Saturday, 27 August 2011

"The Shed" (Not To Be Confused With Bestselling Novel 'The Shack')

One day in and 'the Shed' is already expanding again (sigh)...

Lest you think I was exaggerating my distress over the whole 'cleaner incident' the other day, let me just make one thing clear.


Perhaps there are women out there who are quite happy to potter about in a messy, toy-strewn creche - I mean home - complete with freshly laundered pants drying on radiators and the contents of last night's supper on the kitchen floor.  But I am not one of them (despite the alarming frequency with which my home resembles the aforementioned hell hole).

Mess makes me depressed.  It always has.  My mother still tells the story of how when I was a little girl I was often to be found in her walk-in closet arranging her myriad of shoes into perfect rows of paired up prettiness.  That's just who I am.

So you can imagine how distressing it is living in a predominantly male household where 'tidiness' comes right after 'must remember to empty dishwasher' and 'replace toilet roll' in order of importance.

And fair enough I suppose.  What four and seven year old boys are going to take delight in helping keep a room clean?  (Not unless I can magic myself into some sort of all singing and dancing modern day Mary Poppin's figure complete with requisite singing mice...or is that Cinderella?)

And the husband of course has little if any interest in our home outside the dining room, which he has pretty much taken over as his 'shed'.  We jokingly (lately with slightly less mirth and more annoyance on my part) refer to it as such because it's where all his STUFF (and believe me, for a guy, he has a LOAD of stuff) ends up:  various guitars, electronic equipment, random bicycle parts, tool kits, commemorative knick knacks (three beer festival pint glasses anyone?), empty tea cups, odd socks, old hard drives, cameras, shoes, get the picture.

Yesterday with a zeal which surprised even me, (second trimester anyone?) I ventured into the 'Room of Doom' (more on that later) grabbed the biggest box I could find, tore down the stairs and proceeded to downsize all the husbands possessions I could see into said box.  With a pride I haven't experienced since finally mastering the world's yummiest lemon and poppyseed loaf, I proudly stepped back and gazed happily at my handiwork.  Result!  I had my beloved dining room back and now instead of a shed masquerading as a dining room, I realised that I had magically compressed said shed into a 12 x 16 inch container.  Brilliant.

(Now, regarding the 'Room of Doom', it's actually a third bedroom masquerading as yet another indoor shed.  All manner of things lost, forgotten and missing can be found inside.  Generally I find that keeping the door shut allows me to believe that it doesn't exist and causes no real anxiety when I pass.  So for all intents and purposes at present we live in a rather spacious two-bed home.  Suits me.  I wouldn't be surprised if one day many months from now I open it to find squatters residing inside, or someone having a car boot sale out the window...but I digress)

The husband is less than impressed (okay, downright offended) that his 'shed' is no more and that all his 'play things' (ie. most important things in the world) have been crammed into a green plastic storage box.  He does not share my glee at being able to see, let alone use our lovely Habitat hardwood dining table again, or allowing the children to start up play dates again on account of not being horrified of their parents entering our home.

The irony is that I have way more STUFF than the husband.  I can't even admit to myself let alone the world at large, how many pairs of shoes I own, lovely leather bags I have hidden away, armfuls of jewelry and scarves I possess, or fabulous clothes I have squirrelled away. But (and this is a big but) I am an expert 'stasher'.  You should see me fill a suitcase.  I learned this amazing skill from my father - making room where this is none.  There is a science to it honestly.  It's a bit like 3-D life size 'Jenga'.

So I've told him that either he gets more clever about stashing his stuff out of sight, or he better get used to living out of a box.  

Either that or we have to buy a bigger place (with a cellar-like dungeon which he can use to house his many bicycles, computers, guitars and contents of his imaginary 'shed').

I reckon he'll get used to the box.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

"If Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness...What Does That Make Us?"

Like butter wouldn't melt right?...WRONG
I was so excited today.  After literally weeks of trying to secure a new cleaner to help me keep this place in a state that would discourage the breeding of small insects and animals, I finally managed to hound down a lovely young girl named Olga.

