For those of you that receive my blog posts automatically, this one may come as a surprise, as you probably assumed that having spent so many months with only under-5’s and sheep for company, I had lost the faculty for writing. But no. I have been on a blog fast.

A blog fast is the direct opposite of a Blogfest. A Blogfest involves hundreds, nay thousands of bloggers, all writing furiously, whereas a blog fast involves just me, not writing anything at all.

It was not intentional. I just had too many things going in my life that I simply could not write about. Things that were either too personal, or too boring, or too grim, or too involved with famous people (no names mentioned but he is the best children’s illustrator ever), or too involved with close family members, or too incriminating of other family members… my family members are now all sitting up straight, spilling hot tea in their laps, going “Who?!” “Me?!”… yes you, I might be talking about you, watch out, and send me a Cadbury’s Flake and some nice pants just to cover your backs.

Speaking of pants…

Léonie has decided she has had enough of nappies and wants to wear pants. The ‘had enough of nappies’ bit is fine, as long as she stays butt naked, as then she remembers to go and sit on the potty for her pee. However, with pants on, the sensation must be very nappy-like, especially when she wears six pairs of pants at the same time, which is her current desire, so she just ends up peeing through six pairs of pants. Today it was warm and sunny so I persuaded her to play outside with nothing on her bottom and she delighted in sitting on the potty in the sunshine. I only tell you this as I just discovered the UK is swamped in snow and ice and I want to make you jealous. Let’s face it, the climate difference is probably the only thing you might feel envious about where my life is concerned, so I’m going to make the most of it.

More on the theme of undergarments… (me? trying desperately to find a through line for this blog post? never). We watched Mary Poppins yesterday and this morning Tommy was singing “Let’s go fly a kite” at the top of his voice. Here is his version of the song:

Let’s go fly a kite
Up up, in the sky!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it boring,
Up through the underwear
Up where the air is air,
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

Cowgirl and her faithful potty.

Cowgirl and her faithful potty.


Six pairs of pants. Layering is in.

All that just to say, I’ve finished my blog fast and am now crossing my fingers to make it to a Blogfest.

Big Bushes, Full Bushes.

I am livid. Livid at the utter stupidity of what has just happened to my parents’ home back in the UK.

I shall just copy’n’stick into this post the letter I sent to their council yesterday, as it says it all.

If anyone has any experience of a similar sort of idiocy, please let me know what you did about it…

Dear Sir, Madam,

I am writing to you concerning the degradation of what used to be a pretty hedge on one of the most sought after streets in Newport Pagnell; Chicheley Street.
The hedge belongs to my mother and step-father, Helen and Malcolm Bullett, who live at n° 16 Chicheley Street. They planted it 30 years ago, as a greener, more beautiful alternative to putting up a fence, albeit a more expensive one. For 30 years they have given the hedge the care and attention it requires to keep it healthy and trimmed.
However, on the 20th of December, Mr Bullett received a letter
from Milton Keynes council ordering him to get the hedge cut right back. Apparently a ‘friendly’ neighbour (who has since been identified by other, much friendlier neighbours, as Paul Alexander, Lib Dem councillor for Newport Pagnell) had secretly complained the hedge was slightly encroaching on the pavement. It wasn’t actually stopping anyone from walking along the pavement, as there was still ample space to get by, even with a wheelchair or a pushchair.
Heather Baker from the council visited Mr Bullett and with a tree surgeon they discussed the issue. The tree surgeon said that by cutting the hedge back that far, all you would see from the outside was the trunks and dead, brown branches. It would be very ugly he warned, and would never ever grow back again. He also pointed out that the hedge was not preventing anyone from walking along it, whether on foot or in a wheelchair. Heather Baker still ordered Mr Bullett to cut the hedge right back; yet another example of someone “just doing my job”, without reflecting on the reality of this case (the hedge WASN’T preventing anyone walking along the pavement) and without taking into consideration the ugliness her decision entailed, not to mention the upset to my parents and to all the neighbours living around them.
Here is a photo of Mr Bullett’s hedge on the 11th of January 2013, after 30 years of care and attention. You can also see the pavement. The hedge is clearly not stopping anyone from walking along the pavement. Nor a wheelchair, nor a baby pushchair.
And here is the hedge after the instructions issued by Milton Keynes council were carried out.
I think you will agree that not much has been gained and a lot has been lost. What was once a beautiful, green hedge which added to the beauty of the street, is now an ugly, brown, hacked back row of trunks and branches. The only alternative now is to put up a fence, but my father cannot afford this (the tree surgeon has already cost him more than he can afford; he is 85, living on a small pension), and even if he could, it would also be a lot less pretty than the original green hedge. So this is what now surrounds his home, on one of the loveliest streets in Newport Pagnell.
I am writing to you at environmental services, because I would like somebody at Milton Keynes Council to at least take stock of the idiocy of this situation and to do something about it. Maybe Heather Baker could be given better training in making decisions concerning this sort of thing. It is too late to save this hedge, but maybe other hedges can be saved. And maybe the council could pay for something else to be planted to hide the ugly sight that now lines one side of Chicheley Street.
Mr Bullett has been stopped numerous times by neighbours deploring the council’s actions and encouraging him to send the story and these photos to the press. He is too mild to do that. But I am his daughter and I am furious.
I await your response.
Yours sincerely,
Claire Bullett
As Sister 2 remarked: “BIG BUSHES, FULL BUSHES!!”… forever. 

