Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wonderful World, Beautiful Days – Joe Blogs about the weekend

The parents took me to a field in Devon again. It must be that time of year where we load up the campervan, set off singing Levellers songs loudly, arrive in a field, mummy starts drinking cider and daddy puts up the tent.

Despite the large quantity of cider drunk (or owing to it?), we had a brilliant weekend – I spent most of it running from one muddy puddle to another, splashing around and shrieking. I also got to go on the Ferris Wheel, on the big helter skelter and the chairoplanes. I also spent hours and hours hitting plastic bottles with sticks. Mummy has generously called this “drumming”.

On the Friday before the Levellers acoustic set, my mummy congratulated daddy on buying a new tent. She said that she liked this tent because every time she opened it, someone famous walked past. The first time she opened it, Seth Lakeman walked past. The second time, it was John Robb, then the third time, my friend Elsie appeared. She’s two as well but nowhere near as naughty as me. Unlike me, she didn’t shout into all of the bins, heckle any bands or spend half a day making a den underneath an A-board for “moustaches and coffee”.

But as well as being great for me – there’s also lots for adults to do too. Mummy and Daddy hauled me in to watch lots of fabulous - and hugely eclectic - bands. Unfortunately this meant watching the pair of them dancing like muppets to a line-up that included Jimmy Cliff, Seth Lakeman, 3 Daft Monkeys and the Levellers (twice!), needless to say. I particularly liked Dreadzone, even though I have seen them before, and danced so madly that lots of people asked mummy if they could take my picture.

They also planned to watch acts like Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, but I thought that would be a good time to have a tantrum, meaning that it was a two-man job to put me to bed.

The next day, we decided to get some t-shirts although me and mummy were a bit surprised that daddy bought three that were exactly the same, making us look like the substitutes for the next Holland international game. At least in my bright orange t-shirt I was highly visible, making it much easier for mummy to chase me when I kept running away.

None of us wanted to leave on Monday morning and this time it was my mummy who was the one that kept disappearing. We drove home waving goodbye to the lovely field, already looking forward to next year’s event.

The same place two years ago

Monday, 23 June 2014

McBaby at Behind the Castle

Here I've wittered on about my love (unrequited, sadly) for the Levellers and how amazing it was to see them in my hometown.

What I didn't mention were my parenting fails.

Number one- MrM asked me if I'd packed any nappies for the weekend. Triumphantly, I told him that I'd brought a whole pack of nappies. "They were open, but there are plenty left," I said as he took the McBaby upstairs to put on a new nappy.

A scream from overhead alerted me to something I'd done. But what?

"That's a bag of USED nappies!" he screamed.

Things would improve at the festival, wouldn't they. No.

While watching Newton Faulker, the McBaby pushed his way through the crowd, wearing my ridiculously oversized trainers.

He then zoomed all over the place; through stages, under chairs and even sat in a man's chair when the current occupant stood up temporarily. However, when he ran in to watch Rodney Branigan I was aware of a few people tittering and then the sight of the McBaby mooning at the performer. Who taught him that?!

Behind the Castle

Returning to my home town of Sherborne in Dorset is always a joyful, if sedate affair. So ever since I found out that the Levellers were coming to a festival set behind the castle and next to the lake, I've been driving everyone mad. All Levellers gigs get me excited, but this one was ultra special, because just a mile up the road from Sherborne Castle, my life changed 24 years ago when a friend called me into her study room to play me a tape.

I'd never heard this band before, but bounced around the room to a song called One Way that shook me to the core. When you consider the kind of stuff that was around at the time - Jason Donovan, Vanilla Ice, this handmade music where it seemed so much was happening in one song almost made me cry with happiness.

The rest of Levelling the Land can't be as good, I thought. Since playing that tape and hearing The Game, 15 years, The Boatman, Liberty and Far From Home, I've never, ever, ever failed to regain that sense of wonder at an album that's says so much to the catchiest tunes I've ever heard.

Then you turn the tape over and there's more! Sell out, Another Man's Cause, The Road, The Riverflow and Battle of the Beanfield. I played that tape so much that it disintegrated. Twenty four years on, onto my fourth copy of Levelling the Land, and not far from my old school, I nearly pop with excitement when the Levs' crew are preparing the stage. First time? A woman asks me. I laugh. More like 101st time!

It's been a great day, save for the slight niggle of waiting an hour at the bar, coupled with having our cider confiscated. But that's a minor point in what's been a lovely festival with Seth Lakeman, Steve Knightley, Sheelangig, Cara Dillon and most importantly, POSH TOILETS.

Those old favourites from Levelling the Land are all here tonight. One Way, of course, plus 15 years, Sell Out, Liberty and Riverflow, as well as Carry Me, England My Home, Life Less Ordinary, Cholera Well, Mutiny and the must-have What a Beautiful Day. Also Too Real which I haven't heard live in ages and the brilliant Belaruse. As I bounce home with the Devil Went Down to Georgia echoing in my years, I feel that life has come full circle and can't quite believe I've seen the Levellers in my hometown. I am 15 again, very sweaty and very happy. We'll be back next year if there are two bars!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Morning routines

Since reading “What the most successful people do before breakfast”, by Laura Vanderkam, I’ve been wistfully aiming to get up early. This way, she says, you can get the important stuff done. Stuff that takes a back seat because there just isn’t time, such as exercising, reading, pet projects such as writing a book, and praying. Since I read it, two weeks ago, I’ve managed it twice. I got up early, went swimming and started the day with a fresh focus. It works, it really does. Unless you’re ill, or your husband is ill or you start a new job, or your child won’t get out of bed. All of these have happened in the last two weeks.