She came recommended from a website, and it took me literally days of thinly disguised pleading and text-begging to pin her down to this initial visit.  I fear this shall be her last.

Not only is she still cleaning (we've just rounded the four hour mark here...three is standard in these parts), but she's having to do so amidst the din of screaming, feral little boys armed with Nerf Blasters...who, I might add, have, for the last few hours, been taking aim at her pretending she's 'the enemy'.

Before Olga came today I spent three (count 'em...three) solid hours running around 'pre-cleaning' the place in anticipation of her arrival.  But it wasn't my normal frantic scouring, tidying and wiping.  No, I couldn't do it properly because then there would be nothing left for her to do.  But at the same time I had to get it into an 'clean-ish' state (I was aiming for around 75%) so as not to repel her and increase the likelihood that she stayed with us for awhile and didn't develop some mysterious illness or fake pregnancy around week 3 which concluded her services with us.

As it turns out, I very much doubt she'll darken our doorway again anyway.  Not after today.  (Oh why oh why didn't I hold off and ask her to come when the monsters were at school in a few weeks?  And why did they choose today of all days to act out like savages?  Anyone would think that I had been feeding them E-number rich blue smarties all morning in preparation...)

Inexplicably they have both insisted on going trouser-less today and have been running around in just their pants.  It's been futile trying to forcibly dress them as the trousers have been shorn as soon as my back has been turned.  They have been involved in hardcore role play, screaming orders at each other and yelling '"Attack!  Attack!" every time poor Olga has come into view.  I struggle to think of which television cartoon or show has inspired this 'Lord of the Flies' behaviour today...but to be safe I think I'm banning channel 72 for awhile.

That way we will have blessed silence for the coming we sit...the three of us...watching the place gradually gather in dust, crumbs and general debris, until it resembles its 'pre-Olga' state.  And I shall go online shopping and spend the money I would have given to dear Olga, on something pretty and pointless.

And why the heck not I ask you?

As soon as Olga catches sight of the hallway she just finished hoovering minutes ago (thanks Dumpie for your inspired idea of sprinkling finely-grained play sand onto the floor - thus turning a bog standard hallway into an indoor sand pit) it's going to be some head down incoherent mumbling about getting in touch again, followed by my shoving the contents of my wallet into her outstretched hand...followed by her pressing 'Delete' under my phone number as she hurries off down the street....
The perfect way to ensure a new cleaner doesn't return to your home ever again...

Monday, 22 August 2011

"Wilderness Festival...Rocked"

Dumps ready to take on Wilderness Festival 2011

It's been a week since we've been back from Wilderness Festival, and still I find myself thinking fondly back to our time there and wondering whether parts of it were just a dream (clean toilets!  that smelled good! Even on the Saturday night!  I mean come on...).

Things had gotten off to an ominous start before we even left home.  As the husband was packing the rental car he noticed that he was being watched rather too intently by a local 'hoodie' (sorry, I mean local youth who may or may not have been a delinquent involved in the recent riots, and who happened to be adorned in a tracksuit top with the hood concealing most of his face) standing on the street corner.  As he brought another load to the car he mentioned in passing that he wouldn't be surprised if we got broken into while we were away.

Well that was all I needed to affirm my own uneasy instincts, and what followed was a frantic half hour delay as I ran around the house gathering up assorted laptops, ipads, and random electronic gadgets and sliding them under sofas, whilst simultaneously grabbing handfuls of jewellry only to end up stashing them in entirely obvious places that practically screamed 'LOOK HERE'.  Finally, despite envisioning some local teenager adorned in all my rings and bracelets, we attempted to leave (a mere three hours behind schedule at this point) when suddenly, half out the door, it dawned on me that we didn't yet have contents insurance.  

