least on the cusp. Look, anything's better than finding out five years after everyone else has got over it, all right? Are you looking at me?

Ahem. So, yes, for those of you who aren't totally hipped up daddy-o, BLW is baby-led weaning (some of you may want to turn off now, obviously). It's a new thing that's really an old thing, of course, but hey -- and (this is the good part) it is LESS WORK. Hear those cheers. Put out more flags. So instead of all that Karmelling around pureeing food into a gruesome mush, then spooning it into outsize ice-cube trays so as to defrost it in little bowls later, then in a few weeks doing special puree-with-lumps-in to get the infant used to textures, you simply bypass the whole process and give the baby things it can hold in its hands and put into its mouth. Anything it can't chew off with its gums, it can't eat. Simple, huh?

I found an excellent website with loads of info -- and wittily written too, which was nice. We started straight away. Banana would be the perfect food if only it didn't somehow spread itself over a baby from top of head to ankle (including the insides of ears, backs of knees and so on) and then set like concrete. I couldn't believe the first two bibs I pulled out of the washing machine still caked with the stuff. We've now dispensed with dainty little bibs and use old tea-towels fastened with a clothes peg at the back of the neck, and Sash still manages to get banana on any bit of ankle that might peep through.

It does wonders for their hand-eye co-ordination, too. And it is *such* fun to watch. Sash eating a banana is part porn, part slapstick, part gross-out. And it's great fun giving them new things: the first taste always prompts a huge pantomime-strength grimace, then by the third suck they've decided they love it. We've tried pineapple, mangetout, buttered toast, French beans, strawberries, Weetabix, unsalted bread sticks -- anything you can nibble a chunk of, really.

[Footnote - I wrote a huge article about it for Cambridge NCT magazine, if you'd like a copy.]

It finally happened (happened)

You remember that a friend told me that everyone drops their baby on its head at some stage? Eek! It finally happened. Poor Sasha was on the sofa and I was playing the piano with B, working out the tricky bit in 'Doe, a deer' (crossed-over fingers and everything -- by the way, does anyone remember that competition in The Independent to find a better line than 'La, a note to follow So'? Apparently on the grounds that if that lyric wasn't so feeble it would be the best song ever. The winning entry was 'La, it's Arabic for "No" '.) but completely forgot that I'd left Sash on the sofa, propped up between cushins - this is our fancy pancey new sofa, which is brown leather and not terribly infant-friendly. Next thing I know, there's a horrible clonk and the baby is on its back on our brick floor. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod but actually, the screams weren't even as loud as last night's NoIamNOTgoingtosleepEVEREVEREVER (full-throated, dial-turned-to-eleven yells and shrieks), so it was pretty obvious that no damage was done. It was a useful reminder, though, that my multitasking capacity is absolutely zero. I can barely walk at the same time as carrying a cup of tea.

Now I've typed my subject header I've got the rest of the song running through my head. (At least it'll get 'Do-re-me' out of there). My favourite line is 'I'm one wave short of a shipwreck'. Do you like Queen? I do, lots: I have a feeling they probably appeal to classical musicians. If you are one, give them a try. I played an organist friend of mine a few videos (she turned around wide-eyed after a few minutes of Freddie cavorting in a sequinned leotard and asked "Is that rock music, then?" -- so sweet) and then bought her the first greatest hits album for her birthday, and she got really into it.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

A nasty taste in the mouth

Have you ever read a book that lurks unpleasantly at the back of your mind through the next day, so that you feel grubby? The book was Wideacre, by Philippa Gregory. She seems to be quite a varied author: I've read a post-modern, feminist-slanted Mills & Boonish one of hers called Perfectly Correct; a thriller that didn't grab me at all; and several historical novels that seemd very well researched. The first was The Other Boleyn Girl, then The Queen's Fool, then The Virgin's Lover and The Constant Princess -- they seem to be coming thicker and faster, which does make me wonder whether they're as carefully researched as they seem to be. Anyway, last night's was a great doorstop of a thing: 622 pages of rollocking eighteenth-century nastiness.

The heroine wanted to go on living in her childhood home, and was prepared to do pretty much anything to achieve that. It just went on getting nastier and nastier. I read it in a single sitting, which I think compounded the effect, and it was also a first-person narrative, which I think made me feel more implicated. But it really was horrid. Fairly well written, too, which made me wonder why, with that sort of talent, you'd want to do this kind of thing. Anyway, yuck. I finished it at about four this morning, delibeately not looking at the time so I wouldn't know exactly how silly I'd been. Sasha was suitable confused by being woken up by Mummy instead of the other way round.

I knew I'd do something daft while A was away: staying up all night reading was rather predictable....He's in the US for a week, and set off last Tuesday (I think) at an ungodly hour, and did the half-hour walk to the railway station as getting the car somewhere it could be left for a week was just too horribly complicated. Sasha and I went along to help with the luggage and have a nice walk. This is the kind of thing that it simply wouldn't have occurred to me to do a few years ago. In fact, it's exactly the kind of thing A does: he seems to be just naturally nice. It's even rubbed off a bit: I feel he has upped my game. This is a real cherry on top of the icing on top of the chocolate of the relationship...

