7 Nov 2014


I have found myself, at thirty two, the parent of two boys; a small one aged four and a tiny one who is not quite two. I had and continue to have every intention of restricting their access to screens in general and the internet in particular but in practice they are persuasive, I am over committed and I have not yet gathered the willpower to impose a new order. 

In the hour before dinner I am generally attempting to prepare a nutritious, organic, balanced meal and my tiny one likes to spend this time wrapped around my ankles delivering a monologue about a piece of paper he found on the floor. My small one is developing some passionately held and deeply illogical views about the concept of justice as it relates to him and to confectionery. He is skilled at recognising when I am approaching just the right balance of distraction and exhaustion, that sweet spot where he is likely to slide gracefully under my weakened defences and score a lollipop or a fruit roll as an aperitif. 

They also very much enjoy climbing the furniture and pushing each other off, to much hilarity.  

The iPad buys me a half hour of calm when I need it most, I can listen to radio 4 and the gentle snuffle of content, square eyed children while cooking and our home is calmer, happier place. The problem is that its very easy to fall back on the iPad whenever I am busy, and I am always busy. It's like having a mute button for toddlers. Half an hour can easily turn into an hour. Occasionally two if the unwashed laundry has reached critical mass. Not every day, but more often than I am happy to admit to. 

I know parking them on the sofa with a screen means that I am missing more appropriate opportunities to engage their questioning minds but I thought that was really the only concern. 

I don't yet have to worry about chat rooms, facebook, porn, online bullying or the hundreds of unknowable new technologies that my children will use to negotiate their social and professional lives ten or twenty years from now. I reasoned that during the toddler years you worry about keeping them dressed, clean, healthy and safe and you pay for their love and charm with less than four hours of unbroken sleep. 

As children grow into teens I imagine the trade off for a reliable eight hours of sleep and the end of mind melting questions like 'Mummy, why is my foot not a rainbow?' will be a fresh set of anxieties about how to keep them from harm in a digital landscape that is moving faster than many of us can keep up with. I am not there yet. 

The other night I inadvertently found myself at a lecture given by an internet security expert on protecting children online. It was held in my office, I'd been working late, I had met and liked the woman who had organised it and the subject matter seemed relevant. The speaker was excellent, the presentation was illuminating but it was one of those occasions where you don't realise you need to panic about something until you see that other people are. 

I came away from the evening with a complimentary packet of colouring pens and the chill of an unwelcome epiphany. 

The speaker pointed out, quite rightly, that many of us begin creating our children's digital identity almost immediately, sometimes before they are born. He invited a roomful of parents to think about how their children might feel about the identity we have created for them in the future. 

Reader, I was horrified. I am the very worst kind of digital parent. I posted my scan pictures on Facebook assuming in the smug, unhinged bubble of my pregnancy that the people from my high school history class would enjoy viewing an image of my uterus.  I clog up other peoples timelines with pictures of my children doing magnificently ordinary things like standing beside a tree. 

My children will be mortified by me anyway when they are of age because that is the way of things, and in many ways I am very much looking forward to it, but I have had a wakeup call about protecting their identity. I delude comfort myself that most babies are indistinguishable from one another to the wider world but as they become older and more distinctive in photos and as people I recognise it's time to dial back the pictures and update my privacy settings. 

I picked up plenty of tips to consider for the future, some obvious and some of which would never have occurred to me. It was suggested, for example, we should buy our children's domain names  (www.childsname.com) and pay the £6 or so a year it costs to keep it so that they will own that part of their digital identity should they need it as adults. He also encouraged us to set up a google alert for ourselves and our kids so that as soon as something about you is searchable on the internet, you know about it. 

The bit that shook me out of my not-yet-my-problem complacency was the revelation that this expert had spent a casual 20 minutes digging on the internet about one of the attendees (a complete stranger, with her prior permission) and delivered with a flourish, her name, home address, phone number, the nickname and a photo of her child and could pinpoint where she had spent the previous weekend and with whom. He found a big chunk of this information from a website she had registered with eight years ago and not used since. She couldn't even remember the name of that website. 

How many dormant bebo, myspace, friends reunited accounts are sitting forgotten in cyberspace stuffed with identifying information? If we don't yet look to protect our own information online how can we teach our kids how important it is to protect theirs? 

