The boy and his mummy went to sea

The boy and his mummy went to sea in a battered boat shaped sandpit. They took golf clubs and spades (for oars), binoculars and toilet rolls (for telescopes) and the attachment to the Hoover (a sea snake).

They battled with sea serpents, whales, crocodiles and spiders.

They escaped to bouncy island (the trampoline)

They performed a daring sea rescue of smelly bear, who had been kidnapped by pirates.

They were back in time for tea (sausage, chips and peas).

Little legacy #4 get on the bus, cause no fuss

I am four, clinging on without realising it, to the last full days with my mum before I have to start school.  We are sitting on the back of the bus back from town, learning to sing abc.  I know I have her undivided attention for the whole journey.  My mind takes a picture and the moment stays crystal clear in my memory bank to this day.

Then I am five, sitting on the top deck of a double decker, again with my mum, holding the shelf in front of the very front seats, giggling and shrieking that we are going to crash into everything.

My 4yo is suddenly at an age I can remember being.  Sometimes that’s painful, because it reminds me so much of the mum I have lost.  But last week it helped me out of a rut.  Recently I have been restless, I don’t want to go to another playgroup, to go to the same park or be tripping over toys and scooters anymore.  It’s partly down to bereavement, partly down to timing.  I needed to feel enthused about my parenting again.

So I thought back to what stuck out about being at home with my mum before I went to school.  I honestly can’t remember a single minute of playgroup or a park. She would probably laugh if I was able to tell her that now.  All those hours spent pushing me on swings, breaking up squabbles, sitting on draughty community centre floors.

What I do remember clearly is taking the bus into town and going shopping.  So, I threw caution to the wind of childcentric activities and took my two on the bus into Nottingham.  It didn’t disappoint.  They helped me choose two pairs of shoes and some make up.  We watched the clock in the Victoria centre and we had lunch in John Lewis.

But the best bit for them was the bus.  Meeting old ladies, watching police men and traffic, arriving somewhere new.  Oh and the bus stop, because it’s right outside our house.

What do you do when you get in a parenting rut?  Oh, and pop quiz, which band and track inspired the post title?

little legacy A small thing handed down by a predecessor

@AResidence

Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors.  I am going to post one every Thursday. If you want to join me at any point, either as a project or a one off, there’s more information here and a space to link up below, or simply join in through the comments.

Imaginary fiends

There are some parts of childhood that just beg to be honoured in a blog post.  
This week I read Manana Mama’s beautiful account of her daughter’s imaginary friend Kid, and then viewed Mid 30s Life’s rather special gallery of her son’s toys and his names for them, including Rock Star Dinosaur. It’s prompted me to finish this post I started a while back honouring my daughter’s imaginary creature.  He’s not as vocal as Charlie and Lola’s Soren Laurenson, but he is one of a kind.

Miss L’s companion is more of an imaginary fiend than a friend. He is known as ‘that rat‘. He steals and breaks things while she is asleep. If she is ever ill, then that rat gave her the germs. If she has an unexplained scratch, that rat did it.

Once Miss L told me his story, I love it. That rat is no ordinary rat, he is a robot rat.  This teenage mutant rat has a backstory too.  You see when he was a helpless baby rat, his mother, who Miss L tells me is called Isobel, put bad batteries in him.

It’s all been downhill from there for that rat. A life of committing petty crime for his mistress, living on the run and being hunted down by Mr A each night at bedtime.  It’s perhaps no wonder, after his neglectful treatment by his own mother, that that rat hates grown ups.  He lives in a hole in Miss L’s bedroom and can cover the entrance so it’s invisible to parents.

I’m glad my reading this week prompted me to immortalise that rat, in fact I had already forgotten his crazy history.

Does/did your child have an imaginary friend or a toy with special powers?  Do share.