What followed was (strictly in retrospect) a comical race to procure one of the stashed laptops, followed by me being locked out of my account with the wrong password, an increasingly irate husband,  one child parked lazily in the pushchair in the entrance hall and the other pacing the streets outside with his bear talking quietly to himself, and the frantic typing in of facts and figures (how on earth am I supposed to know when this place was built?!) resulting in the signing up for a year of expensive contents insurance set to become in effect immediately.  'Hoodies' be damned :)

Two hours later as we neared the Oxfordshire destination it became apparent that the husband would be setting up the tent in the dark.  He was not well pleased about this.  Egg kept up a moaning monologue from the back seat that he was sick after having gulped down several of his beloved cheese and pickle sarnies and having long since abandoned his 'Sea Bank Sickness Bracelets' (which Dumpie wore contentedly in his sleep) I had the sinking feeling that this was not going to end well.

Sure enough, in the parking queue to the festival entrance, Egg threw open the door and jumped out, proceeding to projectile vomit all over the side of the road - in full view of the stopped festival goers behind us.  I jumped out (momentarily repulsed and necessitating a prompting from the husband), stood in the drizzling rain and began to question the wisdom of a family camping adventure in my pregnant state. 

I'll tell you what though.  The moment we walked into the festival, welcomed by funny, laid back gate staff, through gorgeous grass and amongst happy smiling people, that all changed.  No queuing in the mud, no rude staff, no jostling drunkards knocking over tired children.  It was all simple, easy, clean and organised.  I was quietly impressed.

Once inside, the husband took Egg off to scout for a good camping spot and Dumps and I sat down on our luggage and people watched.  (At this point, if I could go back, I would have reminded the husband that regarding toilets, NEAR was good and FAR was bad.  Considering that it's not uncommon for a pregnant person to visit the loo on average a total of five times a night, this perhaps should have fared higher on the 'things to look for in a good camping spot' rating chart.  oh well...)

At other festivals (I'm thinking Glastonbury and The Big Chill here), if you are not one of the first people in, you end up having to camp in awkward spots, virtually on top of others, and it's not uncommon to have your entrance face the rear of another's tent.  Not so at Wilderness.  The family camping area was not only green, vast and spacious, but the giant trees scattered around had lovely fairy lights dangling from branches, turning the whole area into something out of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.  I kid you not.

Leaving the husband to get on with the task of putting up our shambolic tent (more on that later) I took the boys on an exploratory journey through the grounds, excited at all the cool tents, art installations and live music playing everywhere.  It truly felt magical, and I was loving the fact that there were enough people (3000 odd it turns out) to make it feel like an exciting gathering, but not too many (like 190,000 at Glastonbury) to make you feel like you were in a rather hectic rural city.  People were laughing, dining, drinking, strolling, dancing, dressed up, and there were enough parents and children about to reassure me that I wasn't a bad mother for not having the monsters already tucked up in bed somewhere - but not enough to make me feel like I was in a giant creche.

An hour later as we rocked up back at the tent, the husband stood sipping a beer with his new mate.  His new mate had apparently taken pity on the husband, watching him struggle for ages with two wrongly coded, mistakenly mismatched tent poles, before taking pity on him and climbing out of bed to come help construct the rest of the tent.  Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers (especially booze toting ones).  Turns out he was a keen cyclist as well, and the two sat comfortably in the dark, sipping whiskey and speaking 'bike-anese' whilst I begged off to bed and fell asleep in a cozy heap.

Wilderness Festival felt like a couple of festival aficionados had gotten together and decided to start the best festival ever - eliminating all the horrible parts and adding all the coolest elements they could think of.  Turns out I was not far off.  

Gone were the disgusting unhygienic toilets which are often a source of freak show revulsion at festivals ("You saw what in there?!).  I personally have been known to flirt with dehydration over a weekend in order to limit my visits to the onsite pits of hell to as few as possible.  If it means I lie about feeling mildly ill and lacking in energy so be it.  Not so here.  The toilets were not only cleaned regularly, they smelled good(!), had working antibacterial spray gel inside and always (with one exception) had full rolls of toilet paper!  On the last night I even found a set of loos that were mirrored and carpeted and wouldn't have been out of place in a pub dining room.  It blew my mind.

