Our house is a Star Wars house

If there's one way to affirm or have your own private thoughts on any family film denied, it's to show them to your kids, who have had no background noise, no hype and no understanding of the apparent cultural significance of any 'old' films that you adore.

I have written in the past about how much they both loved the Errol Flynn Robin Hood film within a couple of minutes of the speculative viewing being on screen ("Don't turn it off!!!"). They're not so hot on Laurel and Hardy talkies, which turn out, now I look at them, to have a hell of alot of Tom and Jerry-esque cartoon violence in, which I would have simply accepted at the time, given that Tom and Jerry were children's TV staples. In these C-Beebies driven days, where you have to pay extra to get cartoon channels (so we don't), there is no concept of cartoon violence. So it jars.

After Errol Flynn came Harry Potter. The two of them gorged themselves on the first film, which I have to admit, with all the clunky acting from the kids, which I can forgive, there's n'ere a note wrong in the whole enterprise. It's a delight. Harry Potter 2 ie: the Chamber of Secrets... now that's proper scary. They're both a lot more wary of it. Regardless of Nor having read on until she has reached her own natural stopping point at about half way through the Half Blood Prince (Nora! it's < muffled voice >!). A huge bloody great snake pursuing Harry and the SPIDERS! Good God.

But something else entered our world in between the two films: "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope".

Having to sit through those three films with the kids has been fantastic. They really *were* great. Exciting, timeless, emotional, epic, legendary. There is so much wrong with them but on a basic level, the simplicity of the stories in each film keep the children gripped. It is clear who is good, who is evil. There is no doubt, no confusion. Darth Vader wears an insane shiny PVC black suit; Luke and Leia wear white tunics. It is that simple. I already feel slightly jealous of friends whose kids aren't old enough yet for the lovely excitement of watching the films with their kids for the first time. For every clunky line there's a shot like the stunning long shot of Vader's head as he wrestles with his thoughts, watching his son being killed. It's a crazy shot. The man's wearing a complete head mask, and yet, with that brilliant music, the angst really is visible. Nor was devastated that Vader died after his redemption, and cried hard empathetic tears at his ritual funeral. Heady stuff.

The kids being seven and four watching "Return of the Jedi" has helped me come to terms with it. It makes so much more sense, seen in quick succession after the first two. "The Empire Strikes Back" had Nor in bits, and I'm not surprised. My recollection of Jedi was of a slightly embarrassing, twee film with a bunch of cute furry toys in, which didn't work and was all a bit daft. Well, yes, there are cute furry toys in, but it holds together pretty well with the action parts of the film, which are suitably epic.

...and so, having watched the three films - and by that, I mean the films that Lucas revisited with CGI and made some agonisingly dreadful changes to, the fact that the first three films exist in the world - that it's possible to find out who this Annakin Skywalker was, plus the fact that today's Star Wars is all about the clone wars, man, we had to watch "The Phantom Menace".

Yesterday, I showed the children the original trailer and I remembered, wistfully, the desperate downloading of two versions of that original trailer: one, the official one but the other, a rough and ready video from a cinema recorded by some guy. The *incredible* hairs on the back of the neck excitement at the gorgeous reworking of the Lucasfilm logo, all sparkling and precious and that roar from the cinema audience... I can still remember watching it, with some other folk, all clustered around a work desk, wanting to clutch each other, grinning like mad people... and here were Nora and James watching the same trailer saying "Who's that, is that Annakin? Is that Padme? Wow, that's fast... oh, is that the Emperor?" all excited questions which I refused to answer. I watched their wide eyed faces. "Again! Can we see it again?" Oh yes. And the debates we had at the time it was released sprang to mind. We'd forgotten, this was a film for kids, just like the originals. We were expecting too much. Well maybe watched through the lenses of childhood, it might not be quite the disjointed, terrible disaster area that I remembered?

Here is a measure of how good Episode 1 is: Nora has almost no idea what went on in the film, beyond the extreme basics of the Annakin journey. James nearly fell to sleep and was bored mindless. It was only sleepy inertia that kept him from leaving the room to come and read a book. They *loved* that C3PO and R2 were in it, and they seemed to desperately cling to any scene they were in. Particularly C3PO, who even with the limited script he was given, still had enormous warmth of character through Anthony Daniels' fantastic work. They blanked Ja Ja Binks completely. They just didn't care. The whole Padme/Amidala confused mess was totally lost on them, and they had no idea what the hell was going on there.

