Pretending not to be a parent

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I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a blog post tonight but as the baby has been a bit of a monster for the last two hours I thought I could do with an excuse so that I can legitimately hide out in the living room while the beard tries to settle her. I am playing the game of pretending the screaming child is not mine. These are not the elements of parenthood that most people ‘fess up to and I admit I am not particularly proud of myself right now but sometimes for the good of your sanity you just have to give yourself a little break every now and again.

I feel like this week has been particularly challenging. I am not sure why.

I was coming back from some child activity this week that I’d been to on my own and I landed child number one in front of the tv and left child number two screaming indignantly from her cot whilst I struggled to unpack and fold up the pram outside so I  could put it away in the cupboard under the stairs. Having condensed ourselves from roomy French flat to what I believe would be described in real estate terms as a ‘cosy’ London apartment there is no longer room to leave prams set up in corridors.

Our front door is a bit enthusiastic about not wasting energy or allowing strangers in so has a tendency to swing to and shut you out on a regular basis, we learnt the hard way that you need to keep your keys to hand until securely across the threshold. Anyway, as I was contending with the pram and all its accoutrements and the door swung to once again behind me I eagerly drunk in the silence. Our flat is at least of a solid enough construction so that the noise of a screaming infant does not travel through a closed front door. And I’ll admit, I briefly contemplated ‘accidentally’ leaving my keys inside on the next buggy emptying run so that I would end up being locked out.

Sure, wanting to be locked away from your children isn’t the most motherhood promoting of thoughts but in my defence the hubby wasn’t far away and it would only have been for ten minutes or so of shivering on the doorstep outwardly bemoaning my bad luck, inwardly warmed by the thought of ten blissful minutes abdicating all responsibility. You’ll be please to know, and can put down the phone to child services, that I did not give into temptation and carried out the operation of getting in the house with two small children, a buggy that has bred all sorts of stuff in the underbelly of its storage unit in the hour or so you’ve been outside, and bags of shopping hanging off the pram hooks. Getting back into the house is marginally easier than getting out of the house which requires a more detailed consideration of planning and preparation to make sure you don’t leave behind one of the essentials such as the snacks/nappies/wipes/children.

Recently I was asked how I enjoyed motherhood. I wasn’t sure how serious a question it was and how detailed an answer was required, I suspected that the stock ‘it’s amazing’ answer was the one I was supposed to trot out and indeed I did, although I added the disclaimer that it did have its challenges from time to time. Challenges being akin to when a teacher would tell you your answer at school was interesting, interesting meaning wrong, challenging meaning it could be really bloody difficult.

Don’t get me wrong I love my girls more than I could ever have thought humanly possible, I would crawl over broken glass and eat my own arm for them if required. It’s just that sometimes I’d just like a little time off and I’m not very good at making that happen or taking advantage of opportunities when presented.

For example, this afternoon the beard took out the senior and generally more demanding monster for the afternoon and he asked me how I was going to enjoy my downtime with just the teeny one (note that even my downtime still involves a level of parenting) and I didn’t know how to answer or what to do. Just chilling at home didn’t really seem an option so I harnessed her up, bagged a brolly (has been a miserable rainy day today) and tootled off to vote again (there having been a mix-up preventing me from doing so in the morning, not because I have been committing voter fraud) before trudging around the shopping area on the trawl for Christmas presents. Quiet time equals time to get stuff done, not time to just be.

I really suck at relaxing. The evenings, once both minions have finally settled (or at least until the littlest one wakes up again), are my best opportunity for having a bit of me time and sometimes I like to just squander that on a bit of Netflix. Other times I find myself wasting a good chunk of time debating whether it’s better to just go to bed and sleep while I can or to stay up and watch another episode/ read another chapter or have a bath.

Most of the time I ultimately just end up wasting about two hours casually browsing through social media and the BBC news app whilst I try to figure out what to do with myself.  When you get to the alleged news stories about being single at Christmas that’s generally a good time to move ont tom something else. Why is this even in the news? Is it purely to break up the tedium of Brexit or misery of stabbing stories that otherwise dominate?

