Five on Friday

Berry topped Victoria sponge cake
This was deeeelicous!

Cake bunting

Toddlers watching YouTube
Agog at the laptop

Well what a week!

  1. The big news is that we did get our mortgage valuation approved last week, so we’re (theoretically) good to buy our new house. Hurrahs all round. On a slightly less exciting note, we’re now involved in protracted wranglings with a six-person chain about a moving date. Five of the six have agreed on a date, but the bottom of the chain keep making ludicrous demands and changing their minds every few minutes about when they can / can’t complete. It’s been exhausting. We’re supposed to be exchanging today but we’ll wait and see if they can jump on board with everyone else date-wise. Never, ever let me move house again!
  2. I’ve also been trotting round our neighbourhood looking for a rental property we can take on for six months while we do building work to the new house. Man, I had forgotten how utterly dingy rental property can be. I looked round a house yesterday where the ceiling of the bathroom was flaking off and covered in mould. The second bedroom ceiling had huge chunks of plaster missing. The estate agent said that they were going to re-do the ceilings and was utterly certain we’d be fine to move in within a few weeks. Hmmm. Anyway, I think I have found somewhere now, I’m just waiting to hear if they will take us as tenants!
  3. On a calmer note (sort of) the sproglet’s fourth birthday party went off swimmingly last weekend. Thanks to all who left comments wishing him a good one! The pictures above are of the cake and the cake banner I made — his name, of course, is not Sadie, that was for his friend, but in my vague attempt to keep his private info off the internet, I didn’t photograph the one with his name on too… I made two cakes, this berry-topped Victoria sponge, and then a whole selection of bug-shaped cupcakes in chocolate and carrot. They were a huge hit. As was the bug hunt we organised (hidden bug toys around the park, and magnifying glasses for all the kids to go off and search for them) and the “pin the tail on the ladybird” that my friend organised for them all. A great party, where we had too much fun to take any pictures.
  4. The boys are obsessed with watching kids music videos on YouTube. I’ve been shattered this week, so a lot of time has been spent with them in the positions above, while I lie on the sofa with my eyes shut trying to gather the energy to sit up. This was happening yesterday when a nighttime song came on (along the lines of, “sleep tight, night night, I love you very much”…) when the oldest suddenly burst into tears and came running over to me sobbing, “That song makes me so sad, Mummy.” I hugged him, asked why it made him sad and, between huge sobs, he replied, “Sometimes music just does…” An artistic soul.
  5. Instagram stories. Have you seen? I don’t get it. I think the whole mini video revolution has entirely passed me by. (YouTube is used only for the children and the odd knitting tutorial in this house…) But honestly, I find most of the “stories” I’ve looked at overwhelmingly boring – someone I don’t know’s view out of a car window as they drive past somewhere or other, or a talking head saying good morning to me is just not what I want to spend my time watching. Am I alone here?