The other thing they got so right was the Boutique Babysitting on offer.  With day or night slots (7:30pm - 2:00 a.m.) your little ones, for a fee, could be taken into a mini-festival of their own and cared for by loads of staff while you got on with the business of good is that?  Finally - someone looking out for the poor parents, and realising that life as we knew it (and loved it) doesn't end with the onset of tiny pitter-pattering feet.  Amen.

I haven't even gotten to the best part:  THE FOOD.  You know how after being at a festival you feel positively ill from all the junk food you've imbibed?  Well at Wilderness, they had taken care to choose decent food venders and as a result I had the pleasure of partaking in delicious cream teas, homemade pasty's and soup...not to mention THE BEST COFFEE i have ever had in the UK.  Go figure.  Proper luxe gourmet lattes in the morning couldn't be beat, and if you fancied a picnic by the gorgeous manmade lake (I kid you not) you could simply purchase a tapas selection of cheese, olives and other gourmet was inspired.  

Not only that, but each of the three days a giant banquet was held in a huge white marquee, where for £27 per person you could dine on a sumptuous several course gourmet feast prepared by top chefs, complete with banqueting tables, wine, and serving staff.  It all looked and felt terribly decadent.  (Sadly the tickets to this sold out before we could get our hands on some, but next time it's a definite.)

But about the lake: there was free boating, swimming and general cavorting amongst the trees on shore whilst indulging in glasses of refreshing Pimm's if one wanted.  Honestly it felt like being at someone's posh stately home for a big weekend party.  That was the vibe.  Rolling green hills straight out of 'storybook land' spread out on all sides of the gorgeous stately home.  The main musical stage was decorated in woven twigs, perfectly blending in with the theme of Wilderness and there were plenty of places to sit and chill out if you didn't feel like plopping yourself on the ground to listen to the likes of Laura Marling, Toots and the Maytals, and Antony and the Johnsons.

On the Friday night there was a Secret Garden Party in a hidden location in the woods, complete with bunting, giant campfire and amazing sound system which went until the wee hours of the morning - ending in an explosion of fireworks.  On the Saturday night there was an exciting Masked Ball which also went on till the wee hours, and watching everyone dressed up in outrageous costumes and resplendent in exotic masks throughout the evening was something to behold.  There were several places where you could dress up and borrow fanciful costumes, some of which were for sale if one so desired to take their 'new look' back into real life.  Hats, waistcoats, bustles, gowns, masks and assorted outlandish costumes were there for the taking.  They had it all.

The monsters loved their time at the festival.  They made loads of friends, loved dancing around to thei music, and enjoyed hours of free entertainment in the Kid's Field (circus shows, craft and drama workshops, even a place where they could examine bugs close up in microscopes and handle real snakes and lizards).  Over the course of the weekend they developed a rather severe hot chocolate addiction, but came out of it feeling like they'd had a great adventure - Egg even having a go at walking on a tightrope and learning some magic tricks.  Simply put, they had a blast (and the husband and I got to indulge ourselves with gourmet lattes on the green grass whilst poring over the weekend papers a fair distance away...ah bliss).

Frankly, I don't have a bad word to say about Wilderness Festival.  Not a one.  In fact my only horrid moment was brought about by my own foolishness.  The toilets were so clean (yes, I know I'm going on about it, but seriously I'm still blown away) that when I took the boys to use them for the first time I mistook a set of urinals for a hand washing latrine and tried to get the boys to follow my example of rubbing the big yellow chunks of what I mistakenly took for hand soap onto their wet hands.  (I think at some point my hormonally-addled brain cottoned on to the fact that the 'soap' simply wasn't lathering up, and moreover, the suddenly distinctive acrid smell alerted me to my horrid faux pas).