It’s like tonight, I could try to go to bed early(ish) now that the beard seems to have settled her, but I find myself tapping away here instead. The baby hasn’t been sleeping well, ergo I have not been sleeping well and I’ve got a bit of a miserable cold on top, so as much rest as possible makes sense when caffeine can only do so much for me tomorrow but on the flip side blogging means hiding out, pretending I am capable of more than the odd flight of fancy of a carefree childless existence, and a therapeutic spewing of my disorganised thoughts across the computer screen.

At least this is a better outcome than spending multiple hours going over the same old Instagram posts over and over again. Anyway, time to draw to a close, a new dawn, a new day and no doubt new ‘challenges’ but also new opportunities for love, life and laughter await.

Release the Kraken!

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Generally once a week I go to softplay with niblet and the monster and if the beard isn’t DIYing/jobhunting/hiding out from his family sometimes he’ll come with us. For those not in the know softplay is pretty much as it sounds there’s soft stuff to play with that theoretically you can’t hurt yourself on. Theoretically because the place is designed for children so if you are an adult trying to chase your toddler around the obstacle course at speed there is scope for injuries to pride in addition to the aching joints of scrambling through what is essentially a hamster run for small children.

On Monday I went solo. There were a few other kids but they were a bit younger than my eldest and so she wanted me to join in her in the rat run and chase her around. The previous week she managed this by ingeniously stealing my shoes and hiding them in the monkey cage (note that shoes are absolutely forbidden in the softplay sanctuary) so I had no choice but to offload the baby to an adjacent parent and scamper after her.

Sometimes I can stay in the grown up area with the excuse of needing to ensure the teeny one isn’t either stolen by a deranged mother who has suffered one to many blows to the head of the kiddie iron curtain that blocks one of the softplay routes or trampled by someone else’s pint sized person. Yet on Monday the miniest-me gave me no excuse not to join her sister, by sleeping soundly for the duration in the adjoining room. It’s not always a good thing when your kid is a solid sleeper.

Don’t get me wrong softplay is fun, think of it like a mini parcour but where the biggest risk is damaged pride rather than broken bones, the problem is having to keep at it with my Duracell bunny of a child with her limitless supplies of energy. After a couple of laps I want to rest up a bit, but no chance of that.

The other problem Monday was my choice of clothing. I’ve been trialling this new thing recently where I no longer save my best clothes for best, having accepted that life as a mother of two means these sorts of occasions are going to be few and far between and that a skirt has the same likelihood of sticky child survival rating as a go to pair of jeans. Also having moved into a smaller space in London than we had in France with seriously reduced storage options I have had a stern talking to myself that if I don’t wear stuff then I have to throw it out.

I’ve actually really been enjoying taking a bit of time each morning to put on clothes that make me happy and feel like a bit more of a real functioning adult, with the caveat that whatever I wear has to be easily breast accessible so that I can whip out the baps on demand for bubba.

In conclusion, on Monday, I wasn’t really appropriately addressed for softplay in a dress and tights combo as I scampered about the micro maze trying to keep up with the whirlwind that somehow I created (I am yawning as I write this at the ripe time of 10pm).

Yet the skirt and dress was the least of my problems and the real issue was the nursing bra. Honestly boobs and motherhood are a nightmare. Sure, they are a fairly essential piece of kit if you are going down the breastfeeding route but the headaches they cause, not to mention the backache with the engorged pendulums (penduli?) swinging off your front. Maybe its less of an issue if your pre-pregnancy breasts were of the perky pancake variety, in which case you might be pleased as they slightly increase to a more tactile satsuma size. What is not joyful is if you started off well-endowed in the chest department, had one baby and went up a couple of bra sizes and then was horrified to discover that with pregnancy number two they swell yet again so that as you are looking to buy some new maternity bras in Marks and Spencers and you realise that you need the next size up which doesn’t actually exist in store even in the plus-sized section! If I have more children I’m going to have order some kind of boat cover tarpaulins to keep these mammoths in check.

