Friday, July 31, 2009

Alone and silent

I've just returned from a business trip to Paris. The last time I was on a business trip - a four-day whirlwind a few weeks ago in Frankfurt, Madrid and Paris - I was accompanied by a colleague. This time I was alone.

My colleague in our Paris office apologised for not being able to join me for dinner on my first night because she had to get home to her two year old and five year old children. I laughed and said, "Of course, I do not mind. I'm a mother and wife also and I cherish my time alone." She responded with a knowing chuckle and said, "Oh yes, I know exactly what you mean," and she instantly felt less guilty.

You see, wandering the Paris streets alone last night and this afternoon after my meeting with a French client, I felt so at peace. All day long I am engaged in conversation - with my colleagues at work, with my daughter (mutual babbling!) before her bedtime and then with my husband when he returns home. It is bliss having many hours ahead of me being silent, eating alone, getting lost in city streets, thinking many thoughts or none.

Simply being silent. Every working woman, mother and wife should do this regularly.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The one and only

The other day, a colleague of mine, who has two children of his own and another on the way, asked me when I was planning my second child. He was shocked when I replied, “I am not planning any more children. This is it for me.” I did not express surprise at his shock because I know both his question and his reaction are common. Instead, I simply responded to his “Why?!" with “Because I am happy with the way things are.” M would not mind a second child, but he is so content with the daughter he has that he is happy for our family to remain three. Of course, there are several reasons for my decision to have just one child, and these are them:
  • I have never been and am still not a maternal person
  • I have never been broody and would have been content without children. I decided to have a child because I could see how wonderful it would be for M and also because I wanted a “little M”!
  • If I ever saw myself with a child when I was growing up it was always with a daughter - I have a daughter now and I am not bothered about having a son
  • My daughter is so perfect and lovely that I am 100% content just having her in my life
  • I am not a patient person and do not do well in chaotic circumstances - my baby was a very easy baby who napped well and slept through the night from 12 weeks and yet I still struggled on maternity leave
  • I am a loner by nature and need a lot of time on my own - I would be run ragged with two little people demanding my time and attention
  • Life hasn't changed much with one - I can still go out, I can still work at a career I love, I still have money to do things
  • I can't imagine loving another child as much as I love my daughter - I know, objectively, that I would be able to, but I simply don't want to
  • Ultimately, I am an only child and had a wonderful childhood, even with two fulltime working parents. I was never lonely as I had several close friends, I have wonderful memories of weekends with my parents, they took me on lovely holidays abroad, I was incredibly independent, I talked and read early, I was very sociable with other adults, I wasn’t spoiled, I have always been close to my parents. I know from experience that being an only can be a terrific experience
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

All about Little P

Little Planet experienced her first ever train ride this weekend when we journeyed up to Loughborough on Saturday to visit relatives. She enjoyed the journey up because the only other people in the First Class coach was a mum and her 22 month old son, so of course the adults chatted while the babies played. And she spent the journey back sleeping while M and I read the papers. In between, she had good fun playing with her cousins aged 20 months, 3 years and 11 years, plus her Gran and assorted uncles and aunts who came from England, Romania, Germany and Australia.

Despite being just 13 months, Little Planet plays pretty well with other children - not simply alongside them, but actually with them: handing them things, babbling away with them, getting in the midst of them all and joining in. But she's also very good at playing by herself (I think this is the result of having a mum who is not very good at playing with children, unlike her dad): whilst her 20 month old twin cousins napped, she spent a happy hour endlessly crawling in and out of a play tunnel. Of course, she plays best on her own when other people are in the same space as her - she is still not old enough to play on her own alone.

The whole of Sunday was spent at home in London playing with Little Planet, doing laundry, cooking (roast belly pork and fennel seeds for us, dal and rice for Little P), reading, and rolling around on our divine brand new Vi-Spring bed.

Little Planet is now saying "Thank you", "No", "Woof woof", "Fish", "Rice", "Good girl", "Hi ya", "Ta Ta", "Mama" and "Daddy" and a few others - or at least close approximations thereof, eg "Na" for "No", "Gun-ga" for "Good girl", "Feeeesh" for "Fish" and "Tanku" for "Thank you"!

She can get away with a single nap a day of around 1-2 hours, but usually drops off in her buggy around 10.30am whilst we're out and about for 30-45 minutes and in her cot at home around 1.30pm for an hour or 1.5 hours. She still sleeps through the night from 7pm. We're much more relaxed about her day time napping now that she is 1 year old and will continue to be relaxed so long as her solid night time sleep continues.

