Curses for your worst enemy

May you be the sort of person who forgets to shop online until your cupboards are bare.

May you find yourself here, frequently, despairingly, with sad sense of the justness of fate.

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May you be forced to wrestle your youngest and sweet-talk your eldest into the trolley every time, and those times many.

May they squabble and shriek the whole way round.

May your distraction be such that you buy the half-fat sausages.

May your trolley always be full when your eldest announces the need to relieve his waters.

May you pack and pay like a woman gone mad.

May the disabled toilet always be occupied and disgusting.

May you spend a full fifteen minutes in deathly fear that your offspring will pee on your groceries.

As the door opens and the occupant waltzes out, may your boy turn to you and say, in tones of impeccable surprise,

‘oh, do you need the toilet Mama? I don’t’.

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First I had children, and now there’s weird crap in my handbag

There I stood, hovering in front of the Tesco trolleys in a corner I’m sure they’ve designed as a wind tunnel, rummaging through my handbag for a pound coin. Because I never have one, do I? My pound coins go on apple pies from McDonald’s and as many caramel Freddos as I can stuff in a fist. I had a faint hope that there might be one lurking at the bottom of my bag, so screwed up my courage and dug in, all careless about my fingers. I haven’t seen the bottom of my handbag for some time, and I’m a little afraid of it. I’d like to say that motherhood has changed me, but actually it just made me messy in a different way.

Here’s what’s in my handbag, right at the moment:

Purse (good)

Extra card wallet for my library of points cards, since I live in eternal hope of gathering together enough points for a free Freddo

A pen

A chewing gum packet with one piece left

Face powder, because I get shiny-stressed when I run out of hands (which is always)

Four different brands of red lipstick, none of which I’m wearing

A bottle of body butter, which is being used as heavy-duty hand cream (for my too-many-baths-and-washing-up leprosy hands)

Some hand sanitiser, because I had to confiscate it after Henry necked a good inch and a half from the top (no ill effects)

A dummy, which Teddy hasn’t wanted for several months

Some lip balm

A green crayon

A baby spoon, clean I think

An old Tesco receipt on which, apparently, I only bought custard (a bad day, obviously)

A shell from Brighton beach

Some headache tablets (ooh!)

A padlock for my gym locker, gathering dust

Two hair bobbles and a hair grip

A glue stick I have never seen before (?!)

1/10 of a rice cake, the same colour as a chilli-flavoured one (but it was salt and vinegar, so…)

A set of dangly earrings, from the last time I got tired of Teds using them for trapeze practice

A piece of discarded Freddo wrapper

Some headphones

A ticket from the Paris Metro (sob!) plus a piece of paper saying ‘you are fabulous’, from a friend (sobbier!)

The heart-shaped stone Tim’s dad brought for us the day Henry was born. Yes, Henry.

Did I mention I bought a tiny handbag on purpose, because I wanted to downsize? I did.

I did not, of course, find a pound coin.


Ok, confession time: what’s the weirdest thing in your handbag right now? No cheating! I feel like mine was the glue stick, though I’m open to suggestions. 

This Week on Oxford Road: OpenHand OpenSpace art centre

‘RIGHT’, I said, picking McSnottyBaby up from his fourth banged head, ‘that’s it. We’re walking to Tesco’.

This is because, if you hadn’t noticed from the frequency of Tesco references on this blog, going to the supermarket is the cure for all our ills. It gets us out of the house. Henry gets to sit in a fold-out baby seat and joyfully suck the metal handle in front of him, thus topping up his immune system with stranger germs. And they sell a lot of food.

It’s also only half a mile away, which makes it an easy walk on days in which Daddy is away climbing a mountain, Henry is finishing up his cold by wiping his nose on all our soft furnishings, and the air is so warm and wet it’s like someone you don’t like very much is hanging on your shoulder and licking your cheek.

I manhandled the pushchair downstairs, assembled it, came back for McSnottyBaby, strapped him in, went back up for my handbag then back up again for the rain cover, wished we didn’t have so many stairs, and then set off. Henry gave in to the clicking of the wheels and fell asleep. We bought the few cake ingredients I’d decided we needed and then, on the way home, passed this:

Hellooooo. Art, on Oxford Road? The sign pointed into a little round cobbled courtyard overhung with ivy, behind the imposing red Territorial Army building. The sort of place you might find anything – a fortune teller, a doorway to a secret garden, a genie in the sand. Or an art gallery you never knew was there.

It was ten to five. I went in.

Gill Goodwin, ‘Exposed’

Sadie Brockbank, ‘Prickly Bear’.

Helen Lunn, ‘Exploration’.

Sadie Brockbank, ‘Dog Dream’.