I do not have great fitting nursing bras, they are not underwired, presumably so that when you have a hormonal surge you aren’t tempted to rip out the wire and jab it in the eye of the next person who asks you whether your baby is ‘good’ (they are a few weeks old, the concept of good and evil is a bit beyond them at this moment, or at least so they’d have us believe). The lack of a wire does help a bit with the comfort levels but does not help with containment.

I think the problem with my boobs is that they have had a taste of freedom and now they want more. They want to roam free and find out who they really are as they go off and do their own thing. This make me and my breasts a little out of sync as what I want is for them to stay in place long enough that people don’t mistake me for a piece of abstract art and so that milk doesn’t leak all over the shop.

So on a normal day I’m regularly adjusting the girls and trying to put them back in their roosts on a fairly frequent basis, on an active softplay day where I am scampering around a three foot high tunnel in my best Quasimodo impression trying to keep up with the tearaway two year old this is the perfect opportunity for the Kraken to try to escape. With no wire to keep them separated and too many clasps and hooks on the other side their best option is to work together and spring from the centre so that I found myself struggling with a very fetching uniboober scenario. As I’m scampering about trying to keep up with the child and keep the beasts of burden under control, hocking them back into place and in doing so accidentally unhooking them every so often so that they can make a dash for freedom from unexpected directions, I realise this is not the life I imagined for myself when I was a little girl daydreaming about my future.

Sure motherhood is full of wonders of life and a love unlike anything you ever thought possible but it’s also full of embarrassing bodily mishaps that no-one prepares you for.

The staff selling softplay admission have security cameras and were therefore able to witness my inner wardrobe wars. I suspect this is the reason why I got half priced entry when I went today.

Taking the long way around

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I was in my Sainsbury’s local this evening where the women on the checkouts were discussing a new queuing system whereby people with prams would have to go around if another buggy user was already there because there would be no way to pass otherwise. One of the women commented that it seemed unfair that people with buggies have to go all the way around and I smiled and told her that parenting was all about taking the long way round.

The first time I realised this was shortly after monster numero uno was born and we went to visit the gardens of Voltaire’s chateau in Ferney-Voltaire where we were living. We’d frequently been pre child and after a somewhat gruelling walk up the top of the hill where the chateau was located (which became more gruelling as the first pregnancy wore on) it had been a simple thing to hop up the steps into the shop that served as gateway to the attraction. Ahh steps. With a pushchair in tow we now had to take the long and windy route up the ramp and seek out someone to allow us special access through the ramped entrance.

At least there was a ramped entrance. With a hefty piece of wheeled kit to take around I developed a new sympathy for the daleks. The inability to mount stairs, enter a narrow doorway or turn around in tight spaces is enough to drive anyone to plan for world domination and creation of a new world order with step-free access for everyone.

And it isn’t just stairs and narrow doorways or tightly packed boutiques that prove challenging, I had honestly never noticed how shockingly bad the pavements were in the town we were living in until I was trying to manoeuvre the potato on wheels on taxing adventures of things like getting to the carrefour marche to stock up on Nutella and eggs. And don’t even get me started on the cardboard boxes of the world who would see pavements as parking spots causing me to unleash the pedestrian rage that was constantly boiling away that could amount to loudly condemning them or on one occasion leaving a banana skin on their windscreen. I’m sure that really showed them.

All this was annoying with a pushchair but at least I could, albeit not without some struggling, wrestle the buggy on and off pavements and around the potholes, etc., how wheelchair users were supposed to live independently and manage those hazards I’ve no idea. The kinds of diversions I had to take with the buggy must have been nothing compared to the constant need for rerouting that someone in a wheelchair must have had to do to get from one side of town to the other.

At least the obstacles on pavements is less of an issue in London. There are enough ticket-happy traffic wardens in my area that anyone thinking of parking in inappropriate spaces is certainly going to get rewarded with a hefty fine and the constant fear of being sued means that councils tend to do their best to ensure dangers and blockages amidst public walkways are addressed as quickly as possible with the means available.