2013, here I come (very slowly)


I have given myself ten days to savour this new year and so far I can say it tastes a bit like a yoghurt that has just slightly turned. Or wine that you’re not sure is corked or just a bit weird. Or a nearly-but-not-quite stale biscuit. I’m not sure why these things spring to mind. I think it’s the feeling of looking forward to a fresh, new start, and then realising I need some new spark plugs if things are going to go anywhere.

I began this year with a damaged coccyx, which rather puts a damper on anything involving sitting down, moving from sitting down to standing up (and vice-versa), and picking anything up. Which, I discovered, is most things when you are the mother of a 5 year old and a 2 year old. I am proud to say it was the result of a motorbike accident. Yes, me, the daring, racy motorbike rider, all leather and denim and long blonde hair in the wind. I am less proud to say the motorbike is about 50 cm high, pink and yellow and made of plastic. It is a fine source of amusement for those between 2 and 7 as they race down the concrete drive at 90 mph and onto the lawn. Tommy was managing to pick up enough speed to go right round the tree at the bottom of the lawn. It looked like such fun I thought I’d have a go. And it was fun, really fun, all the way down the drive, the kids and I screaming with laughter… until I hit the bump which leads onto the lawn. The motorbike went up, so did my bottom, and then came crashing back down onto the plastic saddle which has a little upward curving protuberence at the tail-end. In flight, my own tail-end shifted backwards a couple of centimetres, only to meet whackingly with the knobbly bit. In terms of pain I would rate childbirth as the most painful thing I have experienced, followed by toothache and ear infections, followed by this. I have never ever hurt this part of my body so it was a surprising pain as it made me realise that bit of my body really REALLY exists.

This happened on Christmas Eve. For two weeks I couldn’t sit down properly. I had to twist sidewards or lean right forward. We had a long drive back from Barcelona during which I hung on to the passenger seat handle above the door and swayed my way home. We went straight to a friend’s surprise birthday party. She is an osteopath and told me to get it checked out straight away as it’s easy to break or fracture your coccyx without realising. There’s not much you can do about it except let time heal the bones, but if you know it’s broken or fractured you should take it really easy. This was the perfect excuse to get out of the house and read one of my Christmas books so the next day I drove to E&R and spent a few hours standing in a waiting room (still too painful to sit) and then had a x-ray done. Result: no broken bones (hoorah), but the coccyx had been “twisted” (yikes). The doctor explained it’s like twisting your ankle and that once the inflammation goes down it all goes back to normal, but could really benefit from an osteopathy session. Great, I thought, I’ll just see my osteopath friend as soon as possible. Alas, she doesn’t ‘do’ the coccyx. The look on her face worried me. “What does ‘doing the coccyx’ involve?” I asked. She winced. “Interior intervention.” Ah. “You mean, finger up the bum?” She nodded. I winced.

