Flockenstein’s Monster

The other day the microbe was doing something mildly annoying and I bellowed “Stop!!” and he looked back at me and replied “Hammertime!

I have nobody to blame. I programmed him myself.

On another topic, have you ever had to wake up a toddler in the morning? Their zest for life is hilarious. This morning the boylet turned up in our bed shortly before 6am clutching a furry pig and, instead of pestering the hell out of me like normal, he zonked straight back into a deep sleep and I had to wake him an hour later for nursery.

So I sat the toy pig on the boy’s chest and said, softly:

“James, Piggy says wake up!”

It was like stepping on a rake. His entire upper body went SPROING!! and his eyes snapped open and a huge grin spread over his face.  (Has anyone ever been so delighted to wake up in the morning? Ever?)

Over the last few months we seem to have stealthily brought forward the boylet’s bedtime. Occasionally we even get him tucked away as early as 7pm (though this is usually reserved for nights when he falls asleep face-first in his dinner).

He’s also happy to fall asleep by himself these days, which means we no longer have to bedtime-story him into a coma. In your face, Gina Ford!  (…what? We’re only three years late.) Usually I promise to pop back and check on him “in 10 mins” and return to find him away with the fairies, with an arm clamped tightly around one of the menagerie. Bless.

In scatological news, the boybot has now given up wearing nappies, except at bedtime. Some days everything goes swingingly… other days we are treated to multiple plastic-bags-of-shame. I have no idea what lies behind the good days or the bad days – there seems to be no pattern to it.  I expect we shall just continue on until we stop getting the bad days.

I still feel compelled to return to pull-ups when we visit other people’s houses though. (A plastic-bag-of-shame is one thing… a someone-else’s-carpet-of-shame is quite another).

Last, but not least, I spotted a really sweet Beatrix-Potterish Christmassy dinner plate in the toy section of Fara Kids in Richmond the other week. It’s usually a bit of a goldmine for Microbish tat such as Lion King figurines, marbles and tiny plastic animals and I thought that the boy would love it.

It only cost £2 – but has turned out to be a limited edition plate by Villeroy & Boch which flogs for around £100 on eBay.  Bargainacious!  Now G has questioned whether a £100 plate is the ideal dinner surface for a reckless microscopic vandal…  (um, perhaps we’ll just save it for once a year.)

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The son and the heir of nothing in particular

Hmph. I have my disgruntled hat on today.

I don’t want to be spending my week in the grey cavern of air-con talking to grey-clad people about IT projects. I want to be sipping a cold beer in a lavender field in Provence. Alas, now that Jim is both evil and dead, there is nobody to fix it for me.

Lately I keep coming across articles like this that attempt to de-bunk the negative perceptions of only-child families… however they always seem to start by listing all of the supremely negative things about being an only child.


Never mind. Apparently you rock… or something.  And your selfish parents will be marginally less poor. (But then they will go senile and die and you will have to deal with it all by yourself. Hooray!)

Anyway James needn’t worry – I appear to be growing him a sibling gollum made entirely of cheese, lard, wine and butter. So that will be attractive.  (On the plus side, it won’t ever need potty training and is unlikely to pin him down and punch him repeatedly with his own fist while saying “stop hitting yourself!“)

The Microbe told me this morning that he feels sorry for me because my pants don’t have animals on them. I agreed with him and asked if he would like to buy me some animal pants and he said “Yes, but you will have to wait until Christmas, now, mummy

*adds parsimonious to the above list*

In cheerier news, I had an excellent birthday, which managed to stretch over multiple days. We started early, booked a babysitter and spent most of Sunday consuming delicious seafood and wine and crepes in Richmond, then loafed all evening in our friends’ garden, doing things like this to the boy…


Then we did it all again on Monday night. I even managed to squeeze in a peaceful visit to my mini-allotment – just me, the squirrels and a flock of stunning parakeets – before coming home to some lovely presents and dinner at our fav Italian local.

(I suppose I should stop being such a moaning cow, then, shouldn’t I?)

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That’s enough, sir!

The Microbe is going through a phase of uttering endless streams of nonsense words. (I have no idea from whom he might have inherited this trait.)