Living in Greenwich is great but we have been trying the occasional jaunt outside of the borough and travelling with two little ones means at least one pushchair is usually essential. There are so many things that I took for granted when we lived here previously sans children. Like how easy it was to just get on a bus. You see the bus, you get on the bus, sometimes its full so you have to stand up which was annoying. With a buggy you see the bus, you must check if the pram limit has already been reached before getting your ticket, if it has you have to wait for the next one or the one after that. If you have an appointment to get to you will either need to leave ridiculously early to allow for possibly being refused access to several buses or you walk.

Then if you get on the bus you have to manage parking, ensuring the break is on, settling the bigger niblet, who doesn’t want to stay in the pushchair if the bubba is in the harness, and if the bubba is in the harness finding a secure enough spot that you can sit or stand without risk of endangering the mini one with a sudden brake of the bus, all whilst jolting along from one red light to the next.

Then there’s the tube. I used to just open up the tfl app, or use googlemaps to plot out my route for me. Now I have to consider things like what stations have step free access? What time of the day will I be travelling? Are we going to get crowded out by school kids or commuters? There are certain activities that are just off limits if they necessitate the taking of transport between 4-7pm.

We went to the Olympic Park one morning this week and headed back a bit later than planned so that by the time the bus dropped us at the nearest stop to home we were well into the bigger minion’s naptime. After an active morning charging around the park she had fallen asleep on the bus and so the beard decided that rather than waking her to get her into the pram he’d carry her home.  The quickest route home involves an overpass over a busy road. Carrying a 14kg package nestled over one shoulder the beard decided to take the quicker route of the stairs and so I duly trundled off with the babe strapped to my chest pushing the surplus pram via the very long and windy ramp.

Even when we don’t take out the buggy, life with children continues to require taking the long way round. Googlemaps estimation of how long it takes to walk somewhere should include an obstinate toddler mode whereby you factor in the route takes twice as long, requires constant doubling back and accounts for the time spent stopping to stare at a particularly interesting bit of stick we have found along the way. Even if the bigger one decides she wants to run somewhere and you think this is great we are moving at an almost normal pace then you still need to account for time spent dealing with the aftermath of at least one tripping over and the cleaning up and comforting that that entails.

I am not the most patient of people. My now husband, then boyfriend, used to laugh at me for how I’d race along to reach my destination regardless of whether we actually needed to be anywhere in a hurry or not. So adjusting to the meandering needs of children on wheels or who want to stop to take in the view has not been without its challenges. However, it also isn’t without its merits. For me being forced to stop to take in the view or to really think about why this leaf is quite so fascinating is probably quite beneficial for the soul. Or at least it would be if not at a time when I need to get to our destination to placate the screaming baby or happens to be that the exciting plastic bag worthy of prolonged inspection is directly in front of the religious fundamentalists who if they aren’t put off by the insane glint in my eye may actually want to have a conversation!

Lost and found

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Moving house is stressful at the best of times. More so when it also involves returning to the UK from France where I’ve been living as a frontalier working in Switzerland and therefore entailed dealing with administrative matters in two different languages and three different countries. Even more so with a toddler and a newborn, dealing with the physical and emotional repercussions of that on a diet of too much caffeine to overcompensate for the sleepless nights and exhausting days.

Now that we are relatively settled back into our UK flat in a way its nice to have gotten all the drama (or most of it, still dealing with French admin matters and unsympathetic landlords holding our deposit hostage) out the way at once. Having said that, if someone told me I’d have to do this all over again, I think I’d rather peel off my own eyelids and eat them.

When we first decided on a return to the motherland we had thought sorting everything during maternity leave made a lot of sense as at least we wouldn’t have to juggle two kids, the move and do it all over a weekend before resuming duties on the Monday.

However, the fear inducing Halloween Brexit that never was motivated us to move a lot quicker than planned for fear that if a no-deal Brexit did happen the logistics of relocating would move from a shiver inducing tremor to a full on nightmare of epic proportions. Would we be able to move our stuff across the EU border? Would we need a visa to get home? Would the cats have to go through quarantine?

