When last we met, it was all about the oranges.
Everyone has a favourite colour: diff’rent strokes for different folks, as the saying goes.
Now I was thinking about the seminal American ‘sitcom’ (with questionable racial undertones and a famous curse on its starlets)during the party for Betsy’s 2nd birthday – a tea party in our church hall – and vaguely recalled the episode when they planned a party and only a handful came. Thankfully, B had the time of her life on the playmats and at the table with the sandwiches we had painstakingly prepared the evening before, and thanks to help from others, the day went swimmingly.
It was a strange moment seeing the baby become a toddler, but it’s been a joy ever since.
The first steps, the starting to talk, the knowing exactly what she does and doesn’t want, the cheeky grins, the changing moods, the demands, the changing tastes, the growing hair, the starting ballet, the incessant wanting to watch a particular film.
And now, she’s become a little girl.
It’s hard at times to acknowledge the changes and development which have occurred over time. One day she was lying on the bed gurgling and bald, now she was tottering around in a dress and pony tail and requesting – no, expecting – us to pander to her whims.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
All I kept thinking about was Lester Burnham in American Beauty, and his quotes on Jeanie in the film my dissertation covered, or more aptly, Steve Martin as George Banks (note the similarity in the name) seeing his beloved Annie at the top of the stairs as a princess then on her wedding day, and the sudden realisation dawned that time does indeed go quicker as a parent and for the plethora of friends and family who have experienced the phenomenon in the past month, I re-iterate our heartfelt congratulations and love and most of all, remind them to savour every moment – before it fades, as Joseph Cornell might have added.
Talking of the great man, her actual birthday we went into town and enjoyed a couple of workshops at our favourite places, the Walker and the Museum of Liverpool – understandably, I had to show her again the ‘world in a box’ that we created for The Wombats’ first album, and I had an enormous sense of pride that this time she saw it and started to understand that her Daddy had something to do with this admittedly enticing assemblage that to him, feels like it was from another lifetime ago.
Then, after a couple of cheeky Quilmeses at CAU, we were lucky enough to experience the best possible birthday tea: an afternoon one, at the new Vincent Café Liverpool, with her favourite combination of fish goujons, chips and peas and ours of more mini sandwiches, cake and scones and of course champagne, at a wonderful place that – footballing rivalry aside – I’d recommend to anyone in the vicinity.
This made her birthday for us all and we are very grateful to the staff there for their kindness and generosity, we’ll definitely be back as the chain holds such a special place in our hearts. They always look after us so well – before, on and ever since our wedding day three and a half years ago.
We ate well elsewhere in the summer: special mentions to the Fenwick Arms, a seafood pub once made famous by Gordon Ramsay for the gravy; The Sparrowhawk in Formby, where a friend once worked in its former guise and we marvelled at the décor; and local restaurant Albina, buoyed by its positive review in The Guardian and a fantastic meal including a gin & mint pickled egg on a night filled with biblical rain.
Then a trip to Manchester: seeing Brendan Rodgers in a lift, an incredible lunch at the Botanist on Deansgate, and spending big on new wardrobes for the impending term, before a wedding in Wales: not just any wedding but a festival themed event in a forest. It was in a lovely part of the world: B had her face painted for the first time, we danced in a tent as the sun went down, we drank a fair bit and had a great time.
The rural life, even if only for a day, resonated with an interview I recently with Alex James (ex Blur, cheese) who as we know, lives on a farm. I’m not a huge fan of his, I admire his career and ideals but for some reason what he said, really got to me (in a good way!)
He discussed how he wanted his kids to be ‘as comfortable on a camp site as in a castle’; stated that ‘marriage happens at the right time’; commented that ‘the best thing you can do for kids is surround them with people who love them’ and believes that ‘the more intelligent you are, the more interested in bees you are’ which after our trip, got me thinking.
Mainly because, back in Wales, the B & B we were staying in was owned by an eccentric individual called Godfrey who grew vines and grapes and kept bees. Our own B was transfixed by the hive, her dad was too, as we observed the queen being pandered to by the five thousand or so other insects buzzing around.
Sadly, there isn’t much scope for me to pursue this line of enquiry as other artists have gone there before and I don’t have time or money to take up apiary… Plus, something tells me that recent events will pre occupy many a creative mind, given the quotes referencing a ‘swarm of migrants’ which we have all sat watching, horrified – whether we are parents or not – and wondered if the world will ever be the same again, whatever the outcome of the current crisis.
The world is slowly going mad, and I need to come back to what we know.
Shopping lists are piling up, they are on their way, I promise: I’m nearing the hundred mark but was de-railed by other priorities plus my confidence I what I am doing, was knocked a little by the Waitrose magazine’s wanton cocking-a-snoop towards some southerner’s (search twitter @jhazan) efforts at collecting lists, but only those found in Waitroses.
So let’s summarise: Summer came and went, and it will remain up there as one of the best I’ve had, like, ever. Two weeks ago, we all went back to school: Some were experiencing it for the first time.
Whatever had happened in the summer in terms of results or holiday memories, this was a fresh start… Like the first day of the season, we were filled with optimism, this could be the year, things will have changed for the better, that sort of thing… Or not, for those who read a recent Secret Teacher confessional, in The Guardian.
It’s going ok so far, my new role allowing me to indulge in language and literature and offering a new insight into this crazy profession. I’ve generally been able to stay calm and positive, apart from what feels like a growing divide between the realists and the ignorami, the pragmatists and the uncognoscenti: perfectly illustrated by my blood boiling at a Tory diatribe by Giles Coren, which I had the misfortune to read last week.
He was moaning about not getting into his dream primary school for Kitty, the one he took on ‘a romantic’ all expenses paid holiday to the Bahamas last year, and having to shell out fourteen grand a year instead for her private education. This idea that money buys you better, and if you can’t get the one you demand then nothing else is good enough: also, that those fortunate enough to be selected ahead of you are middle class ‘Guardian reading’ scum, as he said, sat uneasily with me, and he went down in my estimation with that moan.
It made me think of Peppa Pig.
Well, more specifically, Madame Gazelle.
She could have been a rock star, and taught most of the animals’ parents, but instead seems to be losing it. However, her classes look fun, Peppa is doing well, and I just know that Giles wouldn’t want her teaching his daughter but knowing the job and the importance of social & emotional health and wellbeing, I’d be made up because she reminds me of some of my own primary teachers who informed my own, not-necessarily-outstanding-but-more-important-than-a-rating-education which brought me to here.
Still, there’s too much good in the world to let the bad drag you down. As much as we want the best for our kids, and don’t want to feel denigrated by a posh boy restaurant critic who can afford the best, as Alex James also said, ‘getting everything you ever wanted never made anybody a nicer person. Success will f**k you up more than failure.’
In the context of football, politics or progress measures, this is very true.
And I had to remember that statement when we battered Chelsea at the weekend, to stay grounded. I spent the majority of the match feeding animals at a farm, choosing to devote quality time to my family and our friends rather than an unpredictable and too often, unreliable group of men, although they are doing ok at the minute.
Farm life, going back to basics, is lovely. It was probably just about more rewarding to have sheep and goats eating out of my hand, rather than spending forty odd quid to see the match, and having spent the summer ‘growing our own’ – as Alex James said, ‘love and home grown tomatoes are the only things money can’t buy’ (and that includes John Stones) but also, it puts things into perspective.
“You either die in an office or on a farm… Farm life is compelling,” stated Alex.
I know what I would prefer.
NEXT TIME – BACK TO THE SHOPPING LISTS!!