This involves saying “boing!” at every opportunity and supplying an omnipresent white-noise made up of this sort of thing…

“Mummy you’re a silly pong pong!”
“This Hippo is Binky binks!”
“Tonga wonga ponga bonga…”
“What a cheeky monkaroo!”
“He goes fangle-wangle bumpy-bump”

All very toddlertastic – until the inevitable occurs:

“Elephant goes bugger-bugger-bugger in the jungle” (sung to a jaunty tune)

Or…  over dinner with friends:

“You’re all silly c*ntys!”   [cue instant, void-like silence]   “…and catty-conks!”

All hail the implicit understanding in which NOBODY MUST REACT IN ANY WAY.  Minor choking aside, I think we all made a sufficiently speedy recovery for him to continue on in breezy ignorance.

As regards foulness from the other end, I can report mixed successes.

The good

Against all expectations, his first full day of pantitude ended with an overexcited missile hurtling towards me, bellowing “MUMMY I KEPT MY PANTS CLEAN ALL DAY!!!” Bless his pristine cottons. He was duly showered with praise and stickers.

Since then we’ve progressed to several poo poos on the big toilet at home. (Enquiring minds need to know this sort of thing, yes?) and our bathroom now includes a special sticker chart to celebrate every stage of this achievement, from sitting on the throne through to flushing and hand-washing.

The bad

The boylet’s excitement over pant-variety has resulted in several spurious “accidents”, in which he lacks the guile to conceal his true intentions.

On the first occasion, I asked him “Why did you do a wee wee in your pants?” and he said “Because now I can have NEW pants!”  The second occasion was even more brazen. A wilful #2 within sight of the toilet, during which he waved over his head the pants that he wanted to be changed into.

It doesn’t help that he’s currently hero-worshipping a boy at nursery who (according to anecdotal evidence) has a fair few accidents every day. So – er – lets just call it a work in progress and be done with the topic, eh?

In less revolting news, I shall be sloping off for a birthday dinner with daddy this evening, after which we’re planning to loaf around our living room, drinking wine and watching University Challenge with our uber-tolerant and equally nerdy Microbe-wrangling friends.

(Why, yes, dear reader – I am getting on a bit. However did you guess?)


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You just haven’t learned it yet baby

So! Who’d like to hear about poo-poos and wee-wees?

That’s all of you, yes?

~ ~ ~  tumbleweed  ~ ~ ~

Feh. Well – brace yourselves – because I’m going to tell you anyway.

Today – sound the trumpets – we sent the Microbe off to nursery wearing pants.

And now kindly un-sound them – because I have every expectation of said pants being returned to me imminently in a plastic-bag-of-shame. When it comes to matters physical, the Microbe is not what you’d call an early adopter. This is probably the combined result of him being an idle little Hodor and his parents following the lazy (ahem) relaxed path over such things. Until recently I’d been labouring under the misapprehension that nursery would introduce some magic regime to take care of potty training for us – but they’ve turned out to be as relaxed as we are.

This is not to say that we’re 100% useless parents. We decided to skip potties but have gone so far as to train the boylet to do wee-wees on the toilet at home – and he literally begs to be taken to public toilets every time we’re out (especially if Helena also happens to be going).

But none of this gleeful loo-visiting has stopped him from continuing to wee and poo in his nappy with gay abandon. It’s as if the two activities are entirely unconnected in his mind. So, a couple of months back, when nursery suggested that he was ready for pants, I decided that he wasn’t really and switched him to pull-ups instead.

However this week G had one of his token, biannual Victorian Dad outbursts. These usually take place around 3am and involve extensive muttering along the lines of

This boy… mumble mumble… mollycoddling… mumble mumble… pull himself together…. mumble mumble

My reaction to these is usually a large amount of put-upon groaning, followed by desperate googling to find out what everyone else is doing. Hence I have discovered that pull-ups are widely regarded to be futile and ineffective. So – as of today – the boylet is panted up.