She is now completely off formula and entirely on whole milk - still three bottles of milk a day. Now she is on whole milk, she drinks far more as she loves the taste. We need to persuade her to drink milk from a beaker, though. She drinks water really well from a beaker. We also, this weekend, packed away her steriliser and stopped boiling water for her drinks. She ate her solids really well. She hates being spoon fed now and really fights us, preferring to eat her dal and rice with her hands, just like a good little Indian girl. She loves eating chunks of peaches and bananas, rice cakes, croissant, toast and cheese by herself. We really need to encourage her to eat with a spoon by herself. Meal times and snack times are now very messy affairs!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Play, play, play

Saturday began with the three of us piled into our bed... M and I drinking coffee, playing with Little Planet and watching CBeebies on TV with her. We particularly enjoyed Animalia. Then we headed into town on the Tube - 13 month old Little Planet beaming at everyone as she sat like a big girl on her seat. In Regent's Park, Little Planet went on the swings and on the rocking horse. Then we took her down Marylebone High Street to buy meat from The Ginger Pig, assorted cheeses and salad leaves from La Fromagerie and children's books from Daunt's.

M took Little Planet back home in a cab because he had a number of heavy bags. Little Planet is not good in cars - she hates being strapped in and she may not like the movement either - so she cried alot on the way home. But as soon as she reached our house, M said, she was absolutely fine. The cab driver was chilled about his upset little passenger, telling M that he has young children of his own and has "been there, done that"!

Meanwhile, I stayed on in town and saw the movie The Private Lives of Pippa Lee at a cinema in Piccadilly. I loved this film. It made me cry throughout - it is an intensely emotional movie about a marriage in decline and a ravaged mother-daughter relationship. It featured an amazing cast - including Robin Wright Penn, Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, Keanu Reeves, Blake Lively, Julianne Moore and Monica Bellucci. I even liked Winona Ryder's performance, who I usually find such a wet blanket both in real life and on film.

Afterwards, I picked up desserts from Princi in Soho - passionfruit cheesecake and strawberry millefeuille - then headed back home to spend time with Little Planet before her bedtime. For dinner, M grilled two beef fillet steaks and dressed them in a light yuzu and soya sauce. He prepared a salad of mixed leaves, blue cheese, grilled peach slices and a sherry vinegar and olive oil dressing. Desserts were from Princi.

We topped of the night with a viewing of an episode of Californication and then the hilarious movie The 40 Year Old Virgin, which neither one of us has ever seen. But could only watch half, as we were so tired.

We spent most of Sunday at home. We did some local shopping but overall we spent the entire day playing with Little Planet, reading the papers and cooking. I cooked up a batch of dal for Little Planet to put into the freezer and another batch of dal (a spicier version) for tomorrow's dinner for M and I. My mum spent the afternoon at our house, playing with her Granddaughter. It's only been a week since my mum has last seen Little Planet but she was amazed at what a little chatterbox she is, how well she is feeding herself solid food, and how well she walks.

And now Sunday evening has rolled round again. I have a glass of Amaretto and ice by my side as I type this. M is basting the roast chicken and finishing off crispy potatoes with the porcini which had been roasted inside the chicken. We'll finish off watching last night's movie and then have an early night.

Another busy week commences.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekend gorging

  • The morning began with both M and I dropping Little Planet off at daycare, then getting off a few underground stops early and walking through Russell Square together before going off to our separate offices.
  • My mother-in-law arrived on Friday to pick Little Planet up from daycare, take her home, give her some bedtime milk and put her to bed. I stayed later in the office then went out for drinks with colleagues on Wardour Street (the street next to the big Dean Street fire that same day).
  • M met me at the pub and we went to Yauatcha to buy cakes and chocolate. Then we went to the John Lewis Food Hall to buy dinner.
  • Back at home, M cooked pan-fried hake with a hazelnut and caper crust and served it with sauteed potatoes and steamed vegetables.
  • My mother-in-law looked after Little Planet all day so, despite the rain, M and I headed into town to basically gorge ourselves on food and art.
  • At the Whitechapel Gallery, we saw Elizabeth Peyton's intimate, colourful and childlike portraits of friends and acquaintances (1st photo above).
  • At the same gallery, I discovered some new painters whose work captivated me: Emily Wolf, Lara Viana and Zara Matthews (2nd photo above).
  • We walked to Brick Lane to eat lunch at our favourite cafe on that street Sweet & Spicy. We had vegetable samosas, chickpea curry, boal fish curry, pilau rice and chapati. Delicious.
  • Afterwards, we stopped off at a Bengali bookshop to buy some Bengali children's books for Little Planet that her Bengali Grandma (my mum) can read to her. We also bought Little Planet some wooden toys from the fabulous Wood 'n' Things in Shoreditch.
  • We crossed the river and rested our weary feet at the Tate Modern members room before catching the comprehensive Futurism and Per Kirkeby exhibitions. I particularly liked the latter's mixed media collages, but found the rest of his work a little flat.
  • We took a cab to the White Cube in Mason's Yard to catch Gilbert & George's new show. I am not a big G&G fan, but these new works made me smile: bold, brash, beautiful!
  • Another respite stop to rest our weary feet - this time at Automat on Dover Street where we drank coffee and demolished a Mississippi mud pie and New York cheesecake each.
  • Then to the Sadie Coles gallery to see the brilliant Wilhelm Sasnal show (photo below).
  • Then to the latest Artangel show in Marylebone: Charles LeDray's humorous Mens Suits show. As with all Artangel projects, it was all about "location, location, location" (to quote Mr Planet) - this time in a disused fire station. Other memorable Artangel locations we've been to have been a house in Portman Square and an amazing derelict Post Office sorting office on New Oxford Street.
  • We supped beers at Swedish bar The Harcourt Arms then ate some very sublime and refined Japanese food - well, Japanese food with a twist - at tiny, basement Japanese tapas restaurant Dinings in Marylebone. We savoured wagyu beef toppan yaki, various sashimi (salmon, chu-toro, yellow tail, sea bass) with different incredibly light sauces made with such ingredients as sweet miso sauce, jalapeno sauce, yuzu, plus a black cod dish with garlic and chilli.
  • After a busy Saturday, today has been much more physically relaxed. Basically, we haven't left home except to shop for a few things and take Little Planet to the park. In fact, Little Planet has had both her Grandmothers here all day and we've spent most of the day in the garden.
  • Now she's watching In The Night Garden and playing in the living room with her two Grans, M is ironing his work shirts and I am blogging. Soon we'll put her to bed.
  • For her dinner, M cooked Little Planet a sweet potato and lamb stew.
  • Later tonight, the adults will also eat lamb: roast lamb with chickpea mash and broad beans and peas. Homemade (M-made!) pavlova for dessert.
  • As you can see, the gorging isn't yet over.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Play, play, play