Anyway, if that was the worst thing to happen at a festival that's something I can totally live with.  Not only are we definitely going next year, but this time we're going to drag all our friends with us as well...and anyone reading this would do well to follow suit - kiddies or no kiddies.  It's an incredible weekend with something for everyone, and can even please the fussiest of campers.  Is it a bit posh?  Only in the best way possible:  no drug zombies wondering around at dawn, crashing into your tent and freaking out the kids with wasted eyes.  No bands of drunken yobs puking up all over the place and no needing to sidestep passed out lasses with last night's knickers in a twist.  

Just an up for it, cool all ages crowd of people who want to have fun but don't necessarily feel you have to be filthy, wrecked and steeped in last night's vomit to be able to say you had a blinder of a time.

And like all good festivals, there are enough hidden delights on site that you can't possibly sample them all in a weekend.  Whether it's gastronomic delights, breathtaking scenery, or having a daily swim in the gorgeous lake, where it's possible to wash the daily grime off before dipping into an outdoor hot tub, having a massage at the spa or sipping a glass of civilised wine as the sun goes down....

Anyway you look at it, Wilderness Festival rocked.  And I feel so lucky to have sampled it on it's inaugural run.  Bet this one goes and goes...

Proper GOURMET a festival...(now that's what i call heaven)

The boys get to grips with their morning smoothies

Egg gets hit on by a wee lass who will minutes later sidle over to Dumpie and steal his biscuits...little minx!

Big one the night before...

I wasn't joking about the breathtaking scenery....

Egg contemplates an art(ful) installation....

"Mama and Dada...I WILL go to the (Masked) Ball!"

Festival Die-Hards...(sponsored apparently by Gap)

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

"So Four Are To Become Five (Gulp)"

Me in all my festival glory (Wilderness Festival August 2011)
The husband and I had an interesting exchange of words on the drive up to Wilderness Festival, brought on by some lovely well-meaning messages and calls of congratulations as his phone starting beeping whilst traversing the late rush hour traffic of London.

"What?" he asked.  "Did you drop the bomb...on your blog??"

(gulp) "Uh...yeah.  What's the big deal?  We discussed this and you agreed."

Apparently he did not remember the discussion in question, and was none too pleased that I had issued forth such massive news on the blogosphere without letting him know exactly how and when I was doing so.

"Well it's not like it's our first child or anything...I mean it's our's more casual no?" I offered.

Apparently not.

You see, it's the funniest thing.  I've always been like this.  No matter how big a deal something is to me at the start (like buying a new outfit you've been lusting after for weeks and simply MUST have - which after a wearing or two ends up strewn at the back of your closet), once I get used to it I become very laissez faire about things (which makes the fact that we're about to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary nothing short of extraordinary...).

Anyway, I'm just very laid back and casual about the whole 'having another baby' thing.  Maybe it's because I've done this twice before and it feels like no big deal, or because it's still months away (five and a bit to be exact), or because I have the gruelling 'swelling up like a star of Supersize Me' period to come and THAT is what is causing me anxiety if anything.

Babies are adorable, precious and truthfully not too much trouble until they reach the mouthing back stage.  Besides, the monsters are old enough now that they will be of some help I'm sure (well Egg will be - Dumpie remains to be seen) and as Dumpie is starting full time school in September, it's not like I'll be saddled with three little ones underfoot all day every day (whew!).

I think it's been timed perfectly to be honest.  If this had happened any sooner it would have been a disaster with the sibling dynamics as Dumpie continues to persist in referring to himself as 'Baby Dumps' - besides being more prolific than the average twelve year old.   As it is, he isn't going to take terribly well to being usurped by something smaller and in need of more constant cuddles than himself.

Of course the question on everyones lips is, "Do you know the sex?"  No, we do not.  Though we wait with baited breath to find out in four weeks or so.

Will it be a much-longed for girl to help right the imbalance of testosterone and provide a calming influence on our very loud, energy ridden household?  Or will it be another boy child (we do make them rather well after all) destined to be groomed as Dumpie's little man servant until he leaves home?