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Five on Friday

  1. The London EyeIn the London EyeView from the London EyeBig BenLondon skylineTo the Thames, on Wednesday, for the sproglet’s fourth birthday. His favourite thing ever in London is the “big wheel” (aka the London Eye) – he is seriously excited whenever we spot it from the window of a train, or see it in a photo. So, as a birthday treat, we took him on a circuit, preceded by a river boat trip along the Thames. It was raining and grey and I got terrible boat sickness (must be a pregnancy thing, as I’ve never suffered before), and couldn’t talk or move for an hour after the boat trip. But all that aside, a fun day in the centre of town!
  2. His birthday present from us was a scooter. I know, I know, seriously late to the game, most kids are on them from birth these days, but I’ve been wary of them since a friend’s son broke his thigh bone falling off one when he was three, years ago. He was in a full leg cast for a month and couldn’t move from the sofa. It was a stationary fall. But I’ve finally given in to pressure, along with the realisation that in a few months I will be carting three children up and down the roads on the school / nursery run, and it would be handy if one of them at least could get along under their own steam power without constant whining about being tired or the need to hold my hand. So far, it’s been a great success; he scooted off to nursery with glee the past few days.
  3. Said scooter is red. Another slight bone of contention. For me, anyway. The sprog requested a pink one because, well, pink is his favourite colour and his best friend’s scooter is pink. (She’s a girl.) For the past four years, I’ve been railing against the ridiculous gender stereotyping of pink vs blue. If I ever encounter some item which for absurd reasons you can only buy in pink or blue (from fuzzy memory, I have been in shops where you could only buy sippy cups, bath mats or cutlery in those two colours) then I always buy pink for the boys because I think the whole thing is so insane. And yet. And yet. With the sprog starting school in September (and already very young in his year, quite shy and very small for his age) I had all these horrid thoughts of him getting teased by much bigger boys for turning up on a girl’s scooter. So we bought him a red one, which went down fine, but I was very aware that all my ideals had been completely compromised in the face of some imaginary bullying from a five year old. Is this how it goes from now on? Ideals are all good and worthy, until you worry they might stop your children making friends?!
  4. His party, joint with a friend from nursery, is on Sunday. It’s going to have a bug theme. I have purchased a gazillion wind up bugs and finger puppet mini beasts to hide around the park and we’re sending them on a bug hunt, with mini magnifying glasses. There will be up to 20 children aged four and under. I am feeling slightly apprehensive about the whole thing. But, actually, there is little time for apprehension tomorrow, as my to do list is as long as your arm, starting with making a bug birthday cake. Maybe next year, we’ll do a quiet day trip with one friend…
  5. In non-sproglet related news, we are on tenterhooks today, waiting to hear back if our proposed new house has been signed off by the mortgage company. If you can’t remember all the convoluted details; in short, our mortgage was turned down last month because they said the house had serious subsidence, though the structural engineer told us he thought it was perfectly mortgageable. It was the day after Brexit, so we wonder if uncertainty about the future led to a clamp down on lending. We’ve now applied for a mortgage through a new company and yesterday was the survey valuation. We wait to hear their thoughts on the (only slightly falling down) house we’ve fallen in love with…

So, that’s my week! Hope you’ve had nice ones. Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

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Five on Friday

Manor house windowEnglish countrysideCowsCountry house with flowerbedsView from the window

  1. The photos above are from last weekend’s trip to Herefordshire. My friend’s family own a house there that is the very stuff of watery-eyed English nostalgia. A huge mansion, surrounded by formal gardens, giving way to fields of cows, sheep and hay bales as far as the eye can see. In the distance, a church spire peeps out, a river rolls past and you sit, sighing, watching the sun set and feel as if all is right with the world.

The house itself is a spectacular mansion, 300 years old, and charming in that slightly crumbling way that English manor houses do so well. I coveted the peeling William Morris-style wallpaper in the bathrooms, the study filled with dark paneling and, most of all, the amazing huge windows letting in the glorious light.

It was a group of my school friends staying, with all our families and dogs, and everyone got on perfectly. We wandered a nearby castle one day, ate late into the night in the fabulous dining room while the kids (mostly) slept above, and generally caught up on life from the past few years where we’ve all been too busy for more than the occasional meal or rushed telephone call.

If it all sounds a bit vomitously perfect, I’m afraid it was rather. One of those weekends where everything, including the English weather, just pans out perfectly. (Oh and I did get actually copiously vomited on by the littlest on Saturday night after he accidentally consumed some cheese, just to bring matters back to a slightly more realistic level…)

  1. I have finally, finally sorted out that phone upgrade and am now the proud owner of an iPhone 6s. It only took me four months to get round to it. So my photos work again, the phone doesn’t freeze whenever I try to download an app and I am back on instagram once more. If you’re over there too, do say hello: @wolvesinlondon. In my absence, all those weird instagram changes have happened and I’m not sure if I’m really seeing everyone’s posts anymore (or, indeed, if they’re seeing mine) but I’m sure I’ll start to remember all those little insta-foibles like relevant tagging soon.
  1. The sproglet was back in nursery yesterday after his enforced two weeks away, following his tonsil op. Good god, two weeks of child-rearing without pause is tiring. I am soaking up two days a week to myself again, especially as my garden design course is on summer hols, so Thursday doesn’t mean schlepping over to Regent’s Park anymore. (Just sitting at home and working on all the assignments due in in November, aka, the same time as my due date, ha ha.)
  1. Both boys are off to Minnis Bay in Kent on a nursery trip today. Do you know it? I googled it to take a look at their destination and it looked rather heavenly. I liberally sun-creamed them up this morning, and sent them off with reminders to wear their hats and think about going to the loo long before they need to take their swimming costumes off. I have a feeling it might be a rather chaotic day for the nursery staff…
  1. And I can’t let this week go by without officially mentioning the heat! It’s been hot, hasn’t it?! We’ve been outside in the paddling pool most days, the boys splashing around while I quietly perspire on the grass. I need to get a comfortable outdoor chair, that’s for sure…

Hope your weeks have been brilliant and here’s to a sunny weekend!