Speaking as the adult interpreter, having now seen this film for the second time only (that's how much I loathed it first time round), more than ten years ago I was gaping at how dreadful the film was. Sitting with the kids laid bare the horrors that awaited and made me cringe. The beginning of the film, you're thrown in to a confused, distancing trade dispute which could only mean absolutely nothing to the kids. Who were these things that looked a bit like sea creatures, that hadn't been in any of the first three films? Who, even worse, spoke with totally featureless faces in really heavy accents? Ah, here's the Emperor... and it's not explained that he isn't. Liam Neeson is magnificent. All heart. A real actor trying his best to make his character real. Ewan MacGregor is so wrapped up in getting his terrible, awful accent right that he seems almost entirely distant from his part. It's like watching a cardboard cut out. The kids really didn't like his character at all, and what a dreadful thing, for the film to do that to the legend that is the wonderful, all-heart decency of Alec Guinness's older man? For a short while, when the film moves to Tatooine, it makes sense. It makes sense because the film suddenly becomes small, no huge vistas and complicated business. Just the story of a little boy (and Annakin is played really well. Very sweetly). Both Nora and James were totally engaged throughout this sequence, including the pod race - my lord, they loved the pod race. They loved the Padme character's smiley loveliness and slightly awkward spikeyness. I realise now, one of the reasons these sequences work is that Ewan MacGregor isn't in them!

On Tatooine, the overdoses of cgi weren't in fact, as much of a problem. The characterisation of the slave owner isn't too bad, and the nasty pod racer guy... a lot of thought went in to their physical shapes. Nora and James 'got' these two completely. After the characters leave this planet though, a whole mess of blank faces for quite a while. Ultimately, complete non-interest until the big showdown with Darth Maul. But even in that, I was left thinking in astonishment - what the hell was the business with the red force field doors? Never explained, they simply let it happen as a shambolic answer to the question: How do we separate Obi Wan from Qui-Gon Jinn? (why the complicated name with such short screen time? If I asked the kids, they would have no idea what Neeson's name was). No exposition, no desperate droid led fight to take the shield doors down... *anything* would have been better than the stupidity of the half solution. And yes, Maul does look fantastic, pacing up and down, waiting. And yes, the fight is *fantastic*. So, the film claws back a little something and the kids are re-engaged, albeit briefly. Only for that engagement to be squandered at the badly handled Annakin-in-space-accidentally-blows-up-the-big-ship episode. Sigh. They really didn't understand what the hell was going on.

I haven't really mentioned the horror that is Jar Jar Binks and his race, have I? I can remember the jaw dropping mortification in the cinema, in Streatham in a majority black audience, cringing in my seat at the Rasta accent debacle. But, there's a much more important point to make (although it's very contributory). Binks is not played by a decent actor, and his character fails through a combo of Uncanny Valley-ness but also simply bad scripting, and bad story. He's all over the main characters like a bad rash, gumming up the works with dialogue so superfluous you desperately wish him off the screen. Face it, if the entire underwater race were expunged from the film, would you miss them? The Naboo could easily have been the opposing army in the big fight. Why do we even need these creatures that do nothing but expose the limitations of cgi? Was he supposed to be the main comedy character? Nothing he says is funny. Nothing. His most supposedly amusing scene, where his tongue is numbed and he can't speak? The kids didn't even smile briefly. I'm not simply projecting my adult view, he really does not work. On any level. ask yourself, why does Yoda stand out so fantastically, despite being a model? Why does C3PO? Because they are read by excellent character actors who give them heart. The only impression we're left with for Binks is a garbled accent which must have taken weeks to perfect.

Phew. So. If you look at the difference between the original film and this, the evidence is stark. Lucas ballsed it up. It doesn't work as an adult film; it doesn't work as a kids film. If you sliced back all the tedious trade cobblers and made the film concentrate around the story of Annakin, then yes. A tight hour and a half of an action film that at least might live up to the originals part of the way. You'll notice I haven't even mentioned the explanation of The Force. What. Were. They. Thinking. Blank faces all round at home. Symbionts? What? And the question I ask myself - if we had started watching the films in the 'right' order, ie: started with this film, would the kids have even been interested in watching episode 2? It trades so heavily on the future action, watching these films second is the only thing that makes sense and certainly, it would be the only reason to keep watching, rather than consign this misconceived space opera to the dustbin of time.