Pretty sure the straw headed buffoon that currently bumbles about as leader of our country didn’t have my cats on his mind when he made his bold promises of an EU exit by 31 October come hell or high-water. Ultimately it turned out the wannabe Trump forgot to account for a little thing called democracy and yet another extension was put in place, an election was summoned and we could have had a few more months to move in perhaps a more leisurely manner. However, I expect the relocate would have been pretty traumatic at any point and at least it is done now and my stress dreams about the whole shebang have diminished somewhat if not completely disappeared.

The plus side is we lived to tell the tale, our marriage is intact, hopefully the kids aren’t too traumatised by the whole affair and now we are here and have found we are able to enjoy my maternity leave back near friends and family, in a part of London we know and love.

It was amazing living on the French/Swiss border and being able to walk for five minutes from our apartment into beautiful countryside surrounded by imposing snow-capped mountains was pretty epic. Geneva centric living had a lot of pros and it was an amazing place to feel alive with the sound of music. Provided of course that the weather worked in your favour. The downside of where we were based was that there was almost nothing to do with young kids when it rained, at least not without a car and the small fortune required to attend the odd toddler class. Not so in London.

On our doorstep there are some really good open spaces, children’s parks and riverside walks for when the weather is clement, but there are also some good museums, cafes, etc. for when it isn’t. Which is handy because we returned to the UK at the end of October when the gloom sets in early and the tendency to rain is strong.

One rainy afternoon we decided to go to the local visitor centre that I remembered being kid friendly and pretty open plan so I thought it’d be a good space for the terrible two year old to run amok without annoying staff too much or causing us to have to chase after her constantly.

It seemed a good plan, we got there and the little monster pretty much ignored all the actual museum activities and literally just started running around the centre floor looping around the staircase, which wasn’t too concerning as that led to an enclosed gallery so even if she tried to nip up there she wouldn’t get far. She was happy, we were happy, the beard wandered off with the babe strapped to his chest to actually look at some of the exhibits and I slowly pottered after the toddler.

Actually at this point I think I should reassess the term toddler, that implies a slightly wobbly child unsure on its feet whereas my two year old knows how to work those pistons we call legs and can go from 0-60 in a flash of a moment.

So the child was careering about looping around the exhibits. Often the mini miss gets fixated on a particular game and will happily repeat for a bore-inducingly long time so I was feeling quite secure that she’d continue to repeat her route and I could just gently track her without needing to keep up with her exactly.

The problem was that staircase. Not that she went up it and came tumbling down but that it created the only real blind spot in the gallery. She was looping, I was pottering and as I pottered to the staircase I realised she had deviated from the route she’d been following in the five seconds or so she was in the blind spot. Where the stairs were placed there were at least three possible directions she could have gone in, including outside and towards the road via the automatic door which had recently been activated by some newly arrived visitors.

One moment my child was there, the next she wasn’t. I yelled at the beard that I didn’t have eyes on her and as he started sprinting across the room towards us I took a split second to decide which way to run screaming my girl’s name. In reality I thought it least likely she would have gone towards the road but as that was the worst possible option I went that way first.

I was barely out the door with the second holler of her name dying on my lips when I heard her crying and doubled back into the centre to find her emerging from the corridor towards the toilets, where either my panicked shriek or more likely someone using the hand-dryers had upset her enough to make her wail out so that we could find her.

I’m sure it won’t be the last time I lose her in a public place, certainly not if she’s anything like me who used to actively enjoy getting lost in public spaces (sorry mum and dad), and the whole incident must have been over in about 20 seconds, yet, even now, a couple of weeks after the event in question, my heart is racing and I feel the horror unlike anything I have ever experienced before.

I had thought a no-deal Brexit and UK crashing out of the EU without contingency plans for sufficient toilet roll to meet the nation’s needs was the most ghastly thing that could happen. I was wrong.

Levelling up on parenting

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And so I find myself once again, slowly writing late at night trying not to jog the half slumbering babe resting on my right shoulder.

I’m a mother of two now and it feels like I’ve just levelled up in this game of life. Suddenly the same tasks that I could complete without much challenge on the easier mode have become inexplicably more taxing. Things like having a shower, getting out of the house in clothing that hasn’t been put on back to front and isn’t covered in some sort of child goop (snot, vomit and sticky fingers being the common culprits), being able to have a civilised conversation with my husband without resenting the fact he had 30 minutes all to himself earlier in the day, etc.