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

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Five on Friday

Poppy | Wolves in London

Hello! Phew! Goodness, it’s been a busy few weeks. I’ll try and sum it all up in five salient points…

  1. It’s been a fortnight of hospitals. Last week, the sproglet had his tonsils and adenoids removed, which meant a day at St Thomas’s and then a whole week of quarantine at home. He was pretty brave, for a boy not yet four, but groggy as anything after the general anaesthetic. He’s not quite back to full health, but talks fondly about his time at “Thomas hospital” — I think he thinks it belongs to a certain tank engine. I find it too adorable to correct him.
  2. The other major hospital visit was to Kings for my 22 week scan because yes, not content with an already somewhat hectic life, we’ve decided to add another sprog to the mix. All was well and, apart from being exhausted most of the time and huger than I have ever been in pregnancy before, it’s been the easiest pregnancy so far. The other two are looking forward to having a baby in the house and (mostly) remembering not to jump up and down on my tummy.
  3. Do you remember all the dilemmas about our house move? (You know, the one that has been ongoing for about five months now?) Well, our mortgage got refused on the house we were trying to buy because of suspected subsidence. After finally deciding not to leave London, it now looks a bit like we might have to leave London after all.. If we can’t manage to find another way to buy this house that we want, everything else round our area has got insanely expensive and moving locally just isn’t an option anymore. We’ve applied for a mortgage with someone else that we have some (scant) reason to suspect might be more inclined to lend on that house, so it’s just a waiting game, now, to find out if it will go through. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
  4. Today was the last day of my garden design course for the summer. We spent it walking round Canary Wharf and then the Thames Barrier Park looking at gardens. Actually, I started the day sitting on the floor of a Jubilee line tube in tears because I was so fed up that nobody had offered me a seat for the whole journey and I had just lost the will to battle with all the self-absorbed suited-bastards who rushed past me to grab the seats and stare at their Blackberrys for hours. It was deeply embarrassing, I have to say. (See above, for pregnancy hugeness and exhaustion and also a reason why I’m perhaps slightly more emotional than normal, ha ha…) I feel obliged to point out that even when I was sitting sobbing on the floor, nobody still offered up a seat. A commute into Canary Wharf is enough to make you give up on any belief in human decency.
  5. On a more relaxing note, we’re off for a long weekend in Herefordshire this weekend, staying with a whole bunch of my school friends and their families in a beautiful Georgian manor house. I am hoping for some long walks, long meals and general pottering around. Oh and for some sunshine, of course.

‘Til next week. Hope you all have wonderful weekends…

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

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Five on Friday

White allium | Wolves in London

1.

We’re a household of germs and lurgies this morning. I’ve lost my voice (and feel as if I’ve lost all muscles from my entire body, the amount of work it seems to walk up the stairs), the sproglet has a level of grouchiness that is usually associated with some form of illness, and the hubby is off work with a vomiting bug. Only the littlest has escaped, and remains cheerful, bumbling around the house singing songs to us and occasionally stopping to tell me, with a huge grin on his face, “I grumpy, Mummy, I so grumpy”…

2.

So I’m writing this, curled up on the sofa under a blanket, PJs still on and a roll of loo paper by my side for the constant nose wiping. Actually, if I’m making this all sound miserable, it’s really quite pleasant. The sprogs have just gone off to nursery and the hubby is now having a sleep upstairs and I have that rare moment of quiet and peace in the house, with the companionship of knowing someone else is in.

3.

Apart from all the bugs, work has been on my mind almost constantly this week. Work, or rather, the lack thereof. The sproglet turns four in just over month, marking four years in which I haven’t really done anything that could reasonably be called working. The lack of money, not to mention the lack of identity, has been grating on me these past months. When we applied for additional borrowing on our mortgage for our imminent house move, we were told that we could be lent more if I was taken off the mortgage, and it was in my husband’s name only. We’ve had to do so, house prices round us being so crazy that we couldn’t afford to move otherwise, but it was a real dent to my sense of being an independent, functioning, valuable member of society. And a feminist. Anyway, I could rant for hours about all this (and have done to numerous friends over the past few weeks) but the short result is that it’s made me really want to step up my plans for my own company and push ahead a little faster than I had originally thought.

