Sunday, 20 July 2014

A day at Chartwell

Quite a few friends are back home in Blighty from Oz at the moment. We met one friend, now with a wife and three children in tow last week; this week it was the turn of my former colleague, now with wife and child.

FC and I used to work together and initially couldn't stand each other. However, we quickly bonded, probably because the dislike was down to us being very similar. We had a great laugh at work and used to go out drinking and partying a lot around Ealing. I found it hilarious that for our recent meet, we should both propose meeting at a National Trust property.

We met at Chartwell; home of Churchill. We met at the café where FC and his family were exceptionally behaved whereas the McBaby just wanted to run around and in some cases, push his chair around. I can't imagine members of the Churchill family would have done this.

The new Landemare café (named after Georgina Landemare, the Churchill family cook for more than 20 years) was lovely and clean with large black and white pictures of Churchill all around and there were some interesting menu choices such as mackerel and orange salad, and colourful sandwiches and cakes.

Then into the immaculate rose gardens (Built by Churchill for his wife) and woodland estate in the knowledge that it doesn't seem to have changed much. There are expansive grounds, beautifully kept lawns, lakes and koi ponds. Apparently one of the walls was built by the young Churchill himself.

We had a timed ticket for the house, but the McBaby wasn't having any of it. To be fair, it was incredibly hot and crowded in there but at least we had a glance at the drawing room. While FC and his family looked around the house, the McBaby and I headed to the studio where many of Churchill's paintings can be seen and we blew bubbles in the kitchen garden.

Sadly we didn't spy the Chartwell cat in residence but we'll be back to visit Chartwell properly.

Sunday, 13 July 2014


I’ve decided to stop participating in these “awareness” weeks. Who cares that I ate an éclair on National Eat an Éclair day? It’s extra pressure I just don’t have time for. Instead of doing silly things such as Fight the Filthy Fly week, national accordion awareness week, national aquarium month and national adopt a cat day (these are all real ones), we’ve made the most of the sunshine and taken the McBaby to the beach, to London and on a long, long walk around our town.

The National History Museum means that he now thinks he’s a dinosaur; he roars at will and shouts “dinosaur” with glee. MrM kindly didn’t make too much of the fact that while we were ambling around the dinosaur exhibit at the Natural History Museum, I made a trademark stupid comment and remarked upon how strange it was that the McBaby was interested in dinosaurs. “I mean, he hasn’t actually seen one in real life”.

We also went to the Science Museum – you could actually spend days in here, there’s so much to do. The McBaby was most interested in throwing bits of a puzzle onto a floor and lying down on benches saying: “night night”, meaning that anyone that wanted a good look at an actual space rocket had to step over him.

Other adventures included a long walk around our town, over the common and along the canal path. While we walked back up to our house past the church, the McBaby spied a couple of people heading across the churchyard and into a door. He lets go of my hand and follows them. I chase him up a spiral staircase and into the room at the top where people are ringing bells.

I apologise, but they welcome the strange intrusion and allow the McBaby to touch the rope and to watch bell practice. (I seem to think the word is ‘campanology’ – it rings a bell anyway).

Eventually he starts shouting and I can’t shush him, so I pick him up and gingerly carry him down the stairs. He is not happy about this and keeps pointing up at the clock tower and shouting “clock”. Except he doesn’t pronounce the “l”. He keeps shouting it and gets more and more agonised about leaving.

“Clock! Clock! Clock!” All the way through town and home. He uses this same word for “cake” which made for an embarrassing hour at a friend’s house. We were sitting in the garden and the McBaby pulled one of the flowers off its stalk. I told him not to do it, so he kissed the flower better.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Saturday 21st June (21st to 29th June) - Drowning Prevention Week

Swimming, of course.

Friday 20th June - National Flip flop awareness day

Just bought a new pair of posh flip flops - silver with flowers!


Just received this text from McDad who stayed over the weekend: "Not amused. Just found half a croissant among my shirts. Please speak severely to him."

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!