God only knows how he’ll get on. My expectations have not been helped by these ominous convos…

“I’ve got BIG BOY pants!!”
“Yes! Aren’t you a lucky boy? And now that you’re a big-boy, where will you do your wee wees and poo poos?”
“On the potty!”
“Good boy! Because we don’t do wee-wees and poo-poos in our pants, do we?”
“But… Harry sometimes does wee-wees and poo-poos in his pants”
“Oh. Well that’s because he has an accident. Harry doesn’t *want* to do it in his pants”

(following morning)

“Mummy, what are these?” (picks up multi-pack of dinosaur pants)
“Those are spare pants for nursery”
“Can I wear them?”
“No, you’ve already got Raa Raa pants on. Those ones are just for emergencies.”
“But if I have an accident in my Raa Raa Pants…  can I wear the dinosaur ones?”
“Er… yes – but you’ll miss out on your sticker if you have an accident”
“…and Mummy will be VERY proud of you if you keep your Raa Raa pants clean all day.”

I swear I could actually see his cogs whirring to calculate the relative excitement of a sticker vs deliberately disgracing himself, so as to get changed into DINOSAUR PANTS.

Sigh. Bring on the plastic bag of shame.


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I like to move it move it

Apologies all, but it’s time for the obligatory last-day-of-holiday ramble.

I’m afraid this holiday has been marked by some serious arguments and debates that there’s no coming back from.

“You’re a big poo poo”
“No you’re a big poo poo”
“Well you’re a big wee wee”
“YOU’RE a big wee wee and I’m a big poo poo”

Why, yes, I have been on holiday with children. Was it the conversation that gave it away, or the fact that I just had dinner in a restaurant whilst wearing star wars stickers all over my face?

Anyway I shall start by saying “hooray for Broadstairs!” It’s a very lovely place indeed and an excellent alternative to Cornwall, if you don’t fancy the interminable 6-hour drive. Here be beaches, promenades, 2p machines, crazy golf and quite a lot of Dickens fetishery…

The only down side is the evening noise, which doesn’t bother me very much but I suspect would bother some people. During the day Broadstairs is a twee and rosy domain full of children and pensioners. By night it appears to be overrun by hen nighters and boy racers, many of whom seem to like hanging about outside the pub and the youth centre opposite our apartment. Still, it wouldn’t stop me renting this place again if we ever come back.

On the first evening, as soon as we’d dropped off our baggage, we decided to pop out and have a nose at the beach (approx 1 minute walk from the flat!) and get our bearings.  At this point the Micro-horde immediately flew off their leashes and rampaged around in the sand fully clothed.

Our first night was so intolerably hot and humid that we all practically expired overnight. I’d have sold my soul for an electric fan.  We’d been promised storms but in the end we only got about 2 minutes of limp thunder and light rain that didn’t help at all.  It took until the following day for the weather to fully break and everything suddenly became tolerable again. This turned out to be the only day with rain – and we spent part of it rock-pooling…

For the first few days we had triple-microbe action with Ben, James and St Helena The Adored. Unfortunately things did not start very well as the Microbe managed to trap Ben’s fingers in a door – apparently in an attempt to stop Ben getting his toys.

SIGH.  I wish I knew what to do about only child syndrome. Besides procuring some emergency siblings on the black market, does anyone know a short-cut to de-bratifying a child who has not yet learned that the world does not revolve around him? Answers on a postcard please…

I did actually catch the microbe and Ben playing together a few times, on the rare occasions when James was not too busy mooning around after Helena.  But… give it a year and I reckon there’s a good chance Ben will become top favourite. (And with any luck by then Microbe will have learned how to share his toys).

Anyway – it’s not all bratitutde.  Their penalty for coming on holiday together was to be made to pose in ridiculous pile-ups before being allowed out to the beach…


We also introduced two of them to gambling. (You would not believe how many 2ps you have to haemorrage in order to win two rubbish plastic keyrings.)


On Wednesday Nat’s other half joined us and we celebrated The Benbot’s second birthday. I hope he enjoyed his day – it mainly consisted of beach play, a tea party and a pile of Peppa-themed presents and, of course, his very own rock star guitar…

Unfortunately Ben was too little to join in the crazy golf with the other two. But Helena turned out to be REALLY good at it. Microbe discovered that his only hope of coming second was by picking up the ball and dropping it manually down the hole.