Today for example – can’t see Laura Vanderkam thinking much of this:

6.30am – MrM’s alarm goes off. He tells me it’s 6.30am and I curse at my phone for not going off at 6am. I pick it up off the floor, drop it onto my face and notice that it’s run out of battery. Which is interesting as it was on 53% when I went to bed. This is the phone that EE replaced with a faulty handset and I haven’t had time or enough battery power to call them about it.

7am After being woken up three more times, I creak downstairs and do the washing up and put the washing machine on. I make a cup of coffee which I spill everywhere. Run upstairs for more towels, as most of them are in the washing machine that I’ve just switched on.

7.15am Run the bath for the McBaby. He refuses to get up and groans like a teenager. Finally, he wraps his legs around his dad, like Ivy but I prise him away and get him into the bathroom. I turn around to get his toothbrush and find he’s gone. He’s got back into bed.

7.30am After much screaming from all of us, he’s back in the bath, but not happy about it.

7.45am I bundle him into the car. He has to be at nursery at 8am, so I’ll go and get his shoes and let him have a banana and some milk in the car.

8.02am I realise I forgot his shoes. We go into nursery in wellies.

8.03am I hear him tell the nursery staff “my mummy is doing a poo”. No time to dispute this, so drive to work.

8.04am Realise I have not exercised and work starts in 26 minutes. I haven’t prayed (well, not properly -don’t think ‘please, please, please can you make all of the traffic lights green’ counts), I haven’t written my book and I haven’t achieved any personal development goals. I do have half a banana and some milk in the car though.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Domestic bliss

As I posted a few months ago, since the McBaby's arrival, we've started hoovering about four to five times a day. That frequency rivals that of my tea-making and so it's probably not too surprising that the nozzle got blocked the other day. I put a pen, followed by a coathanger, into the nozzle to displace the blockage, only to lose them in there somewhere. Clonking the nozzle with great force onto the patio removed some of the weird fuzz that was in there, but it also meant that I have now split the hose.

I trudged back into the house and tried to find the hose online. Success! I got this email from "Partmaster" that contained this link:

"We are pleased to inform you that we have identified the item you require. To order or to view the latest stock availability and price information you should visit http://www.partmaster.co.uk/cgi-bin/product.pl?PID=3260704

Sorry, the product you have selected is unavailable on this site."

But didn't we buy a Dyson after Christmas the last time I broke the hoover? I found it in the cupboard, and switched it on to find that, unlike my life, it didn't suck. I called MrM who told me that it had stopped working last year 5 minutes after he got it out of the box and that we were now the only people in the UK with a Dyson that didn't work.

So we headed to town to look at hoovers, with me grumbling all the way there about how much I hate retail parks on Sundays. I may have grumbled so much that MrM nearly turned the car around, so our Plan B was to head to John Lewis. At least they sell cake as well as hoovers.

At the display, MrM told me I could have whichever one I wanted which was very kind of him. Perhaps he'll let me choose my own ironing board next. Anyway, I selected the Roomba which hoovers when you're out!

"No, not that one."

"You said choose one so I did."

Bravely an employee approached us and asked if we needed help.

"I'd like the Roomba but my 'husband' disagrees."

He advised us that they're great and do an average of four rooms before running out of steam and room in the cylinder. Perfect. We only have two rooms downstairs. But they don't go upstairs (or downstairs, I clarified) and are best for "busy families" which MrM and I couldn't ascertain was the right category for us.

"How about a Dyson?" he asked, to which I said that we had one but it didn't work. "That's very unusual," he said. "Have you called them?"

I assumed MrM had. For some reason he thought I had. Quite why I would have called them when I didn't know it wasn't working, I don't know, but I hadn't. So we sheepishly said we would call them before coming back to buy the Roomba/another hoover.

So after a silent car journey home, we got the Dyson out. In trying to find the phone number and model number, MrM dislodged a large piece of glass from the pipe before finding the McBaby's cricket stump in there. Apparently, hoovers don't like random bits of rubble inside them. If I'd known this, I wouldn't have contemplated a life with a Roomba to do my cleaning.

To misquote James' Sit Down: "If I hadn't seen such riches, I could live with a dirty floor".


Silent Sunday 27.4.14

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The allotment

A long Easter walk we'd planned got panned five minutes in when the McBaby managed to put his hands in some dog poo that the dog's owner didn't feel necessary to clear up. As well as Toxicariasis which could cause blindness, we were also faced with getting a toddler absolutely covered in foul smelling dog poo home and into the bath. Still furious with him, myself for not stopping him and the dog owner, MrM suggested a trip to the allotment might calm me down.

So we got digging and finally sowed some plants and seeds! We couldn't find the trowel anywhere, so used the McBaby's pink beach spade. He was most put out about this and wouldn't let us use it. We distracted him by enlisting his help to fetch water in the watering can and marking off his own garden within the allotment where he will be growing sunflowers and tomatoes.