My girls are almost exactly two years apart, and this was the plan, thinking being close in age will be nice as they grow up. Although we made the plan when infant number one was a comparatively easy going twelve month old and hadn’t foreseen that a newborn and a wilful toddler might pose certain challenges.

Probably ninety per cent of the time everything goes fairly smoothly and I take genuine delight in parenting these two little beings. It’s in that other ten per cent though where I half jokingly talk of walking out the door and just keeping going for a few years until everything calms down a bit. It’s in that ten per cent where I question whether the whole parenting thing was such a good idea after all.

It’s in that ten per cent where everything snaps and I feel the worst version of myself, being short tempered with the two year old and getting frustrated at the two month old. It’s that ten per cent where they take it in turns to see who can scream the loudest (definitely the two year old) and the longest (usually the two month old). Sometimes they don’t take it in turns.

What I had worried about during pregnancy with number two was how I’d handle the sleep deprivation this time around with a two year old who wouldn’t give two hoots whether or not I’d been up umpteen times a night with their sibling. I’m sure the sleep deprivation doesn’t help with my almost permanently exhausted tiny thread of patience but it hasn’t actually been as bad as I’d expected, certainly a lot easier to adjust to than the first time around. Baby number two hasn’t been a terrible sleeper and it turns out I can function pretty well on a couple of chunks of three hours of sleep.

What I really wasn’t prepared for was the overwhelming feelings of guilt that pervade most of my waking day. I feel guilty that the baby doesn’t get a fraction of the attention her sister got. She won’t get to go to all the baby sensory, baby massage, baby music and baby critiques of 17th century French literature classes that her sister went to because I can’t take her sister to these things. At best she can half listen to the odd tune at toddler rhyme time at the local library whilst I spend the session chasing her sister around the library trying to prevent her either escaping or running wild in the quiet section banging the rattles that have been handed out against the metal shelves.

And then I feel guilty that the toddler doesn’t get my undivided attention any more. That I can’t always just put the baby in her bouncy chair and leave her to get on with it. That I can’t easily scoop her up on demand if baby is strapped to me in the harness. I dread the thought that she feels less special or loved by us now that her sibling is here.

I know these feelings are my burden rather than theirs. I realise that baby will just grow up being used to us dividing our time and attention between her and her sister and I know that the toddler is unlikely to remember the time before the baby arrived. However knowing things and feeling things are very different kettles of fish. It’s like when I’m trapped in the ten percent and I know that in ten, thirty, sixty minutes or so I’ll be back in the ninety per cent, but it can feel like there is no way out of the interminable horror I’m currently battling as I fight to get the toddler back into her pushchair and the baby screams at me because we are already past the time she wanted to be fed, or I struggle to get the screaming baby changed on the park bench while the toddler howls at me because I won’t let her eat the rice cracker she’s dropped into a particularly muddy puddle.

That ninety per cent is pretty amazing though. That’s when big sister is stroking little sisters head and cooing ‘aww baby’ at her, or when I’m managing to enjoy active playtime in the park chasing the bigger one around while the little one sleeps contentedly against my chest in the harness and I know that both are getting exactly what they need from me at that moment.

Catpain’s Log August 2017

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Catpain’s Log August 1

Ate a nice baby bird today, prepared severed remains for grown ones but I was shooed away with my offering so delivered it to kindly neighbour next door instead.

Grown female leaked outside of normal litter tray, clearly broken, grown male took her away and returned alone three good snoozes later. Grown male seemed emotional and electronic square bipped a lot throughout the evening.

Catpain’s Log August 2

Grown male left out limitless biscuits, must be going on holiday again so will have to share litter with incompetent incontinent sister. On the plus side I can eat body weight in biscuits.

Catpain’s Log August 3

Surprisingly grown male returned again last night but biscuit tower of infinity remained in place, must be mistake, will eat as much as possible before he realises error. Sister hissed at me when I tried to eat some even though there is clearly enough food to last nine lives. Voiced disapproval at 2am, grown male seemed to register complaint.