The rest of the week we were down to four and our days have been pretty much more of the same. Helena is a total water baby and Microbe has gradually learned to love the sea… just in time for us to leave. We also had a visit to Walmer Castle and a very brief mooch around Sandwich, which is pretty but hasn’t got much to interest wee people.

Do you think we may have tired them out?


Despite the profusion of empty beds, the Microbe and Helena have insisted on sharing a single bed every night. Bless…


And now the end is nigh… and I am not very happy about giving Helena back to her mummy tomorrow. I need to plan an elaborate kidnap scenario. I WANT TO KEEP THE DOLLY! Microbe is just not into hair plaiting and nail varnish. Feh.

Anyway, for the very interested only, our full set of hol pics are on Flickr here.

PS – for anyone wondering about the title of this post, I’m sorry to report that I am simply sharing the earworm that I have been subjected to for the last 7 days. Enjoy!


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The coastal town that they forgot to close down

Lately I’ve been saddened by the demise of another round of sublime toddler errata. I curse whoever is teaching these children to speak properly. Stop it immediately!

Amongst the recent losses are:

Fingersnails (possibly my all-time favourite. I weep for its demise.)

Brekstus (G liked this one so much that he introduced a morning ritual in which the microbe is required to feed the cats and call: “Harriet! Truffle! Brekstus!“)

Zoo (I am aghast that Helena has started calling me Sue. This is NO GOOD and must be rectified.)

In cheerier news, I’m really looking forward to our holiday in Broadstairs. Only 2 weeks to go!


All of our travel info is coming from the schizophrenic Internet.  My search for “Cornwall lite” culminated in Broadstairs, with a promise of sandy beaches, rock-pooling, seafood and pretty shops, minus the 6-hour drive. However I do remain slightly suspicious of a place that lists proximity to a shopping centre amongst its “attractions”.

If I restrict my reading matter to travel editorials, it all sounds dreamy and splendid:

“Broadstairs is brim-full of nostalgic, old-world, seaside charm.”

“Broadstairs is a bright, lively, colourful town, with seven spectacular sandy-beached bays”

“A wonderful promenade lined with fine landscaped gardens and a High Street packed with quirky individual shops.”

“Broadstairs was recently voted the 2nd best Seaside resort in the UK by a Guardian Newspaper poll” (behind St Ives)

“Broadstairs is unique in that it has retained its traditional Victorian resort appeal.”

“It is lovely. It has excellent crazy golf, a bandstand and a cute half moon of a beach. Over it all looms the brooding Bleak House, beloved holiday home of Dickens.”

“Broadstairs is a wonderful mixture of Victorian architecture, hidden cobbled squares, cliff top walks and blue flag sandy beaches.”

“The perfect place for chilled-out, family-friendly fun!”

Great! Then I usually like to prod around in Mumsnet – the land of the blunt, where punches are never pulled. Fortunately, opinions over there seem to be largely pro-Broadstairs too…


“It can be a bit twee”

“Fab beach, just a lovely lovely town.”

“Nice without being too posh”

“quaint, not kiss me quick at all, and a small lovely old wooden funfair”

“Just what I was looking for. Sand, boats and beach huts.”

“Lots of rock pools which are fab for exploring.”

But then I thought I’d prod a bit more – and ventured deeper into TEH INTERNETZ where it all gets a little bit darker… and more unhinged:

“Broadstairs really is a drain of a place it takes your soul, everyone there are fully dead on the inside.”

“I personally think it would be better if they stripped Broadstairs out, build a big wall gave one side to Margate and the side to Ramsgate and forget about the whole poncy whiny little ****** town with there folk week! SUCK YOUR NAN BROADSTAIRS”

“Although Broadstairs may look pretty on the outside – it is cold, dead and ugly on the inside.”