I have found an osteopath who ‘does the coccyx’. Thankfully, for the moment, L’Homme is away for 10 days so I can’t book an appointment as I don’t really want to take Léonie with me while having someone wiggle their finger up my bum. In fact, maybe I’ll keep on finding excuses until things heal all on their own. In fact, my coccyx already feels much better.

No, I’m NOT perching on the edge of my chair to write this. Honest. ish.

Another reason for not starting this year on jet-skis is illness descending upon both kids and me (it’s a family tradition to be really poorly for the first ten days of the year) and my friend Bernie slowly vanishing into the afterworld; wherever that may be. I’m not going to write much more about him right now as I’m not ready to, but I am thinking of him constantly at the moment, as he slips from here to there. Another brilliant, beloved soul who doesn’t deserve to go so soon.

It is 9:30 pm and Léonie (age 2) is leaping around the kitchen singing “Mummy, Mummy, MUMMYYYYYYYY, woter, woter WOTERRRRRR”, whilst tossing a sippy cup in the air and biting through the skin of a banana, sideways. Tommy is asleep on the sofa having had a worm intervention earlier on in the evening (me, Doc. Harrison-Bullett, P.H.D. in Worms – I won’t go into the details). I should carry them both up to bed but my coccyx won’t take it.

Welcome to my world, 2013.

The motorbike on which I had my Christmas Eve accident.

The motorbike on which I had my Christmas Eve accident.

Someone (else) is wearing the (very small) trousers.



A blood-curdling scream rips through our home. The kind that turns your heart inside out and liquidizes your stomach and has you dropping everything and running towards the source of the scream because a small child is in mortal pain, accidentally burnt or broken and close to death.




Léonie does not want to put on her socks.

She wants to go outside, she has managed to put her Crocs on, but she does not want to put on her socks.

“It’s cold outside.” I tell her. “You can wear your crocs if you really want, but you need socks on to keep your feet warm!”


“Okay, okay! Then no socks, but that means no crocs either! We’re going to the farm, you will walk in wet grass and some sort of poo and it will go through the holes in your crocs and then your feet will be cold, wet and pooey! Take the crocs off and put your fleecy boots on instead.”

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!  (throwing of fleecy boots across kitchen, re-throwing of socks, kicking of cartons-to-be-recycled.)

“Okay. Fine. Wear your crocs without socks. We have to leave right now or we’ll miss the post office. Come on, move it, let’s go!”

I bundle Léonie into Tommy’s red puffa jacket (because that’s what she has chosen as a coat), carry her out of the kitchen and down the stairs and try heading for the post office.


And so I strap her into the babyseat on my bike, put her helmet on and we bike up the hill, with the parcel I’m sending in my mouth, my teeth clenching onto it for dear life. We make it to the post office just before it shuts at midday, I hurl the parcel at our postmistress and off we bike down the hill towards the farm, Léonie singing quite happily behind me.

We visit the pigs, who look pissed off because today we didn’t bring anything for them to eat, then we visit the sheep and the hens and even the people because they are very nice farmers indeed. Often they’ll invite us in and Léonie will raid their baguette box (the Brits have breadboxes, the French have baguette boxes), a trick taught to her by her elder brother (we must owe them a couple of hundred euros in bread) and I’ll buy some eggs, but not today because Léonie has walked through wet grass and some sort of poo and her feet are cold and wet and pooey. And now she wants to be carried and I have no desire whatsoever to carry her with her pooey crocs on as they will wipe across my jeans and jumper rendering me pooey too. So I put her back on the bike and we’re just about to head off when the farmer’s charming son pops out of his essential oils boutique and I ask him whether he saw L’Homme’s show in Lyon and he says yes and starts to tell me about the evening he spent at the theatre but Léonie is ready to go home because her feet are cold and wet and pooey so she bangs on my bike saddle shouting “Mummy! Mummy! MummyMummyMummyMummyMummyMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMY MUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMY!!!!!!!    EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! and that works a treat, I start pedaling straight back up the hill.

Just another morning in my life as a stay-at-home mummy in the middle of the French countryside.

Career options for a 5 year old.

Last week, while we were at my parents home in the UK, Tommy accidentally saw the beginning of a news report about a soldier whose leg had been blown apart. I managed to switch the telly off before he saw any more of it but he had seen enough to ask questions.