I came away convinced that deleting accounts from services you don't use anymore is a habit worth cultivating and that most of us should try to think back through the past decade and undertake a digital audit of our information. That sounds hard, and really very boring, and yet I think it's worth dedicating a few cranky hours on a Saturday afternoon.  

I am inspired to do better, to be better, to get on top of the issue while my children are still little so they grow up learning how to navigate digital spaces safely. I have every intention of implementing digital contracts between me and the boys, all technology devices in a basket at mealtimes and no internet access in the bedroom. 

Then I remember how convinced I once was that my toddlers would have less than an hour of screen time a week, would be unfussy eaters, would be reading by the age of three and would never suffer the indignity of going to nursery in mismatched socks.  I remain cautiously optimistic.  

30 Mar 2010

Oh No Psycho

I have always been a bit of an emo. I spent much of my teens addicted to Leonard Cohen and eyeliner whilst energetically projecting a consistent unspoken 'Nobody understands me'. I dutifully learned three guitar chords and howled along in my gloomy bedroom to self-penned (and musically sparse) songs about assorted boys and injustices, pausing only to scream at the occasional fool who dared suggest I might oblige them by emoting quietly so they could watch TV/read/sleep/not punch me.

The intervening years have been largely dedicated to the the slow and painful process of getting over myself and pre-pregnancy I might have been described as a reasonable, sane and moderately nice woman (depends who you ask really). Since the pregnancy hormones invaded and turned my brain inside out I can comfortably cover the entire spectrum of human emotion in an afternoon.

I'm now 14 weeks pregnant and things are a-changing. Interestingly (or very very boringly, depending on your perspective) the nausea and inhuman exhaustion seem to have eased off but the general hysteria is getting worse. My mood ricochets from demonic rage to overwhelming ennui to Disney-esque cheer at the slightest provocation.

On Saturday alone I exploded into tears at a (fictional) old man painfully admitting that he loved his grown-up son in a gravel-voiced, noble sort of fashion, danced on the spot in apoplectic fury at M's wilful misplacement of the dish towels (he put them in the cupboard to the right of the sink when everybody knows they live on the LEFT.) and spent a good 20 minutes on Facebook making up mean things I would say to people with annoying status updates if the boundaries of social convention only allowed. Highlights include: 'Nobody gives a shit about your horoscope except you' and 'Facebook angels are just another reason i don't like you.'

Much of the time I drift about aimlessly in a mist of baby-centric contentment but the rage surfaces without warning and is particularly fond of making an appearance when I am offered well-meaning advice. A very good friend rashly suggested I try mint tea to help the nausea. The very concept of mint tea makes me justifiably angry at the best of times but I had to resist the urge to scream "Why not just drink a cup of boiling toothpaste you hemp-loving fucking hippy??".

I've also fallen into a terrible habit of insisting I don't mind if my betrothed goes out and then ringing him on the hour every hour with tearful accusations of abandonment/apologies/further tearful accusations/further apologies etc. When he comes home he is equally likely to be greeted by flying crockery or a blissed out monologue declaring how much I love him and the baby. A by-product of the constant uncertainty is that I often notice M eyeing me with the hopeful, wary expression one might expect to see on a postman sizing up a gently growling Doberman.

We have had our first scan and everything is healthy and well. Baby has the most exquisite little head and was tumbling around in there like a dancer in a 90's pop video. In two weeks we can have the gender scan which I was CERTAIN I wanted but in a bizarre twist I'm having second thoughts...

Baby now looks like this, except a week and four days bigger.

6 Mar 2010

Things I did not know about being prego before I was prego.

1. You count the weeks of pregnancy from the beginning of your last period. So you're already two weeks pregnant by the time you concieve. I'm eleven weeks now, but baby's only been in existence for nine weeks. Confusing no?. By this logic everybody is pregnant at all times.

2. Early pregnancy necessitates much snoozing. Things that are LESS exhausting than the first three months of pregnancy include
  • Working four jobs simultaneously for two months while averaging 4 hours sleep a night to save enough money to move to London.
  • Going straight from a party to work, still drunk and then shuddering into a painful hangover at about 2pm.
  • Sorting and packing 25 years worth of assorted debris from your parent's attic, alone, overnight.
  • Listening to your boyfriend talk about local planning regulations and how they may or may not affect his plans to develop the house whilst pretending you a) understand and b) care.
3. You don't just quit booze and smoking. No more coffee, soft cheese, rare meat, runny eggs, redbull, chocolate, shellfish, tuna, artificial sweetener, coke (the drink AND the drug), pate, unpasturied milk, home-made chocolate moose, painkillers, skin creams containing Retin A, hayfever pills, vicks vapour rub, sauna/jacuzzi, Bikram yoga, not wearing bras, being thin.