Still no sign of grown female, fear grown male may have eaten her, should have accepted offerings provided for useless non-hunters earlier in the year.

Catpain’s Log August 4

Was having a good day, much eating, long snoozing, pulled some of my sister’s hair out and creatively dispersed it around house in Feng Shui manner, energy was flowing well.

But then!!!! Hard to get words out!!!! Too angry to express myself properly.

Bah!

Grown male brought grown female back, so not eaten after all, or maybe just eaten part of her, seems less fat than before, but also brought back unwelcome micro being. This was not approved. This was not what I signed on for.

Bah! Will make lives hell for foreseeable future until problem is rectified and micro one returned to wherever it came from.

Catpain’s Log August 7

Severed a bird, spread body parts around the house, hope the grown ones step in them! Have indicated intense disapproval of new situation but monstrosity remains. Tried to punish grown ones with night time yowls and dispatching sister to play song of our people on wardrobe doors but to no avail! They are up every few hours poking micro one, forcing it to eat, seems much more capable of looking after micro one than selves, will be no more delivery of tasty animals for them, from now on they only get beaks and feet.

Catpain’s Log August 12

Micro one persists, waking me from frequent naps, so upset I only ate twice my normal amount of biscuits today. Thank heavens at least biscuit of dreams remains in place, still take it in turns with sister to yowl around 6am to demand grown ones decant some biscuits from tower into bowls immediately adjacent. Obviously we could just take themselves ourselves from the tower but that is besides the point.

Grown female clearly fed up so left Grown male and micro attention thief alone, returned five minutes sobbing and covered in blood. Grown ones are incapable, what were they thinking in trying to look after micro one?

Catpain’s Log August 14

Grown reinforcements have arrived, the more grown female and more grown male. I miaowed and presented my bumhole for inspection upon their arrival but they seemed to only be interested in macro-one – unbelievable!

Our grown ones seem to have gone to sleep whilst more grown ones attend to macro one, not surprised that thing has them up at all hours. Hopefully more grown ones will take it away when they leave

Catpain’s Log August 17

More grown female and more grown male left without taking small one with them. Other more grown ones arrived today, keeping claws crossed they’ll take the unformed one away.

Catpain’s Log August 18

Licked all the sauce off mine and my sister’s dinner, ignored rest, ate some more biscuits instead.

Wanted to ask friends for advice on how to survive tiny fledglings but remembered I am cat and have no friends.

Catpain’s Log August 21

Grown male relative female arrived. Showed her my bumhole. Again, astonishing lack of interest! Did at least take some phots as sister and I artfully posed on outdoor furniture.

Grown male relative female spent much time with micro one, after recent visits refuse to get hopes up that this one will take it away. Not that I can blame grown male relative female, no-one in right mind would want to lumber themselves with tiny squawking device.

Catpain’s Log August 24

Artfully prepared dead bird for grown male’s yearly celebration, seemed uninterested. Grown female made cake and set it alight. Alas, micro one not sacrificed in flames.

Catpain’s Log August 26

Shredded last remains of sofa arm cover today, finally exposed foam lining, reconditioned, raw materials are so in right now.

Grown female sad at not being able to leave small one to return to land of origin for party of other grown ones where a grown female wears white and there is an excess of cake and paper covered nonsense. Perhaps will realise gravity of additional human presence and find way to undo error?

Catpain’s Log August 28

Grown ones haven’t returned or given away small mistake yet, losing hope and begin to fear micro one is now a permanent fixture. Can only hope its lifespan is as long as your average stupid sparrow in mating season.

Catpain’s Log August 31

Undeveloped one remains, learning to tolerate it.

It doesn’t move much but does continue to disturb important moments. Woke me up from three of my twelve naps! Took my revenge by ‘affectionately’ digging claws into grown female when she tried to sleep after feeding small one. Got sprayed in face with water pistol but worth it.

Bigging it up for Belgium

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I met someone recently with a French name and I was trying to guess where he came from, I went with the obvious Switzerland (obvious as I met him in Geneva I then tried France, with equal failure. At this point he looked a bit exasperated that I wasn’t going to remember which other European country speaks French when the answer came to me: Belgium. We spoke for a while about how annoying it was when no-one remembered his country.