Narrowboat Wife guest posts

I’m really excited to have been matched with Narrowboat Wife, Peggy, for the Britmums guest post MatchUp (Check out #BritMumsguestpost on twitter for more information).  Peggy’s agreed to let me have a virtual tour of her beautiful Narrowboat.  
Peggy’s beautiful home – Violet Mae

Over to Peggy…


As a child I imagined the gypsy life in a painted wagon would be so romantic, but as I grew older I realised that travelling like that was a difficult road to choose.  I was living in a rented flat in Kentish Town when I first saw narrowboats in Camden and began to dream of living on the water. My father is a merchant seaman so perhaps it was in my blood. My first boat was a beautiful 45 foot cruiser, which means there was a cruiser style back-deck. She was red and called ‘Emily Rose’. With my husband we first lived on a 57 foot cruiser, and now live on a 70 foot traditional style boat, ‘Violet Mae’ with our two children. A ‘trad’ narrowboat has a very small back deck, just big enough for the steerer to stand on. Our boat has an open plan living room, kitchen, bathroom with shower, double bedroom and a boatman’s cabin for the girls. 
Boatman’s Cabin
A boatman’s cabin is a room at the back of the boat with a fold away bed and a fold down table. It is painted with the traditional narrowboat folk-art of roses and castles and the layout is the same as it would have been in a working cargo boat in Victorian times. We love the extra space our new boat has given our family but are finding that the water tank does not hold enough water to use the washing machine many times in a week. We have to be economical with water and electric. I am the only mum I know who says,
“No you can’t watch TV right now because the washing machine is on!” We don’t have enough electric to run the TV and washing machine at the same time.
The best things about living on a boat are the freedom to move your home, living close to nature and beautiful countryside views. Some of the challenges are the lack of storage space, limited electricity, running out of water and breaking down.
Running out of water or breaking down were simply inconveniences before having children, but now that we do have children making sure that everything is in working order is much more important. The arrival of our children has obviously increased the problem of storage space. We have to be very strict about what possessions we keep. The one thing I wish that our daughters had is a garden; but we could have one if we settled down on a mooring one day.
The saloon
Both of our children were born at home on the boat and we have lived aboard as a family for nearly four years now. The children enjoy picking blackberries on the towpath and looking for an ‘exploring place’ in the countryside. They are not excited about boat journeys at all as it is just a part of ordinary life for them. Our three year old prefers to stay in and watch a DVD when we go on a cruise! I think that the worse thing for children about our lifestyle is not being part of a fixed community. The girls cannot have local friends or next door neighbours.
The most common questions people ask me about living on a boat are, is it cold in winter, and aren’t you afraid that your children will fall into the canal? It is not cold in winter as long as the heating is working well. We have a diesel stove which provides a constant heat twenty-four hours a day. We are probably less worried about the dangers of water than non-boating parents as our children have had the risks drummed into them every day. We keep the doors bolted shut and there are playpen barriers around the front deck.
We have talked about living in a house sometimes and may reconsider it again. We know that we will have to settle down when our eldest child starts school. We may change our mind about narrowboat life as the children grow older and need more space. However, at the moment it is my romantic gypsy dream come true!
Peggy Melmoth is a freelance writer and a freelance secretary. Her daughters are aged three and one. She has lived on a canal boat for eleven years and writes a blog about family life, living aboard at  www.narrowboatwife.blogspot.com.  Go and visit, it’s a really inspiring, and unique blog.  you can also follow @Boat_Wife on twitter.
Peggy
Photo credit – http://grandunion.boatshed.com/

Would you like to guest post for me, or have me guest post?  Always up for a change! Here is what I wrote for Peggy

The Pass on the Love Picnic, a modern fairy story

A bloodcurdling scream whooshed through the tunnels of Castle Alexander. The King glanced up from angry birds, the princess paused her DS, and the little prince even dropped smelly bear.