4. You have to should excercise three times a week and the excercise MUST be deeply boring. Much gentle walking, gentle swimming, gentle swaying etc. No body-popping, pole-dancing, cage-fighting.

5. People don't give you a seat on the tube, they just avoid eye contact. Perhaps they are worried in case I am just fat and they give offence. Or perhaps they're just knobs. I have taken to staring with intense agression at strangers for the duration of my hour long commute.

6. Other people don't find anecdotes about your cravings, mood swings, expanding girth and antenatal appointments all that interesting. My friends are also oddly reluctant to discuss the merits of natural labour vs drug-assisted delivery or the shoddy state of maternity rights for the self employed.

7. You develop a super-human sense of smell. I can smell strawberries THROUGH the fridge door.

8. Eating crackers in bed before you get up helps the all fucking  day  morning sickness. And makes satisfying crunchy sound.

9. Everyone in the universe has an opinion on what you should be eating, doing, watching, reading and preparing for and everyone in the universe assumes you want to hear said opinion.

10. Boys do not check you out anymore and when they do by accident and then realise you're prego'd, they look mortified/ashamed/disgusted depending on which age bracket they fall into.

11. At only 11 weeks baby can make a tiny fist, swallow, bend and flex tiny joints and spin around inside me like a ballerina. Baby can even frown (baby is judgemental like it's Daddy). It's definatively a girl or boy, has all it's major organs and is the size of a lime.

12. It is bizarre feeling to love someone you've never met, indeed it is bizarre to love someone who is busy growing their own digestive system.

Baby now looks a bit like this one, but more stylish.

23 Feb 2010


I find myself in circumstances I've been energetically trying to avoid since my late teens.

After years of diligently not getting pregnant, M and I have done an about turn and got ourselves good and knocked up.
I have been pontificating on how to share this with the world (and by the world I mean my facebook page). It feels as though a gracious and rather distant announcement is expected of me, something to the tune of "R and M are delighted to announce they are expecting etc.."., which feels both impersonal and inaccurate. I'm looking for something more honest in both tone and content

"R is nauseous to announce that she is prego'd"
"R and M are chilled to announce that they are henceforth entirely responsible for the wellbeing of a tiny and fragile new person"
"R resentfully announces she is not getting fat but is in fact, pregnant"

Truthfully, M drifts about his day with the gently helpless air of a man who has been spun around fourteen times quickly then punched really hard in the face. I am nauseous, bitchy, overwhelmed with emotion at nappy adverts and troubled with a violent and reoccurring desire to kick the ankles of  fellow commuters on the tube. The clichés are all true, which is disappointing.

But we're also floating on a smug self-involved little cloud of angel breath and sunlight.

I'm nine weeks prego'd and there is a grape size, mermaid-tailed baby-shaped little entity turning tiny nonchalant somersaults in my tummy. Just hanging around, growing it's own appendages (which is genius, however you look at it).

My baby looks a bit like this one. But cuter.

20 Nov 2009


Gordon Brown is henceforth to be refered to as GoBo. This is entirely my idea and absolutely original material.

Disclaimer: No it is not.

Healthy things to make and do

The social life and habits of most young(ish) adults in this town involve plentiful consumption of alcohol, long hours and late nights.

Burning the candle at both ends is a breeze when you're nineteen. Then it starts to hurt. In your mid-twenties you begin to wake up after heavy nights feeling like a microwaved bag of chardonnay. I await my thirties with apprehension.

So something's got to give, and as I do not treat my body as a temple I've got to budget for some damage control. IF you're going to get physical you may as well do something that will supply you with amusing anecdotes. Such aaaaaas....