I'm quite sad, that it turns out it's really Not Good, still. Somehow, I hoped that in the years since its release it might have somehow matured in to an 'alright' film, from the mess I remembered. I hope the kids don't want to re-watch it but of course they will, because the Annakin story and Neeson somehow hold the creaking ship together. We have the miserable prospect of Parts 2 and 3 to come. 2 was so bad, I have never even seen part 3. Imagine that: Lucas did so much damage to his own vision, I couldn't bear to put myself through the very film in which Annakin turned to the dark side?


Parenting stuff

I have been on such a political "tip" (yo) of late, I have neglected to inform you of the comings and goings of the kids. I apologise to any stalkers out there.

Generally speaking it's all good. James started a gymnastics class given that he spends alot of his time spinning around and jumping off furniture to music. I thought he might as well see if he can learn to spin and jump without cracking his head open. In fact, in the back of my mind I'm wondering if he'd be good at dancing - the proper sort - but he hasn't got the attention span, plus he's not really one for communal 'joining in' type endeavors. He loves attention and achievement, but he likes it on his own terms, not having to perform in front of others to do it. So, gymnastics it is. 

His nursery teacher says his reading's pretty good, wide vocabulary etc. It's extremely difficult for me to guage James' reading in comparison to other boys or children, given that by this age, Nora was reading "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by herself, whereas James is easily bored by the strain of the "aha!" moment not having happened yet. He still has to construct so many words out of sounds in the end he gets fed up and moans that you should be reading to him instead. But, I have to remember, Nora was a bizarre freak child ;)  I know James is ahead. I don't worry about it to be honest. He loves being read to, loves stories, and is getting there in his own time. At some point he'll start reading words back to me of his own volition and things'll start chugging along more quickly.

The fairly interesting thing is that James is streaking ahead in his maths comprehension, apparently. Which makes me realise we haven't got enough around the house to help him. We had a number line for Nor and of course it got ripped along the way. I must get that together. It's rather sweet that so many aspects of him are Mackayish. Stuck is a huge great Irish Hurley body. Heheh. He has my sense of daftness though, along with his sister. I am much proud of that trait. Definitely has origins in my Mother :)

Meanwhile the end of term approaches. A summer stretches ahead with my poor husband desperately thinking up new things for them to do every day. They are (or rather, James is) somewhat less random now though. They are sheperdable. Country days out and such may well be on the agenda.

The kids are all getting  skittish at school. Potentially something that contributed to a particular lad in Nora's class pushing her over in PE so that her face and mouth crashed directly onto the tarmac. I didn't see Nor until the evening at the end of term school disco, weirdly, where she showed me inside her mouth and to be honest it was a bit of a shock. Proper physical damage always makes one think of objective medical photos, somehow. It doesn't look real, or attributable to the person you love. All I can say is that I've not seen a gum injury like it. Luckily it seems relatively superficial but ugh, good god. It still looks horrible. I can state with absolute certainty that her two adult front teeth being only part grown / barely there at all, is the reason why she will still have her own two front teeth and not artificial ones. I'm amazed she didn't lose any. Poor Nora. Awful. That's two nasty 'mouth bang down on the pavement/floor' incidents she's had now in her life. The first killed her front baby tooth and it went grey. I'm just hoping that the mouth's ability to heal itself will keep this from being too awful. That and some antibacterial mouthwash.

And James has learned to play Draughts, and loves it.

That's it for updates!

The Iron Man

James' reading hazily comes more in to focus by the day. If he tries hard he can read whole sentences from his Kipper & Floppy books. More often though he'll flop back and whine that he wants to be read to - as long as I talk him through letter sounds and we construct one or two words per session, I'm not too stressed. He does everything in his own time.

The books he enjoys being read to him are becoming far more complex however. He's starting to really enjoy Pooh stories - much more so than Nora. He's been sitting happily through the Horrid Henry stories since Christmas. Nora was complaining that she'd read all her books and they're all boring, so I picked out The Iron Man from their shelves (repackaged as "The Iron Giant" which is an annoyingly more memorable title), knowing she'sd never looked at it.