‘Enough’ screamed the Queen as she came flying down the corridor on a toy car.  ‘Time to tidy up. This castle is a deathtrap.’
‘Absolutely,’ mumbled the King.
‘Well, do something!’ screeched the Queen.
At that moment there was a knock at the door, and as if by magic, there appeared a box. 
‘Presents!’  shouted the prince.
‘Toys!’ shouted the princess.
‘I bloomin hope not!’ said the Queen.
‘Well, shall we open it?’ said the King.
Inside the box was a letter from Persil, and a Pass the Love Picnic Kit.  The Persil Godmother has spoken,’ announced the Queen. ‘We’re having a picnic, we must wash your old clothes and toys in this’, the Queen held up a gleaming bottle of purple liquid marked Persil and Comfort 2 in 1, ‘and pass them on to other children in this’, she waved a green Oxfam collection bag.
The prince and princess looked nervously at the green bag.  The little prince’s bottom lip began to wobble.
‘Never fear,’ said the Queen. ‘You may choose what to put in it, but anything that is not put away properly, goes in the green bag.  
So while the King made sandwiches, the Queen helped the prince and princess fill the washing machine with old soft toys and clothes.  The little prince even agreed to let smelly bear have a much needed bath, on the understanding he was not to go in the green bag.

The toys and clothes dried on the washing line.  The sun shone, the wind blew and filled the castle with the calming aroma of passionflowers.

The prince and princess ate their lavish picnic of jam sandwiches, hula hoops, quavers, fruit salad and ice cream in the castle gardens.

Meanwhile, panic was spreading amongst the castle animals.
‘I hear some animals are going to the charity shop,’ whispered the bluebird.
‘They don’t want us anymore,’ sniffed the squirrel.
‘The time comes’, said the wise old polar bear, ‘to pass on the love to another child. And to make some money for charity on the way.’
‘What’s charity?’ asked fox.
‘Some children don’t have any toys,’ said Polar bear.
‘I wouldn’t mind belonging to a child who didn’t have any toys,’ said badger.  ‘I might get played with more often.’
‘True’ said Polar bear, ‘very true my friend.’

And so the green bag was filled with sweet smelling animals and other long forgotten toys, placed in the back of the royal chariot, and delivered to Oxfam.

Peace descended on the castle once more.  The little prince was reunited with passionflower smelling bear and curled up on the softest picnic blanket ever known, to finish the last of the quavers.

Persil Pass on the Love picnics encourage the recycling of old toys, either to other children, or to Oxfam, after a good wash in Persil and Comfort 2 in 1. Oxfam urgently need your support right now, after the worst food crisis of the century has left 10 million people in desperate need of food and water in East Africa.   Fill a bag, make a donation and if you are at Camp Bestival this summer look out for the Persil huge Pass the Love picnic.  Or why not organise your own picnic?  You can claim a picnic pack here.


I am a member of the Netmums Parent Bloggers Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team from our database to review products and brands on their behalf. I am paid an expenses fee to cover my time (and childcare if the fee is big enough!) but Netmums have no editorial control whatsoever about what I blog about. Being a member of the Netmums Blogging Network means that I get to try out products and brands and get my expenses covered but that I retain full editorial integrity.

Little Legacy #3 Art appreciation

It’s the last day of 1994, I am 17.  


I am sitting on a white floor laughing.  A sea of faces look back at me.  Some are smiling, some quizzical, some sad, shocked, disinterested, some star gazing, some thoughtful, some scared.  I feel alone, together, afraid, fearless, excited, nervous.  I could take on the world.  I feel like something is going to happen.  


I’m not drunk.  There are no illegal substances involved.  


No.  For the first time in my life I am awestruck by the power of art. I am looking at Antony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles in Tate Liverpool.

Field for the British Isles
by Matt Gorecki
One of my parent’s larger little legacies is a cultural one, taking me to art galleries and talking to me about art.


I will also never forget my parents taking me to an exhibition dedicated to minimalism at Tate Liverpool.  I complained a lot at Mark Rothko’s big blocks of colour,  ‘But I could paint that Dad’ and about Carl Andre’s controversial Equivalent VIII‘But it’s just a pile of bricks Mum.’  But whatever I made of art then, it set my mind wandering. 


By the age of 17 I had long fallen out of love with school art lessons.  I can trace this back, to the collage I laboriously made for homework in third year.  My art teacher didn’t seem to get it, she much preferred the technically brilliant, but boring, sketch of a tree by my classmate.  I’m not claiming I was ever brilliant at art, I just wasn’t inspired by endless pencil sketches, cross hatching, dotting and still, stagnant life.  I wanted glue, paint, clay and collages.  So I dropped art in favour of drama.