The other book I've read in the last few days (I don't list re-reads, as sitting here typing all the names would cut down on valuable reading time) is March, by Geraldine Brooks. This is so clever -- it's the bit missing from Little Women: what happens to the father while he's away at the war. I thought she did a splendid job of making it provocative and dramatic without contradicting anything in Alcott. I remember some outcry on the mailing list I'm on for people keen on children's books, but I don't really think it was warranted. There aren't any cosy little references for real fans of Alcott, but on the other hand it's a lovely complement to the books.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Ooh la la

We're just back from four days in Paris -- what fun. A had fallen off his bike (trying to carry two rucksacks and then braking one-handed: if your one hand is on the front brake, you might just as well cut out the middle bit and hurl yourself over the handlebars...) so manoeuvring (what a pig to spell) the pushchair around was fun. Luckily I'd already just about mastered it, having traversed London solo. Going down the escalators isn't too bad, but going up requires a deep breath and a will of steel. The three Londoners who grabbed the bottom of the pushchair to help me up and down starcases were all black, intriguingly; including one teenager in a hoodie. Just goes to show there's no point whatsoever in making assumptions about people based on generalisations.

Paris was a little frustrating, through no real fault of its own. I made the mistake of letting A look up the weather forecast, which showed four blazing suns and promised daily temperatures of 24-25 degrees. Left to myself, I'd have taken my usual layers, but bamboozled by the confidence of this prediction, I packed linen trousers and flimsy tops and deck shoes. It was cold and rainy. What is the point of forecasts? And golly, I do *hate* to be uncomfortable because of wearing the wrong thing. The up side was that the worst weather was the most spectacular: an amazing thunderstorm that left us trapped in the Orangerie. Monet's Nympheas was spectacular, though I think it'd be worth seeing them in natural light (we got there too late for that).

The other mistake was not taking a guide book: I just plain forgot. My old Paupers' Paris was revised rather charmlessly in 1997 but by now is almost completely out of date: the only place we found that was still going was Polidor, at 41 rue Monsieur-le-Prince, 6e. They still do a Monday to Friday three-course menu at 12 Euro: unbleivable. We went on a Saturday, when it was still pretty economical, and not bad at all: carpaccio of beef, a very fine white lentil soup, slightly stodgy boeuf bourgignon and - actually, the other main course I can't remember. Hmm. The best meal, recommended in the Time Out guide, was a place called Le Petit Marche whose address I'll add later, where the daily menu was 14E for two courses plus 7E for a third, and really stunning stuff: a salad of green beans and parmesan with a delectable dressing, very rare beef with a wonderful teriyaki-style sauce and the most luscious mashed potato you can imagine, then caramel ice cream drizzled with chocolate. Yum and double yum. But we really need a good guide book: the Time Out one is oddly uninspiring, and the Rough Guide always seems to be out of date when we go (the current edition is 2005). And WHY, since the Mini Rough Guide is available on Amazon, does no branch of Smith's at Waterloo sell the thing? Hasn't it occurred to anyone that next to the Eurostar platfrom might be -- duh! -- a good place to sell Paris guidebooks?

Typing the subject header reminded me that it's a common exclamation of A's six-year-old: heaven knows where he picked it up from, but it's most endearing. He last uttered it while wearing a golden crown and a long strand of pearls twined flapper-style around his chest, plus a pink tutu. There are no petty gender distinctions in this household: tutus all round, for them as wants 'em.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

The shackles of religion

Well, well, who'd have thought it? I'd been grouching a bit to A about how I'm permanently slighty grumpy about never getting much done. Life is a long round of breastfeeding and laundry, now punctuated by bouts of banana-mashing. But I also spend a fair amount of time in front of the computer, so it's not as though the time isn't there.... Anyway, A wrote me a very sweet email, partly telling me I was doing a great job -- it's funny that however confident you are, this makes a HUGE difference -- but also suggesting that, as a time-management solution, I try to think of childcare as my primary task and other stuff as secondary, rather than the childcare being something that gets in the way of what I should be achieving. He also suggested only attempting one secondary thing per day.

Now, I thought I was doing this all before -- all the books and websites say not to be be too ambitious and not to be too hard on yourself, after all. Also, because I'm naturally very lazy, I've always thought that it's only guilt about being such a slob that motivates me. (It's a Catholic trait, they say.) But I was wrong. It turns out that it was guilt that incapacitated me. I'd get up late, then spend the rest of the day mentally berating myself for having made a bad start, and get too glum about it to feel energised to do anything. Now I'm still getting up late, because I'm tired, but free of the guilt, I'm achieving huge amounts -- windows cleaned, people phoned, emails sent. Gosh, it's terrific. What a genius my lovely man is.