As I held the beautiful second hand paperback in my hand, with the name of that wonderful writer on the front, looking at the kids sitting on the bed waiting to read something and looking sceptical, I felt a teary choke in my voice. This was the first time in their lives they were going to hear the story.


And here's the thing. I realised I could barely remember it. The dragon section had totally obliterated itself from my brain and I'd been infected by the delightful, but almost entirely unrelated film, called of course, "The Iron Giant". And another thing, reading Ted Hughes' beautiful words (you have to read it out loud, it's like a feast for your aural senses), I was struck again by something I'm slowly learning as I go along - how different it is being a boy. To a four year old James, this was a wonderful story. A massive, elemental metal man, eating old cars and tractors, schlunching across fields and muddy farms, chewing barbed wire with glowing blue / red / green eyes like massive lamps. And the story of a brave boy, but a brave boy with compassion, who senses and feels that something is wrong.  Then the whole thing turns in to a huge, enormous, stupendous, crazy story about a giant dragon the size of a planet! How much more BOY could you get! 

He loved it. Nora loved it. It's completely bloody fantastic, and I would strongly recommend you buying it immediately to read aloud to your kids.

Incredulous face

McK had to execute his delayed Jury Service, as I previously posted, which meant I was picking the kids up from school, after (for James) a long, long day of Nursery school in the afternoons and as short a time in after school club as my work-guilt would allow.

One evening I picked them up and Nora was still making a mother's Day card so took a while. The boy sitting next to her was looking incredulously at her, saying "God made me! He made you!, He did, I know it's the truth!" Nora looked back at him, bemused, saying "No he didn't, my Mummy did".

The look of absolute horror and amazement on the lad's face was at once hilarious and sad. I piped up, to save him.

"It's true, you know. Everyone's Mummys around the table made them inside their bellies. Nora used to be a little bean inside me, can you believe it?"

He still looked doubtful. I said to him, "You know, some people say that there is a God, and some don't. It's OK to think either things really". This seemed to be the perfect answer, and was accepted readily. I didn't think trying to explain the excesses of power and oppression by world religions in the name of any number of different non-existent deities would have gone down too well with that particular 7 year old boy.

McK was badgered later in the week by a lad who asked him if he believed in God! We suspect that Nora is spreading her Athiesm virus liberally. Given the richly African nature of the school population, I sincerely doubt she's going to get very far with her secular arguments.

Half of me is laughing out loud with pride, and half of me is slightly worried she's going to encourage bullying. I think I'll try to convince her to modify her tone slightly.

A grand day out

The whirl of positivity that is December (if you have young children, at least) began in earnest on Saturday with the 'secret day out'.

It was written on the calendar: "Day out".  Nora was fascinated. Are we going to the Zoo? No, that's next Saturday. Where are we going then? Aha... wait and see. Her interest and strain grew as the week went on, and spilled over in to a bad mood by Thursday. Tell me! (Duckface very much making an appearance). So, the night before we went, we told her half the story. Under oath not to tell James.

We were going to meet Thomas the Tank Engine.

Didcot Railway Centre is a delight, staffed by energetic volunteers who roll about in ecstasy at their luck to be able to spend their spare time working on, training to, and driving beautiful restored railway steam engines. The journey there was comparatively, monstrously easy for us, comprising as it did of: a bus, 2 tubes and a train. But, leaving the house at 9, we were there by 11.28. Really not bad. James meanwhile, still did not know what we were doing, and I felt a bit mean that he couldn't read. He spotted a silhouette picture of a steam train on a sign at Didcot station and smiled. We feigned ignorance and carried on walking. When we came out in to the grey sunshine from the tunnel, there was nothing to show what was happening apart from a small shed, and a few people milling about. there were rails, but then, we were still at a train station, weren't we.

Suddenly, from the left, came that beautiful, hairs on the back of the neck sound: a proper chuff chuff chuffing as an engine, with green livery, wide and flat bodied rather than rounded came toward us from round a bend. It was carrying two coaches, and it had a vast, circular smiling face on the front.

James stood still in total shock and amazement. Not so much stood, but more like, he looked like he might execute a startled star jump. His face beamed out light and he jumped  as he yelled "IT'S A STEAM ENGINE!!!".

Oh yes. Not just one, but a walk along the path revealed a proper engine shed, just like Thomas, with smiling engines on all the lines going in. It was overwhelmingly amazing, and fantastic! So we decided to go on Duck before going to try and find Thomas.