In sixth form, after seeing the Field for the British Isles exhibition, I suggested to my friend, who had stuck with Art, and was looking for a topic for her A level coursework, that she did Antony Gormley.  The art teacher told her Gormley wasn’t famous enough.  A few weeks later of course, Gormley won the Turner Prize.  


I am frustrated I didn’t pursue art beyond just appreciating it, especially when I look at art in schools nowadays and it is a very different picture.  Still, I appreciate looking at it.This little legacy continues, last weekend My Dad and I took Miss L to Nottingham Contemporary.  Here’s how we got on.

@AResidence

little legacy A small thing handed down by a predecessor

Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors.  I am going to post one every Thursday. If you want to join me at any point, either as a project or a one off, there’s more information here and a space to link up below. 

 

Modern Art and the 4 year old

This weekend, my Dad and I, took 4yo Miss L to an exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, inspired by Jean Genet, a French writer and playwright.  I’m bored with stereotypical pre school activities, my cultural life is dwindling, and besides, I wanted to see what Miss L would make of a modern art gallery.


There were a few hiccups, like when the gallery attendant politely asked Miss L stopped taking photos of Giacometti’s multi million pound bronze sculpture ‘Man Pointing’ on her Vtech camera. (Just for the record, before you think ‘wow those vtechs have great picture quality’ and rush out to buy one, this is not her picture).
Giacometti –  Man Pointing


We also had a not so profound discussion about Man Pointing, but hey it’s early days.

Me: What’s he doing?
L:    Pointing
Me: I wonder why?
L:    Dunno.
Me: What’s it made of?
L:     Hmmm…Plastic.

In another room a small child was in tears after a gallery assistant had to rush in and coax him off one of the exhibits, a stool covered in newspaper print. Easy mistake to make when your little, in a room with both ‘art’ chairs and ‘everyday’ chairs.


Miss L was also fascinated by a video installation of a woman in a fur coat.  I stood next to her, slightly nervous about where the film was heading, attempting distractions.  But, perhaps sensing this, she dug her heels in and watched it to the end, where it was suggested that either the coat brings her immense pleasure, or comes alive and kills her.  We discussed the evils of the fur trade and moved on.

Genet was an advocate for the Black Panther Party, and for the Palestinian cause, the focus for the second half of the exhibition.  Trying to explain the political murals of Emory Douglas, Culture Minister for the Black Panther Party was challenging, but not impossible.  The sheer scale of it excited her. 

Miss L by a mural by Emory Douglas

I only just managed to stop Miss L picking up one of Mona Hatoum’s glazed ceramic hand-grenades in various colours, but this led to an interesting discussion of shapes and textures

Mona Hatoum by DARAT AL FUNUN
So my top tips for visiting galleries with under fives (a.k.a. notes to self with the benefit of hindsight).

Dad and Miss L

1. Explain the rules and the space before you go in.  What is the space about? What can/can’t you do?  Oh, and these rules ‘might’ have to change a little as you go round.

2. Try and clue up before hand via the website, so you can understand the exhibition yourself and interpret it for a small child simultaneously. 
3.  Rather than explain ask questions.  At first answers might be brief, but questions encouraging the mind to wander independently. Think colours, textures, emotions, objects.
4.  If there’s a visual brochure suggest children use it to spot the exhibits as they go round. Or play i spy.  Where permitted, cameras are a good way to document what they liked, to talk about later.  Brochures are good for cutting and sticking at home.  A whole day of art gallery themed fun.
5.  Look out for child friendly activities.  Nottingham Contemporary has a family room and activities on all over the summer.  


This trip has inspired my Little Legacy for this week.  More on Thursday.