Hmmm...only time will tell.  But in the meantime I have pressing issues.  With no real nausea to speak of - only sheer CONSTANT exhaustion (which shows no signs of abating) - my biggest dilemma at present is how on earth I'm supposed to get through the next several months with my once fabulous wardrobe drying up by the day.

I'm in the unhappy stage of not looking obviously pregnant per se, but am sporting a beer belly of sorts - looking like I've been boozing it up at my local whilst eating all the pies in sight.  Great.

Sayonara skinny jeans and cheekbones...hello big girls blouses and water retention.

(Note:  I have to devote another whole blog post to our festival it was SO amazing and we all had such a brilliant time, that even Dumpie deciding to wee surreptitiously on the husband's leg underneath the table where we sat indulging in afternoon tea, did little to dampen the enthusiasm.  I think.)

No bath or showers for three days...yippee!

Friday, 12 August 2011

" 'Tramping' Not 'Glamping' "

Dada, Egg and soon to be tent-mates (God help me)
For anyone not familiar with the term 'Glamping' - it's basically 'posh camping'.  Instead of trying to erect a threadbare £19.99 Argos tent in blustery British summer weather, you get to sleep in an already erected Tee-Pee, or Pop-Up Boutique Tent, or some such.  There are usually warm showers, decent caterers, and the toilets are less 'trench warfare'- more 'petrol station' (not unlike the loo in our beloved abode in India - which was such a shambles that a good friend who visited got caught out taking souvenir pictures of it...but I digress)

Though I can scarcely believe we're doing this, in a matter of hours we shall be taking the monsters to The Wilderness Festival on a beautiful estate in Oxfordshire.  By all accounts it looks gorgeous, and there is a lake, swimming, boating, a spa, 5 course banquets, and even boutique babysitting where you can drop your 'I love them but I don't like them right now' rugrats off for up to six hours of kiddie festival fun while you either bunk off back to your tent for a decadent nap, or get up to no good with your significant other somewhere else on site (Masked Ball anyone?).

However (and this is a BIG however), we have done this once before - at The Big Chill Festival three years ago - and it unmitigated D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R.

To be fair, fun was had, but strictly during daytime hours.  As soon as the sun fell from the sky, so did any hope of surviving the coming nocturnal night from hell, as our normally darling little Dumps was transformed into a screaming demon from hell.

(Dumpie, as you may or may not recall, did not take to camping very well.  In fact he hated it.  A light sleeper at the best of times, he would wake shortly after midnight and spend the next several hours before dawn issuing forth with the most torturous screams such that offers of 'Do you want some milk for your baby?' from disgruntled strangers in nearby tents, was easily translated into "Are you torturing that poor child?!  Should we be getting the police in?!")  It was enough to traumatise us to such extent that we've never attempted festival camping since.

So you see...even though Dumpie is a few years older now, indeed nearly the age Egg was when we last went camping - and he was fine - Dumpie is NOT Egg.  Not even close.

Dumps has already developed a taste for the finer things in life.  He likes his utensils to be sparkling clean or he won't use them...tables must be shiny and devoid of spills (even if he made them!) before he will deem to put his plate down...he will NOT sit on a toilet that is dirty in any way.  OOPS.  That could be trouble...big trouble.  Wait until he gets a look in at the festival toilets....there is NO way he is going to deem them fit for use (a fair point) - so does that mean he's going to spend the weekend soiling himself and his little Gap skinny jeans as a makeshift porto-potty?!  Urgh.  I hope not...but yet I can see it (sigh).

It's been a crazy week what with the riots - one of the worst just down the road from here.  Tuesday night I was upstairs in bed watching the breaking news on telly, idly wondering why the husband wasn't doing the same, or indeed even in bed at 2:30am.  Turns out it's because he was down at the riots of course - filming scenes of hooliganism on his little nikon and trusting his big red bicycle to transport him safely home through the skirmish.