Granted Belgium is bilingual with the two national languages of Flemish and French so that doesn’t make for an easy linguistic classification but I recalled that Belgium gets overlooked on a regular basis. And by a regular basis I mean I can think of one example, albeit a glaringly obvious one, which is that fries around the world tend to be known as French fries, when in fact they originated in Belgium.

Who else recalls with fond patronising mockery when a number of high-ranking and therefore headline-grabbing Americans decided to rename ‘french fries’ as freedom fries’ because the US was upset that France wouldn’t agree to join military intervention in Iraq without international support?

This may have never happened but I imagine indignant Americans refusing to grant recognition to the tasty potato fry, I imagine French people probably ridiculing the gesture and lastly I imagine Belgians angrily stomping their feet and saying ‘mon dieu! Les frites sont belgique pas français!’

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Coming from the UK/England (for better or for worse) I’ve never really had the problem of national or linguistic non-recognition but I’ve seen the frustration of Welsh friends trying to explain that Wales wasn’t England and I imagine there must be a lot of inhabitants from less renowned countries sighing and rolling their eyes as they try to explain that ‘no Suriname is not in Africa’ (it’s in South America – I checked), ‘yes, I’m sure Luxembourg is in fact a country and not a province of Germany’, or ‘no, I don’t speak Polish because I’m from Hungary’.

Where you are from is actually a pretty big part of your identity so to have someone fail to recognize your nationality, or even worse to question it’s existence once you tell them, must be immensely annoying. I’m definitely not a geographical expert and I often get mixed up about where places are but I hope I’d have the sense to accept the answer of the person that’s actually from that place. I presume, and hope, that non-national recognition is only a problem for people when meeting others outside of their country, if you go to a country and don’t know that country exists then I cast a whole heap of judgment upon you!

So with Belgium on my mind (plus I was going anyway), last weekend I headed off to Brussels to meet a good friend who relocated there from London. I had been to Brussels before but quite a few years ago, so I had forgotten what it was like. I was imagining it would be much like Geneva, i.e. small, so was surprised on arriving at the airport to discover it was an airport of substantial size that actually takes a little time to navigate and that Brussels is in fact a pretty decent sized city, i.e. bigger than Geneva but not as big as London.

I had a great few days, it was awesome to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen for about two years and to discover we had one of those friendships that is like an old comfy trainer. You might forget it exists from time to time and definitely don’t give it the attention you should but when you finally put it back on you remember just how comfortable it is. (A, if you are reading, sorry for the old shoe comparison).

As I’d done the touristy trail in Brussels on my first visit we also went for a day trip beyond the city and visited Ghent. Belgium impressed me by the convenient travel distance between big cities and by the fact it didn’t cost me a small fortune (try rocking up at a Swiss station on the day to get a ticket to a nearby city without crying as an unbelievable amount of swiss francs are vacuumed out of your account)!

Brussels was nice but Ghent was just laid-back cool. It was cold, it was foggy but it was awesome and also provided some nice Ghent specific beer. There is more to Belgium than beer (there are also fries, waffles and chocolate) but culturally it is a fairly important component and it would have been pretty insulting of me not to sample the local produce. Not wanting to risk initiating any diplomatic incidents I obviously felt obliged to try a few whilst I was there.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 14.04.46 What’s particularly cool about beer (because yes, beer is cool or at least as cool as I am for continuing to use the word cool) is that every beer has it’s own specific glass, which makes the whole drinking experience so much more than just get trollied. It is a world away from rocking up to an English pub requesting a pint and being provided said pint in whatever generic glass happens to come to hand. Drinking a beer in Belgium is a traditional practice, imbibed with a rich national and social heritage (which could also be said of getting bladdered on the weekend in the UK, but it’s probably less frequently mentioned be the Minister of Sport and Culture).

I’m doing my best here to sell Belgium to the world but it will always be a winner in my eyes because in one week it gave me both a new friend and renewed my acquaintance with an old friend. And of course, more importantly than forging or rekindling human relationships, there was beer!