Why are steam engines so glorious? It's not just nostalgia. They weren't going when I was young. More, they were rusting hulks in elephant graveyards, but  looking at them up close, they emanate the pride the people who made them so obviously had. They wear their engineering on the outside. They demonstrate their power visibly and on a cold day, the fire in their bellies is visible and tangible. Even though surely, being the coalman in that tiny space with the driver must be a bloody miserable job, you envy the opportunity to feed the mighty beast as its plumes of dragon smoke and steam are ejected with huge force. A modern diesel and electricity fueled engine is a bulk made appliance, in contrast to these forged, elemental beings. They're magnificent.

After we had left Duck's lovely old carriage (third class) we walked up from the other end of the Centre compound. At some point, nora saw the sign "Ride with Thomas and meet Father Christmas". What??! Father Christmas? Smiles of amazement all round, as we walk up towards where Thomas was sitting, waiting. In fact, the whistle was about to blow for that bunch of children, so we stood and watched as Thomas whistled and chugged backwards out of the 'station' and down the line. The centre had really done a decent job - they'd found a proper small sized tank engine and his livery was great, although it could have done with a clean. I told James (who said "Thomas's face is dirty!") that was was dirty from having puff puffed children along the branch line all day.

Waiting for the return of Thomas, we went in to the engine shed. More amazement and awe at seeing really huge engines close up. Then a return to the Thomas queue, with all the other small children, and ridiculously happy, smiling parents. A small glimpse of the not-really-very-fat Controller (James decided he was the Thin controller - aha. Good work). Ushered in to a Christmassy carriages, we edged up the line toward the front, where 'Mother Christmas' was executing through-put.

Now Nora had a bad Father Christmas experience the other day. She saw the person billed as Father Christmas on top of a bus in Streatham, and decided in short order that it wasn't. Why was he pretending to be Father Christmas? It wasn't fair. Nora cried. She's very close to asking the wrong question now, and when she does, I will not lie to her. I have always promised I never would, but have sidestepped the question in the past, with "Well, what do you think?" and other vaguely encouraging noises. So this was a bit of a make-or-break. Mother Christmas was a lovely slightly older woman of quite spherical size and grey hair, dressed up in red velvet, who had the ease with children of a well versed Grandmother, and was full of anecdotes about Rudolph, who has a purple nose currently because he has a cold. She spun tales about the elves and told the children that she had put Father christmas on a diet, so that he could eat anything he liked over Christmas  - and presumably become rotund again. By the time we were ushered through, Nora was under a kind of spell, which saw her through one of the worst Father Christmas impersonators I have ever seen. Under 30, slim, and wearing a terrible false bear with straps showing, he made absolutely no effort to be friendly beyond putting on a low voice and saying "Ho ho" a couple of times. He looked like someone who had been pushed in to doing the task at the last minute, and had no enthusiasm for it. Mck and I were heartbroken. Nora was silent, and I was desperately worried she would burst in to tears at any moment. They received their gifts each after relating what they wanted for Christmas (James was a little shy and amazed) and we went out of the carriage.

Nora said nothing.

James was desperate to open his present, which was a rather gloriously oversized tractor. Perfect for a small boy. For this, Father Christmas was a total hero. Nora opened her present - a maths-friendly jigsaw with 36 large pieces. We made encouraging noises about how she'd only been saying she liked maths yesterday, and how Father Christmas must have heard her. Nora remained inscrutable, and stood, basically silent. We went back on thomas, and along to the front of the Centre.

The rest of the day: another ride on Duck (this time in first Class - what stunning carriages they were too - basically equipped with armchairs!) and some 'making things' and playing. And receiving a long balloon each. James constantly playing with his tractor. When we had got off Duck, we went and sat at the front of him, on a bench, so we could see him whistle, and shunt his way back down the line. McK too a video of him chugging. James said "Thank you for giving us a ride, Duck!", and I smiled indulgently. Then later, on our way out, Duck was still masterfully chugging up and down the line. James called across, "Duck! Look at my balloon!". To him, the magical engines really were alive. Their rictus smiles in place for politeness's sake. He decided that at the end of the day they would be able to sigh in relief and yawn before going to sleep.  Even Nora half believed, and neither of them questioned the way their faces had been hung on the front of the engines, looking a little battered around the edges from years of storage, and use.