The space is a funny little collection of whitewashed rooms: down corridors, up little ramps, and behind heavy, iron-bolted doors. I’m no judge of art, but I rather liked it. The artists manning the exhibition (a local group called ‘arjeea21‘) were delighted to see us and gave us the information sheet to walk around with. I particularly liked Sadie Brockbank’s mixed media sculptures (you can see more on her website, here).

Then I came out, wiped Henry’s nose, and walked the rest of the way home.

OpenHand OpenSpace art centre, The Keep, 571 Oxford Road. The arjeea21 exhibition runs until 15 July.

If it wasn’t a dream, that is. 

Librarian style: playing the Tesco roulette

Hey, look what I found in Tesco the other week:

Clothing at Tesco, here.

This season, Tesco have discovered in themselves a mania for shift dresses, which is rather convenient. Not only do shift dresses scream ‘stop talking in my library, madam’ like nothing else, but the neckline and hemline are my all-time favourites. You can downplay them with flats and a cardigan or dress them up with heels and pearls; altogether I felt like giving Mr Philip Clarke CEO a hearty embrace, if that wouldn’t be too forward.

You’re dicing with loose-thread death when you shop at Tesco, of course. This ferny purple number is cut beautifully and looks a lot better on than it does in the photo. But they didn’t bother to line it, so you need a heavy-duty slip if you want to stop it riding up towards your hips. (Also, look at the product description on the website. Holy illiteracy, Batman.) I love it, though, so it was a good purchase.

Then, a few days ago, I needed something black to help at a wedding reception that wasn’t heartbreakingly too small – oh, high-waisted skirt, you mock me – and nipped out of the check-out queue to find this:

Clothing at Tesco, here.

They’ve tried a bit harder with this one: it’s lined, linen and with a shiny belt. But the cut isn’t as flattering as the other dress, especially not for someone with a recovering waistline.

It’s a risky business, playing the Tesco roulette. You win some, you lose some. But you do end up with two dresses for £36, and that’s hardly to be sniffed at.

They’ve got loads! Go and look!

Previous wannabe librarian posts are here.

Say it with cheese

Remember that time we went into hospital for the weekend? Apparently, we never officially left. Until this morning, when a lovely doctor from the Royal Berks’ children’s clinic looked us over and discharged us. She was really pleased with him. Yessss. Henry Jeffcoat, get your no-longer-yellow behind out of that door and back about your business.

Seriously, though. He was so tiny and yellow back in October, and we had no idea. If only we’d known the majesty of the double – nay, triple – chin that was to come.

(I’m ecstatic that he’s not that scrawny anymore, but I mourn for those little feet and hands. I know he has to get bigger, and it would be weird if his hands and feet stayed baby-sized, but still. Once his feet were the length of my thumb. I miss that.)

We were so happy about his clean bill of health that we went to celebrate in Tesco. When we’re not short of time it’s a good place for a mama and baby to go and have larks.

And in the Jeffcoat household, it’s almost always time to go and buy more cheese.

When we got home, I celebrated further with a mature cheddar toastie and Henry toasted his victory over jaundice with milk. We congratulate through the medium of dairy in this family.

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The Baby-Whisperer Speaks (23 + 2)

So there I was, manoeuvring my not-so-little self through the checkout at Tesco (purchases: one block butter, one carton double cream, two cartons cream cheese. Conclusion: baking, or Happy Cow Day) when I had what can only be described as a Mystical Pregnancy Encounter. I wasn’t thinking about anything much beyond how incredibly virtuous I’d been not to grab any of the cut-price Easter eggs, and how someone with a sinus problem probably shouldn’t be buying this much dairy. Then it was my turn, and I was startled out of my abstraction by the checkout lady demanding ‘How many months? Five or six?’ She looked Malaysian or similar, and had a terribly mysterious look on her face.

Oho, I thought. I am finally pregnant enough for strangers to ask without worrying about insulting the fat girl. A milestone. I mentally applauded myself and my fluid retention, and said ‘Um, nearly six’.

‘I thought so’, said mysterious checkout lady, ‘you pop out suddenly, yes?’

Yes’, I said wholeheartedly, ‘and none of my clothes–’

She cut me off before I could get going on this most interesting topic. ‘Boy!’ she yelped. I looked over my shoulder for a dog, didn’t see one, and realised she was talking about TJ.

‘Oh, we don’t know yet’, I said. ‘We didn’t find out.’ She looked, if possible, even more mysterious. I wondered whether she was about to start communing with spirits, and if so, whether I’d need to call a first-aider.

‘It’s a boy’, she proclaimed. ‘My people. We know. Not scan. We just know.’

‘But, um–’ I started.

‘We. Just. Know.’ She said firmly. And then: ‘Clubcard, please’.

End of encounter.

We will see – in sixteen weeks, which doesn’t seem like a long time – whether she really was Mystic Meg in a Race for Life t-shirt, or just in need of a lie-down.

Does it look boy-shaped to you?