The working week had been a hectic one, spent in three different cities in three days - Madrid, Paris and Frankfurt. The trip had been for business and was quite successful though draining and so it was nice to lie in bed on Friday morning until Little Planet woke up bang on 7am (usually on a work day we all have to be out of bed at 6.30am). Usually I leave for work at 7.30am, but today M and I dropped Little P off at the childminders together at 8.30am then walked into work together through Russell Square.

Work was tiring, but when I collected Little Planet at the end of my day (5.45pm), I had an hour with her in the garden before her 7pm bedtime. It was bliss. M came home around 8pm and we ate beef ragu and pappardelle in front of the TV - a rare event now that the weather is so good that we usually eat outside in the garden at night.

Saturday began at 7am again. Breakfast was flat peaches and Turkish cheese in the garden. Then the three of us headed into town. We picked up coffee, apple juice and cake in Carluccio's near Russell Square then spent a leisurely few hours in Coram's Fields. We spread out a picnic blanket, we read the papers, we let Little P climb all over us, we pushed her on the swings, we took her to see the goats, we sat in the sandpit with her and we fed her some of our cake.

We walked back through Russell Square to show her the fountains, but by the time we made it past the British Museum, she had fallen asleep in her buggy - zonked out on all the fresh air. We stocked up on provisions in Covent Garden and Soho: Monmouth coffee, bread from Paul, tofu, ponzu and umeboshi paste from Arigato, and sweets (cinnamon balls, clove sweets, Love Hearts, Dip Dabs and Sherbet Fountain) from Mrs Kibble's Olde Sweet Shoppe. On the Tube, pretty Little Planet enjoyed the attention from her fellow travellers!

Back at home, we lunched on some cured meats I'd brought back from Madrid and then spent the entire afternoon lazing around and playing with Little Planet in the garden. M made some chicken and tomato ragu for Little Planet's dinner. We bathed her then M gave her her bedtime milk and put her to bed. After this, he made yakitori and mixed salad dressed in a sesame paste for our dinner, which we ate in the garden. When the air got cool, we went inside and watched Kiyoshi Kurosowa's hypnotic Tokyo Sonata about the slow implosion of a family when the father loses his job and loses face.

Sunday morning began with both plain and chocolate croissants then a play for Little Planet in our local park where she enjoyed the sandpit, the swings and, particularly, the dancing fountains. We went shopping for more provisions plus geraniums, then ate the cured meats plus Manchego cheese from Madrid. My mum popped by so the rest of the afternoon was spent playing with Little Planet in the garden while M worked upstairs. When he finished work, he made cauliflower and broccoli cheese for Little Planet's dinner, then bathed her, gave her her milk and put her to bed. In the midst of all this, we managed to do three loads of laundry and clean the house (we are super quick at cleaning. Life is too short!).

My mum left and now it's 8pm and M and I are both in the study: M is ironing his work shirts while I blog and then I will iron my blouses for work. We will eat filet mignon with salad in the garden and try not to think too much about work tomorrow.

I wish the weekends could be three days long.