Sitting eating her tea, Nora said "Why was Father Christmas wearing a beard that wasn't real?". We feigned confusion. She had seen the elastic straps on the all too obvious, tatty white beard, and because she hadn't asked 'the question', and because it was clear he had been real to her, I remembered that Raymond Brigg's Father Christmas was recognised everywhere he went on holiday. so maybe he only grows his beard actually at Christmas, and the rest of the time he shaves, so that people won't recognise him. That, it seemed, was the correct answer.

Aunty Clare, Uncle Tim and their lovely zippy little boy came over on Sunday. James told his cousin proudly who had given him his new tractor. "Father Christmas!" "Oh", said Aunty Clare, not aware of when this event occurred:  "Who did we meet yesterday? "

...This could all go horribly wrong.

-Who did we meet yesterday, darling? It was Father Christmas wasn't it!

McK stood with a fixed smile, looking a bit desperate. I chimed in. "Wow, he was so busy yesterday wasn't he? He was in Bristol in the morning, and he must have come on the train or used his sleigh because we met him at Didcot in the afternoon, didn't we?" Nods of agreement from the two small people present.


I predict that I will not be writing about meeting Father Christmas in quite the same way for Nora ever again.

Nora flew!

The day didn't start auspiciously. It started, as it ended, with large amounts of water evacuating the sky with rapidity. But no thunder. Phew.

We'd put off the bike practicing from the day before, because one parent and two barely controlled small children on bicycles who need to be walked across main roads - not so good. There's great joy to be had, meanwhile, when living in a wet climate, in buying a full waterproof provisioning system for your kids, regardless of the point that it won't be used very often. When we got to the playground with the wide disused paddling pool (brilliant practicing ground for kids) in, there was an almighty puddle in the middle, and with continuing buckets of water flooding down from the sky, we had the playground to ourselves, laughing like idiots, splashing each other with puddle water.

Nora's a nervous sort. She worries about most things and her first reaction to new things is sadly, often a "No I can't!" with a look of panic until she's persuaded that of course, she can just give it a try. Just once. So I took off her stabilisers without her knowing a couple of weeks ago. First time she tried, we got to the stage of us holding on to the saddle and running like a doubled up monkey next to the bike as she cycled, then yesterday in quick succession it went from graduating the saddle hand to a back-resting hand to a.... no hand!

No hands! Nora flew! 

I did, I think, jump up and down waving my hands in the air and going "Woohoo!".

Poor Nor - she wanted to instantly be able to cycle like a pro, and was fed up when she couldn't - but she managed to take a curve on her own and do a couple more runs before the insistent rain became a little bit too much for the little cold wet feet to bear any longer (the only limit with kids and water is - why do they make children's' wellies with such stupidly low tops? The group of people who are most likely to want to wear wellies, have to wear ones that don't do the job. Ridiculous). So, regardless of days out and Nannies and Grandads next weekend - more practicing!

(We promised Nora a 16" 'grown up' bike when she'd learned too. Thank god for Ebay).

Nora's review of my talk at Interesting09

"Why didn't you say any jokes?"

A post about Arthur Jefferson will make its way to these pages in the next couple of days when I have the time to write it. The rest of the weekend just gone was spent tidying the house to continue the route to dust free living, sewing up James' trousers and all sorts.

I think I can say that it went "Ok" - which for a first time in front of an audience (except for times when you're unprepped, which I don't really count) in so long I'm actually having difficulty remembering when I last did it (if I have done it at all since leaving school) I'm guessing can't be bad. (Unless the people who politely told me it was good were all mortified and couldn't think of anything else to say! Argh - heh).

But anyway, here's an oddity. I met 2 people at my friend Kevin's 40th birthday drinks on Wednesday, and they turned out to be doing Interesting talks on Saturday. That is almost ridiculous. One was Dan Maier, who did an hilarious and quite amazing talk on Sir Francis Galton and the other was Leila Johnston, who was completely lovely on Wednesday night, and whose brilliantly nerd-friendly book, "The Enemy of Chaos" has just come out, published by a very small press, so it's worthwhile everyone telling everyone that the book exists, via their blogs, in case the publicity department can't afford to PR it that extensively. What were the chances of that happening? Well, fairly high, realistically.