“It is a completely vacuous town, full of airheaded tourists and holier-than-thou residents who while away their days abusing the legacy of Charles Dickens”

(I actually laughed out loud at some of those)

Even more starkly contrasted are pronouncements on the nearby towns of Ramsgate and Margate, which I’d been pondering as possible day trips. If you read the tourism sites, you’d turn up expecting Britain’s answer to Cannes:

“Perhaps being so close to Europe helps infuse Ramsgate with a cosmopolitan vibe. Pavement cafes frame waterfront bars. A bustling harbour borders a yacht-packed marina. Awash with history and overflowing with continental charm, Ramsgate is a must-see historic port.”

“These days, Margate fizzes with artistic energy. To traditional, holiday-town charms, add a world-class art gallery. To sandy beaches and sparkling bays, add a cool café culture and tempting retro shops.”

Suffice to say – TEH INTERTETZ beg to differ (kindly pardon their French)…

“Ramsgate is a fucking shithole full of crims”

“Margate is a bit run down but the old town is good”

“it’s not a place I’d enjoy being around at kicking out time”

“Ramsgate harbour is quite happening as it goes”

“The bright kids all move away, leaving nothing but chavs and pensioners.”

“Ramsgate is nicer than Margate”

“You can’t get a decent meal unless you cook it yourself”

“Avoid Margate like the plague.”

“Tracey Emin grew up in Margate.”


I might just have to go and see it all for myself.  I’m also considering Deal (for Castles), Sandwich (because apparently it’s gorgeous) and Whitstable (which people on Mumsnet describe as “Islington on Sea“, “the Boden catalogue” and “lovely but wanky“.)


Back to Broadstairs. We’ve rented an airy 3-bedroom apartment near Viking Bay, whose publicity pics are a festival of beige…

Natalie + horde are joining us for half of the week – and Helena is staying on for the whole week, so I predict lots of sandy fun for the kidlets. We’re also celebrating Ben’s second birthday on the Wednesday and we might squeeze in some day trips to local castles, wildlife parks and possibly Canterbury.

The only thing that could really bugger our hol is British weather. So PLEASE pray to the weather gods for us, will you?

Moving on…

Yesterday I discovered a little cache of pics from a forgotten afternoon at Osterley Park. The boylet appears to be doing a fine imitation of someone playing croquet but I can assure you that, in reality, he is merely bashing the stick around aimlessly.

Last month we kissed goodbye to Auntie LJ who has jetted off to Buenos Aires to see what life holds over there. Before she left she gave the microbe a toy doctor’s set and he’s built up a surgery full of bandaged dinosaurs and a deer with a “sad temperature”. I’ve started calling him Doctor Flocks (apart from when I’m calling him Hodor or Joffrey)

Then we had a weekend at Uncle Alistair’s, where the Microbe cornered the market in Playdoh, helped Auntie Sarah with some scissor-based gardening and went on a mini train ride that had an exciting derailment incident!

Back at nursery, the boylet took a tumble and gained a mess of little scabs all down his nose and was still scabby this weekend at Pops’s 70th party – a huge bash for a man whose progeny could rival that of the old woman who lived in a shoe.

These pictures represent a tiny fraction of the clan… (click for bigger)

Gatherings like these offer ample opportunities for the microbe to hero-worship his older cousins and hang around cougar town. It’s quite comical watching all of the cousins chasing adoringly after the next tier up in a sort of endless conga. Teenagers chased by tweens, chased by tweenies chased by microbes, chased by Ben.

Speaking of the Benbot, despite being not-even-two, he is as rockstar-like as ever. At the party he got hold of a tiny guitar and sang and strummed to a roomful of people. I give him 6 months before he’s playing chords! (Video still courtesy of Uncle R)


The evening ended with a candlelit tower of Jenga and a cousin-huddle outdoors, where Jimlet experienced his very first camp fire…


(FYI party attendees: full set of pics here)

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I’ll cry if I want to

Good evening all. I’m pleased to report that birthday season is over. We have returned to splendid mundanity and all future birthdays shall be banned. Hooray!

So, what did we get up to with little boy 3?  Well, it went a bit like this…  (brace yourself for a thousand pics)


Presents! And what a lovely set of presents it was. Microbe was genuinely delighted with everything (and of course we shall be contacting all of you kind givers personally). G and I were fairly restrained in expenditure this year, favouring a day out to the zoo over pointlessly expensive presents.