I don't know why I was surprised.  Of course he was there.  One of the benefits to living in a tall skinny home is that when you're on the top floor (lately more and more my escape lovely balconied bedroom) you cannot hear what is happening on the lower floors.  Usually this is grand - especially when the monsters are watching 'The Octonauts' at ear splitting volume downstairs - but in certain cases it makes it tremendously easy for the husband to slip out for whole evenings of frolicking of which I have no idea about.  Oh well.

Nonetheless, with local shops still boarded up and the whole area feeling a touch too 'inner city' at the moment, it's not a bad thing to be getting out of the city, to walk amongst beautiful green farm land and get back to nature for a few days.

I hope this is a good idea and that i'm not being totally delusional - which is always a risk.  Are we 'the camping sort'??  I mean we have two boys so I guess by proxy we are but...hmmm...I can't help but wonder whether twenty-fours or so from now will see me standing outside a set of loo's, trying to cajole Dumpie inside as opposed to soiling his very last pair of clean trousers.  In the rain.  While the husband is off watching 'Toots & The Maytals' in a field somewhere...oblivious to his wife's mental anguish.  His PREGNANT wife's mental anguish.

(Yep, you heard it correctly folks...and on that bombshell...) be continued...

Monday, 8 August 2011

"How To Make A Mama Cry"

Tomorrow the husband starts his first day of gainful employment in over a year and a half.

Anyone would think he'd be sad, given that this signifies the official end of our "Adventurous Year And A Bit Away," but actually, I think he's kind of relieved.

This being home 24/7 (mysterious last minute bike trips and music festivals aside) has really gotten to him (well to the both of us truth be told).  I think he is seriously relishing his swish out the door every morning at 8:30am, knowing that he's a free man for the next ten hours.

I on the other hand am not.  I am like a microcosm of Britain right now - what with all the cuts in public service funding.  I'm like a care worker for young delinquents who has just gotten her workforce slashed in half.

From now on any arson attempts, kitchen blender mishaps, deliberate property damage and public scenes of parental humiliation are MY problem - and my problem alone (sigh).

Yes, I know there are thousands of mothers in Britain who deal with their children alone every day while their husbands conduct meetings, lunch in Soho establishments and meet up with mates and colleagues in central London pubs after work...only are they raising a four year old terrorist and his seven year old accomplice?

In all fairness, Egg isn't so much a handful as an enabler.  He is (unfortunately) talked into all manner of mischievousness by his younger brother, and due to the forceful persuasiveness and threatening tactics of Dumpie, he honestly appears perplexed when I confront him with that good old "But you should KNOW better Egg - you're the older brother!" Anyone would think that he had no choice but to go along with Dumpie's latest naughty shenanigans.

Take last week for example.  I was climbing upstairs with my umpteenth load of folded laundry, and my nose crinkled in disbelief at the smell of acrid smoke permeating the entire second floor.   I looked around for open windows, wondering if one of our neighbours were having a bonfire. Then I remembered that we were no longer living in India and the smell of burning rubber and plastic is not terribly common in SW11.

Sure enough I found two little boys huddled over a small flame in the bathroom - burning up the cardboard which forms the centre of the humble domestic toilet roll.  Upon hearing my shriek they dropped the evidence and went scampering down the stairs, but I managed to grab Egg's shirt collar and demanded an explanation.

Truthful to a fault Egg proceeded to unearth all the burnt artifacts they'd had a go on:  a bag of marbles, a piece of a train track, a storybook and a pencil.  He also reluctantly handed over two lighters and confessed that he had caught Dumpie torching things and had been warned that his teddy might be next if he told Mama - but could have a turn lighting things himself if he didn't tell.  Easy choice it seems.

One would have thought I'd be traumatised over this, but truthfully, the previous weekend had proven much more nerve wracking and I suppose that much like growing up in Jerusalem must be like, I'm just getting desensitised to the level of danger that living in our home at present entails.