This isn't London specific, in fact it's imported from LA. But it's all OVER the city nowadays. Bikram is a form of hot yoga with a series of 26 postures designed by a talented ego-maniac called Bikram Choudury. He is ridiculous. He wears very small shorts and tried to copyright yoga. He sues people. He has hair on the sides of his head and none on top. Fellow Yoga gurus sneeringly refer to Bikram as McYoga. Bikram laughs in the face of Zen and sticks his shiny lyrcra-clad arse out at the yoga establishment. He is deliciously silly, but here's the rub..it works. He is the Kanye West of the yoga world (and Lord knows they needed one)

Classes last an hour and a half in a mirrored room heated to around 105° The teacher stands at the front of the class wearing a head-mike like Madonna circa Vouge tour and guides you through 26 poses in a voice alternately peppy and soothing (like a cheerleader moonlighting as an aromatherapist) . Bring a towel and a bottle of water and stand in the middle or back row and near a window in the beginning. At the end of a class I feel wrung out, energised and smug. Which is what I expect of my exercise.

It is expensive, £13 for a drop in (£10 with concessions). Most of them do fantastic introductory offers like £30 for 30 days unlimited classes in the hope you'll get hooked and then you'll overlook the crazy prices. In fairness, it worked on me.

You can find classes all over London

Balham - http://www.hotbikramyoga.co.uk/  

Canary Wharf - http://www.bikramyogalondon.com/

Chiswick - http://www.bikramyogachiswick.co.uk/

City - Old Street - http://www.bikramyoga.co.uk/

Fulham - http://www.hotbikramyoga.co.uk/

North, Chalk Farm - http://www.bikramyoga.co.uk/

Soho - http://www.bikramyogasoho.co.uk/

Queens Park - http://www.bikramyoga.co.uk/

You can find amusing waffle about Bikram here


Ze Gym

Gyms inspire commitment phobia. I have been suckered into a 12 month contract more than once. Despite my occasional insistance to the contrary the truth is I go when in the midst of a self-improvement drive (which can last anything from an afternoon to several months), I go when I have something on the horizon to look good for and I go when I feel especially fat. I don't go when I'm too tired, too busy or too hungry, I don't go when it's raining outside and I don't go when anything more interesting presents itself as an alternative. Each month the direct debit would sigh and saunter patronisingly out of my bank account shaking it's head in faux disbelief at the lazy gullible fool that I am.

So I got over my penchant for the swanky gyms I used to frequent, ones with pictures of girls with lovely hair in flattering sportswear, gleaming chrome and steamy pine changing rooms with special hairdryers. I embraced the council gym. Cheap as your Mom (sorry) and none of these nonsensical joining fees and ongoing contracts. You pay by the month, or by the visit and there are usually substantial discounts for students and the unemployed.

What they lack in glamour they make up for in efficiency. Get the job done and get out, save your money for fabulous new attire with which to drape your council-gym honed derrière

These too are all over London. Google your local council websites. (if...y'know, you feel like it)

If money 's too tight to mention and you're near Guildford, Hounslow or Vauxhal THIS genius idea, http://www.thegymgroup.com/ , will change your life. £14.99 a month, no contract. There is a £20 joining fee which is annoying but not hugely so. I've only seen the Hounslow one, I snuck in when a member was coming out and copped an eyeful of their set up. I really wasn't expecting much for those prices but it looked perfectly clean, well equipped and not too crowded ( it was a Sunday though).

Dance Dammit Dance

Should you prefer to dance your ass and thighs off, for a mere £10 you can indulge in this fabulousness http://www.tangoat33.co.uk/  and learn to tango by candlelight. This would also make a good domain for a goat-related enterprise, if you're into that sort of thing.

Pineapple studios in Covent Garden also run a whole heap of dance classes http://www.pineapple.uk.com/ which profess to cater for everyone from beginners to movement artistes. Unfortunatly it tends to frequented by the kind of people who refer to themselves as movement artistes with a straight face.

Disclaimer: You don't actually have to do what I tell you.

Out and Proud

I've been blogging anonymously for a while and have pumped enough embarrasing anecdotes into the ether to satisfy my sick compulsion for negative attention. So here's where I'll be blogging it up legit, thus achieving yet another platform through which I can tell my friends what to do. This blog will have kisses, because I feel like I know you. Here's one now, look. X.

I started blogging in earnest during the ten heavy, pointless months I lived away from London in a picturesque little seaside town that I despised with an unhinged passion. While away from the city I finally realised how fabulous it is and one of the bestest thing about London is how many versions of it there are. It makes a relevant and useful topic to blog about and I can't be arsed to start again researched things that might be useful so I've imported some of my old postings here.

If you're a twenty something with a small disposible income you will find here a petite selection of amusing ways in which to dispose of it.

In other news, here is a blog about Pigeons that made my eyes explode with joy. http://pigeonblog.wordpress.com/about/
x Ro