What with looking after Nora and having to leave early, I missed quite a bit (still, missed less than last year, so it's a steady improvement), but for me, the real highlight of the day was the astonishing talk given by Josie Fraser about girls' magazines in the 1970's. So far so Bunty, right? How wrong can you be! It turns out that Pat Mills did an awesome job of trying to create a kind of female readership equivalent to 1950's apocalyptic science fiction magazines for boys in the magazine "Jinty" before going off to 2000AD. The covers were *incredible*. Here's Josie's post about the talk. I am in complete awe, and am left wishing I could find all the ex-Jinty readers and finding out the profound effects reading this crazy stuff must have had on its audience! Hopefully an Ebay search for "Jinty" will allow me to snap them up, I'm desperate to read these now!

Oh, yes, I forgot to say a thing. It occurred to me part way through the day that there were an awful lot of women doing talks. And I mean really cool women, too (not including myself, obviously). If you look down Roo's list, it's not just that there were a ton of women speaking, but that many of the topics women were discussing were predicated on having a particular female geekiness. If you had an all male conference, can you imagine anyone coming up with "Ponies I have loved, real or imagined". Completely and utterly wonderful to be in an eclectic, lovely atmosphere where anything genuinely interesting was welcome. More like this please. More more more ladies with horses and whacko sci-fi girls' magazines.


Oh, the crushing guilt as I cuddle my confused, crying daughter after she has bitten my nipple for the third time in a row has been only partially diffused by the knowledge (now) that she hasn't done it since. An awful few minutes were endured, during which the question "Will she ever go near it again?" was answered only tentatively by a very sad and sobbing little girl.

It seemed so appalling to be trying to teach a seven month year old girl a lesson by pressing her face in to my breast, even just for a milisecond. But, it did work. And she (so far) seems to have got the message. Only the very occasional nuzzly accidental scrape, which is as NOTHING I may tell you to the agonising PAIN of a razor sharp pair of serrated new teeth being pressed in to some of the most sensitive skin on your body.


7 months old today


You are a lovely, funny, smiling, chipmunk cheeked munchcake who now is the proud owner of two white, well I would say teeth but they're more like nobbly bits at the moment. Yesterday you went on a swing for the first time and you laughed and laughed. Daddy pushed you and you felt your face against the wind, wide eyed, open mouthed. I wasn't there of course, I was earning your mashed carrot and sweet potato but Daddy told me all about it when I came home, held your yelping, smiling squirmyness in my arms and breathed in your milky sweet aroma.

You wake up amazed because you have been asleep on your front half the night, and you love your stacking cups, but not as much as you love the crunchy lion or Miss Ladybird.

And I still have difficulty sometimes believing that you are real. How on earth did this consciousness get here? Out of me? Apparently so.

Meanwhile, my American counterpart, Dooce is in terrible mourning for having to wean her baby for the most important of reasons. Needless to say, I cried somewhat reading her honest and painfully sad post. But, as she knows, being a strong and decent human being, a well Mum is a very important person in a baby's life.

I stopped seeing my NCT crew for "they are posh, they live in Clapham and can't be botherec to accomodate a non car driving, non rich person" reasons. One of the women there announced, in baby massage, when the kids were about 2 months old "Well, I have to wean her by three months". Ok - you may have difficulty believing this, but it is, nevertheledss true. This woman had booked a skiing holiday before the birth timed at 3 months in, because she thought that by then she and her husband would need a break from their daughter. So she left her daughter behind with her Mum, and went off skiing, and rather than express off her milk, she thought it would be too much hassle and it might be painful to have full breasts whilst skiing. And that's why she stopped breastfeeding.

I measure that reasoning against Dooce's painfully emotional decision, and I am glad that I no longer see that woman.


The first cvlue came last night. A rich red line on the top of the left hand side of her gum - in the middle, obviously. Then tonight, taking her Calpol (believe me, I hate giving it to her but sometimes it gets so bad the only other way she'd sleep is if you knocked her out), the wee plastic syringe went 'tap tap tap' against something hard inside her mouth.

We are now really reaching the final furlong of teeth no's 1&2. Not before bloody time, I can tell you! She's soooooooo miserable. So, unutterably miserable. It starts at about 6.30 - her dribbling becomes a torrent, her fists are both in her mouth and she's crying. It's really rough on her.

Aye aye aye - hopefully next time we wil be able to teach her the sign for teeth or mouth or something and she will be able to articulate it a bit.