4.

Luckily, two lovely family members have agreed to hire me to mastermind garden overhauls. I registered my own company last year, but have only done a few (very) small jobs since then, but now I’m ready to crack on with something a bit bigger. For my sister, I’m drawing up a planting plan to bring some colour into her garden (at the moment, she has huge swathes of grass and privet hedging, but not much flora). And my Mum has commissioned me to completely re-design her entire plot, which will be exciting, albeit a challenging task. I’m off to my Mum’s house at the weekend, to carry out a site survey and discuss initial plans with her. Garden design company is go!

5.

Though political, I really hate to discuss politics normally (I’ve spent too many evenings, pressed back against a wall in a gloomy pub with some half-inebriated uni friend aggressively shouting their beliefs at me for hours, oblivious to the fact I’ve said, six hundred times already, that I completely agree with them…) But next week, of course, is a pretty big deal, so I feel compelled to mention that I am, naturally, voting to stay in Europe, for all the reasons that everyone else has said before. The thought of leaving is pretty terrifying to me, but I remain hopeful that, on the day, a general sense of inclusiveness being better than alienation will win out. This time next week, we’ll know for sure.

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday

Five on Friday

Path to the beachTall grasses in SicilyNoto cathedralNoto street, Sicily Noto rooftops, Sicily One of my all-time favourite blogs to read is CJ’s Above the River. She’s a brilliant writer, witty and wry, and her glimpses of family conversations never fail to amuse me. I particularly enjoy the weekly Friday posts, joining in with Amy’s series Five on Friday, and thought I would join in myself with a little rambling about five things from the week just been. So here goes…

  1. I discovered a few more photos I’d taken on our Sicily hol in my hubby’s phone this morning. The path and huge grasses lead to a hidden cove, a nature reserve with the most turquoise sea and white sand.  The town of reddish stone is Noto, right down in the southeastern corner of the island, mentioned in passing in our guidebooks and one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever visited. As we arrived, there was a Vespa parade through the main (pedestrianised) street, accompanied by much horn-honking and cheering. The scooters were all adorned with signs, proclaiming which local Vespa club they belonged to, and there were so many that the whole thing too a good ten minutes to go past us. I longed, once more, to live in Italy always.
  2. The reason the pics weren’t on my own phone, is that it’s properly given up the ghost. 18 months of manhandling by the sproglets has meant my camera is so ingrained with dirt and greasy smears that every photo I take looks as if it’s been sprinkled in sand and a dollop of vaseline. My contract has finally expired and I’m due an upgrade, but am busy debating whether I can really justify adding an extra £20 a month to my phone bill in order to get the massive iPhone 6s. Any thoughts?
  3. Said lack of phone camera has led to an enforced instagram break which, rather to my surprise, I have found completely liberating. I realise that I’d got a bit negatively addicted to instagram, checking it first thing in the morning, constantly scrolling through feeds of artfully styled flowers and floral scissors and Observer guides, and feeling a perennial pressure to be taking photographs as beautiful as those that everyone else seemed capable of. A few months off has been a good breather and I have a determination not to get so sucked back in once I finally return.
  4. I was out on Wednesday night at the launch party for 91 magazine, for which my friend Laura is the deputy editor. I had a lovely time, though had that thing when you’re in a room with lots of bloggers, where you’re not sure if you recognise people’s faces from seeing them online or because you’ve met them before. I swung between wondering if I was being anti-social by not saying hello to more people, or being a bit crazed fan-stalkerish chatting to people who had no clue who I was. Perhaps both at once?!
  5. I’m rather sunburnt as I sit writing this, after spending a day at Capel Manor, Enfield, yesterday, surveying a garden for our next garden assignment. The task ahead of me today is to draw up the plan on the computer, something that hurts my head severely every time. I’m trying to teach myself Vectorworks, the CAD program of choice for garden design, but it’s a slow, complex process, that frequently ends with me shouting at my laptop or slamming it closed in a huff. There is a special sort of rage, I find, reserved for technology that is supposed to make your life easier, but that instead complicates the most basic tasks.