The husband and I had bid farewell to our friends on the street after a lovely afternoon wandering on the Common.  In what I didn't recognise as a foreboding sign of things to come, we suffered mild embarrassment as we tried to cajole Dumpie from through the letterbox on the street into letting us in our home, after he snuck quickly inside and put the chain lock on the door.

As cute as this was for the first minute or so, it quickly became tiresome and irritating as our friends refused to leave until they knew we were safely inside.  (Do you know how hard it is to whisper threats through a letterbox without tarnishing your reputation as a decent level headed parent to a 'spirited child'?)

We finally bribed/threatened our way in and the husband made like a tornado and was in and out like a flash - zipping off on his bike for a prearranged get together across the city.  His last words were, "I'll probably be really late," or something to that effect.

Now to fully appreciate what followed, you must be provided with the following facts.  Sometime during the previous week the boys had mysteriously dismantled all the doorknobs on the first floor and hidden them.  This was highly irritating to say the least, as more often than not the door wedges were also misplaced and we had to use great big cushions to keep the doors propped open.  (I suspect the boys were just being canny and clever - knowing that by keeping the front room door shut they could sneak telly at all hours undetected.)

Anyway, about an hour after the husband had left, the boys had already eaten and were watching a movie in the front room whilst I finished off my meal in a leisurely fashion before bath time.  I was aware of some muffled banging and screams, but of course this sort of clatter doesn't really even register on my mangled maternal mind anymore.  It's like white noise.

I finally got up to get the bedtime ritual started and threw open the door of the front room (using a pair of kitchen scissors I might add) to find that the boys had been locked in there for ages!  Egg jumped into my arms and started kissing me he was so relieved.

Dumpie on the other hand took the scissors out of my hand, tossed them back out the door then slammed it shut as I (in slow motion) lunged for the door just a fraction too late and watched it hopelessly click shut with a bang as I dropped Eggie and wiggled my fingers pointlessly against the door frame.

"Hahahaha Mama!" laughed Dumpie.  "Now we is ALL locked in here!"

Indeed we were.

With no scissors or any other implements to use to escape, it would seem that whilst my husband spent the next several hours sampling vino in a trendy wine bar in Hackney, the monsters and I would be sitting out the next eight or so hours in our front room.  Without any water or food.  Or toilet facilities.

As I frantically glanced across the room I ascertained the grim reality of our situation.  I eyed up the hearth and wondered who would be the first to relieve themselves there.  My throat already felt dry and parched. I thought longingly of my ice cold Diet Pepsi languishing in the kitchen...right beside my  mobile phone.

I couldn't help it.  I sank to the floor in defeat and started sobbing.

Egg came up to me and started rubbing my back, soothing me saying, "Don't worry Mama - I'll get us out of here - we'll think of something."  Dumpie came up, bent down with his little arms behind his back and peered into my teary eyes.

"Mama is crying...Mama is locked in," he uttered decisively, then (wisely) moved out of reach before I could throttle him in a moment of insane frustration and anger.

After almost an hour of tearing the (for once spotless) room up for anything to help us magically unlock the door, I gave up and resigned myself to a night of hell.  Eggie, bless him, refused to give up.

"Mama you said that you should never give up when you have a problem...remember?"  Ah, the poor naive boy.  Didn't he realise that sometimes giving up is but a stage on the way to acceptance and inevitability?

But turns out the boy was right.  After persuading me to move our ancient and heavy corner sofa several inches, we unearthed half a pencil, a random silicone earphone bud and some unidentifiable crumbs (earlier the husband had been charged with hoovering the front room in preparation for our guests).

Somehow...miraculously (and don't think I wasn't fervently praying aloud as I did so - making all sorts of plea bargains with God) I managed, over the next fifteen minutes or so, (despite having no engineering degree) to construct those two items into something that was able to click us to freedom.

The next day when the husband sauntered in during the early hours of dawn, I woke up (albeit from the comfort of our glorious king size bed and NOT our alcatraz of a front room downstairs) and sleepily glared at him.  He had no idea of the ballistic scene he might have walked into, had he done a decent job of hoovering up the day before.