Little Legacy #2 On Marriage

Last week I posted my first Little Legacy and it was lovely to be joined by some other fabulous bloggers, do check them out.    I loved the variety of everyone’s legacies: a mixture of objects, sayings, rituals, habits.  There’s no right or wrong answer.  It’s simply about celebrating little legacies, building up a picture of someone though small details.  If something triggers a particular legacy, whether it’s an old post or a new post, just go for it.  Mine are coming thick and fast now I have started, and reading other people’s posts got me thinking of lots of new ones.
So Little Legacy #2 On Marriage
At my wedding my mum chose to read from Kahil Gibran’s the Prophet. One line has always stuck with me, have a look at the picture I took in my kitchen earlier, and have a guess which one:



Then Almitra spoke again and said, “And what of Marriage, master?”
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow. 

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.  Mum wanted us to know that relationships need space.  It’s a metaphor of course, but every time I look in the bread bin I see a literal reminder of the spaces in Mr A and my togetherness.  Guess which loaf is mine and which is his?

Of course when I am having a bad day or feeling ill I will push aside wholemeal for a slice of hot buttered, white sliced Hovis, or cotton wool bread, as my mum used to call it.  She baked her own brick like, but beautiful, wholemeal loaves throughout most of our childhood, so sliced white bread was the fluffy work of satan.  


Despite his love of cotton wool bread, mum was very fond of Mr A. This poem will always remind me of that, and of her hopes for our life together.

Credit Martin O Neil

All that from looking in the bread bin.  The subconscious is a powerful place.


@AResidence

little legacy A small thing handed down by a predecessor


Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors.  I am going to post one every Thursday. If you want to join me at any point, either as a project or a one off, there’s more information here and a space to link up below. 

Graduation Day came 17 years early

Last week was emotional.  Miss L and her friend Mr L made their first visits to their (different) primary schools and ‘graduated’ from the pre school they have both attended.  They were given mortarboard hats and certificates and sang a special song about their time at pre school.

It’s sad they will go their separate ways, after being inseparable at pre school, but I hope their friendship stays strong, and I know they have the friendship of their little brothers, and their mums, to anchor that.

On the way to school Miss L asked me how the world was made and how people were made.  It struck me as a sign, on many levels, that she is ready for school.  Then rather spookily, last night Mr L’s mum sent me a text to tell me she had been struggling to explain the universe and religion, in response to a never ending torrent of questions.  
The whole universe is opening up to them. It feels timely that they go to school.   But it’s not easy, change is exciting, but change is unsettling.  For them and for us.  We’ve all shed some tears over the last week.  I won’t be wailing at the school gate, I am too excited for her, but I think shedding a few tears is part of this rite of passage.

I absolutely love rites of passage, I think they are hugely important.  So I even managed to pull out the posh camera and take a half decent graduation shot.  Wonder if there will be another one in 17 years?
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Olly, he’s not your average white van

When I reigned in our cable package we ‘lost’ quite a few kid’s channels.  There were tears at first, followed by a surprisingly easy reacceptance of C Beebies. But when we branched out beyond this, to avoid the ‘baby’ programmes, I discovered pretty much all that remained was Fireman Sam on loop.

My children are now seriously well versed in the main causes of fire and how to avoid them.  (Personally I think Norman Price is often the problem, his name crops up a lot, but that may be me half watching while trying to do something else).

Anyway I have been recently alerted to the educational possibilities of CiTV.  I had no idea they did pre school programmes, so that was an education in itself.  Their latest offering is Olly the Little White Van.  All the narratives centre around helping others, which sounds like a good substitute, now we have completed our extensive fire safety course courtesy of Fireman Sam.

Olly the little white van is based on research that suggests helping out has become a much bigger deal for pre schoolers. Child Psychologist Dr Richard C Woolfson’s recent research revealed that more and more 2 and 3 year olds are taking on chores,  66% of kids as young as 2 and 3 are helping at home with tasks such as washing the car, making their bed and doing the laundry.


Woolfson explains increased responsibility in the home is less about parents reaping the benefits, and more because concepts such as social responsibility, awareness of the needs of others, and personal independence are seen as core values for children today.   