Afterwards we packed him off to nursery to celebrate with his homies, sporting the dullest “nut free” cake ever mass-produced by machine. Half of it was sent back home with him that evening and, even after I’d pimped it with smarties and candles, it somehow remained steadfastly beige…

My own day involved cutting up 8 billion crudités and stuffing party bags with animal-themed tat. But the big excitement of the evening (and the entire weekend) was the arrival of Helena, Benjamin and Natalie. Few things make the Jimlet happier than proximity to Helena.


These days they share a bedroom, with Helena’s inflatable Disney Princess bed placed alongside James’s. It might actually be time to get another inflatable bed for the Benbot.  Meanwhile nothing gets the microbe skipping to the bathroom more readily than the promise of a communal dunking…



Oh, the horror. Saturday was party day… and G and I have remembered why we never throw parties.

Despite weeks of planning, and getting up at 6am, I somehow managed to take too long to prepare the food and stuff all of the kids’ lunch boxes. Then we had parking issues and arrived at the venue heinously late, with hardly any time to set up the room before little people started arriving.

Suffice to say, the first 20 mins were an omnishambles, saved by the kindness of friends who rampaged around the room with me, throwing decorations at the walls (sod the no blu-tac rule), laying out the buffet and inflating balloon animals while G got on with the essential business of mixing and doling out Pimms – not to mention returning home to collect the cake and everything else that we’d forgotten to bring.

Having said all of that – from the point of view of the kids, I think it probably went rather swingingly, not least because the entertainer was worth her weight in gold, taking charge of the horde and holding them transfixed while the rest of us were having minor meltdowns around the edges of the room.

Two hours later, after party games, parachute, lunch and a confused biblical scene in which 17 microbes crowded around the Noah’s Ark cake with outstretched hands as if it were the feeding of the five thousand (god bless the dad who took charge of the cake serving business), they each trotted off home with a party bag and a balloon on a stick. Never underestimate the appeal of a party bag to a 3 year old.

I’m afraid I was too distracted and frazzled to take any decent quality pics – but here are the least blurry of my shots…

That night, lying in bed, G and I had the following little convo…

“You know how you don’t like parties very much?”
“And how I don’t like parties very much either?”
“Well… given that James is our son, do you think it’s possible that he didn’t entirely *love* his party?”
“Umm, yes. I wondered the same thing.”
“Maybe we won’t bother next year”
“God, yes!”
“What were we thinking?”


Zoo Day! This was the day that I’d most looked forward to. The blessed relief of hopping on a train and going somewhere fun. Before we left, we played with some leftover party props…

Then we went up town and hit the zoo, via a glorious walk through Regents Park. I think the kidlets had a great day – at least I certainly hope so, considering the eye-watering entry fee.

Some of the animals seemed to have more space than I remembered from my last visit many moons ago. A possible side effect of the fact that they haven’t got any elephants or rhinos any more? We managed to distract Jimmy from the lack of elephants by pointing out the Warthogs (a pair of Pumbaas!) and the Meerkats (a whole army of Timons!).

The day included only minor squabbles over who got to ride the scooter and at least one illicit free ride on a carousel.

Afterwards, having starved them for most of the day, we lugged them back to Richmond for dinner in Giraffe where Nat’s incredibly patient other half had been waiting for ages. Here Helena and James indulged their shared passion for fish and chips and Ben got an enormous pile of sausages.

To round off the weekend, two little helpers came with me to water my mini-allotment. I gave them a watering can each and found myself thinking, fondly, that this might be the nicest and most spontaneously fun activity of our entire weekend. Never mind parties and zoos – what’s better than running around with watering cans on a sunny evening?

Now I think that it is high time to put the microbe on a ‘treat diet’ before he turns into an over-entitled little monster. (I refer you to this diagram). Simple pleasures only for a while…  games of snap, jigsaws, trips to the allotment and sojourns in the cupboard-under-the-stairs. (We shall not mention the fact that the next few weeks happen to include two weekends away with family…followed by our holiday!)

Well that felt like an update and a half.  Now I’d better go away and have some dinner.


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