Bring on the child labour.  No seriously, I’m interested in this because since we encouraged 2yo Mr G to help out he has been a happier soul, both at home and at nursery.  Instead of running riot at nursery he is now in charge of serving breakfast to his friends (rather them than me though).  Instead of throwing dirty washing around the room, he likes to shove it, and anything shiny that catches his magpie eyes, in the machine, and press the go button. 


The voice of Olly the Little White Van is done by Justin Fletcher (of Mr Tumble fame), so guaranteed giggles there. I might have just fallen in love with the theme tune, it makes my heart sing, it makes everything groovy.
So Mr G.  Here’s the deal.  We can watch Olly the Little White Van if you clear up the trail of trains, planes and automobiles littering the house, if you help me put on the washing and if you promise to wash my car.  Deal?


Olly The Little White Van launched on Sunday June 26th 2011 at 6.25am, we missed it because Mr G likes to lie in these days, but it can be seen through iplayer, and from September it will be shown at the more respectable times of  9.45am and 12.45pm each weekday.  Perfect bit of post lunch chill out for me and Mr G come September, when his big sis will have started school.


What sort of jobs do you get your little ones doing?   Do you think it has made a difference to them?

Little Legacy #1 the universe


We are standing in the backyard ofour new home, mother and daughter.  I am seven.  It is March, a stillcalm night.  Mum wraps her arms round me, I am still small enough tosnuggle into the cave she makes me under her chin and between her arms.Together we look past the other yards, the trees and the hills to the stars. She points out constellations, Orion’s belt and the Plough.  


As I stare out into a sky of stars I feel safe inher arms and in awe of the world out there. My worries about movinghouse, town and school fade against the backdrop of the universe. 

Now, when I am far from home, I try to look for the Plough and Orion’s belt.  When I need some perspective, I look at the stars and feel my stresses shrink a little by comparison.

@AResidence
little legacy A small thing handed down by a predecessor

Little legacy is a remembranceproject, a positive and creative place,to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors. I am going to post one every Thursday. If you want to join in at anypoint, either as a project or a one off, there’s a linky below and moreinformation here.  


How to write a children’s book #1 Research

I received lots of lovely advice on my idea to write a children’s book, thank you, this morning I am acting on it.

1.  I read this account by one of the Children’s Laureates, Michael Rosen How to write books for children. What he says about negotiating the space between the child and adult world is fascinating, the line between the child you once were and the children you know now.  His tips are helpful.  Research the market, work to specific genres and standard lengths.  Find ways to write both for the child you once were and the children who will be your audience.

Spend time with children, that’s the easy bit, I spend lots of time reading with my own children and often get asked to read at playgroup/nursery.  Michael Rosen suggests reading in libraries, schools etc is a big part of his job, as a drama teacher I love that stuff too.

2. The Penguin website has a top three tips for Children’s writers, including obtaining the Children’s Writers Yearbook, as the really supportive and wonderful waterbirthplease already suggested, but also catalogues from publishers so you can see exactly what kinds of books they publish.  Here’s the Puffin picture books one.  I had a look at my children’s favourite books and made a quick list, there are lots of publishers out there, and definitely subtle differences in the genres of book.

3. A couple of people helpfully let me know that publishers match authors with illustrators. My research confirms this too, in fact illustrations, unless you are a professional illustrator, are the last thing publishers want.  Silly, all those years I have though ‘there’s no point writing a children’s book I can’t draw and I don’t know any illustrators’.  After two minutes on Google it’s quite clear that is not an issue.  It’s really quite ridiculous the ludicrous blocks you can conjure up to obscure your own path as a writer.  That’s a whole other blog post.

4. It’s competitive, and it’s not well paid,  but in the words of Louise Jordan, of The Writer’s Advice Centre for Children’s Books, ‘if you believe in your story you will, eventually, find success‘.  Hold that thought.  Very tight.


5.  Honest mum who is also a filmmaker, screenwriter and all round lovely in real life person, left me a very encouraging letter in the comments on my last post.  So I am going now, as she suggests, off to write, write, rewrite, write, edit, and write some more.  Hone that voice!