“Mummy, I don’t want to be a soldier because I don’t want my leg to be all in blood.”

“Well, I’m very relieved. I don’t think I would want you to be a soldier either.”

“I will be a doctor and make the soldiers better. And all the other people. And all the other legs in blood.”

“That’s a good idea Tommy.” (I secretly rubbed my hands in glee – my son, a doctor!)

“But Mummy, if I am a doctor, I will have to look at lots of legs all in blood. And more blood. I don’t like it.”

“Well, you don’t have to be a doctor” (my hopes violently dashed to smithereens).

He looked thoughtful. “Mummy, I will be a facteur. I mean a postman.”


“No Mummy, I forgot, I want to be a gold statue maker. I will make gold statues and buy money with them.”

“Do you mean people will pay you money for your gold statues?”

“Yes Mummy.”

“And what will you do with the money?”

“I will buy things for me. Like shelves. And lights. Some food.”

My son’s mind may have been infiltrated by my home improvement plans.

“And statues.”

“So… when you grow up, you’ll make gold statues to get money to buy, amongst other things, statues?”

“Yes Mummy.”

 I’m not sure whether Tommy will be a famous sculptor with a huge art collection or a weird philosophy teacher who specialises in circular logic, but I am glad he doesn’t want to do a job that involves his leg being all in blood.

R.I.P. Queen of Labrador(ish) Dogs

I have been neglecting my blog. It is a bit like neglecting to clean the fridge. You know the longer you leave it the more hassle it will be, but then again it’s not a matter of utmost priority; the worst that will happen is a lettuce will turn into sludge or a pot of home-made jam will cultivate its own brain cells. In a blog’s case, the worst that will happen is your reader statistics will shrivel up into single figures. At the moment I’m not really bothered about that, but I promised a friend to write something this week, and to prove I can keep a promise, I am writing this.

My friend is French. He speaks pretty damn good English. But like a lot of my French friends, my blog is one of the only sources of English language he reads on a regular basis (poor him… poor them), so it it my duty to the people of France to keep writing, no matter what, in order to keep their English fit and healthy (if a little tainted with words made up by me which should exist anyway and which make perfect sense in the given context).

I have either been too busy to write – an unfamiliar situation in my current life despite racing about after the kids as I usually have nap-times and evenings to write, or I have been too happy – no-one wants to read about how great someone else’s life is, or I have been too sad – no-one wants to read about someone in tears over a pet who has disappeared. I did a week of dancing at Valence with a brilliant choreographer (I must write about that soon), followed by a week in the UK, followed by our return to France and the discovery that our trusty 15-year old Queen of Labradors had gone missing. She is, indeed, still missing. I think that means she is in Labrador Paradise by now, frolicking with other dogs of sexually diverse orientation; Baloo fancied males and females alike and didn’t care who knew. Neither did I, although my then-boyfriend was always very embarrassed to see her mounting other bitches, yo.

Anyway, Baloo turned 15 on October the 16th this year and I have just seen that my last post (an absurd one which does not merit being read) was indeed written on the morning of her birthday. Wicked mistress, I didn’t write anything about Baloo this year, partly so as not to bore readers, having written about her last year here. I sincerely thought she wouldn’t make it to her 15th birthday, but she did, if a little creakily. We celebrated it with some leftover cherry tart and candles and a dog bowl with stars and the word “DOG” written in it.

She seemed a little perturbed by the whole thing. But then, I suppose that when you get to 90-odd years (I think that’s the equivalent of a 15 yr old labrador), you’re not really into sweet desserts and loud singing, although she was deaf so she probably just wondered why we kept opening our mouths so wide and holding them there, while advancing with a bowl full of flames.

Tommy, our lighting engineer dealt with the pyrotechnics.

So Baloo made it to the grand old age of fifteen dog years. Which is like us hitting 90, 95 or so. That’s pretty damn good going. She had a painful hip and had started taking anti-inflammatory drugs every morning, but that was all she had wrong with her. When I dropped her off at my friend’s house, she was slow and creaky, but fine. Or so I thought.

Apparently one evening she just got up and wandered off.

She has never gone further than a few metres from the person looking after her. But this time she went far, far away. And no-one has seen her since. I was in England when I heard she had been missing for two days so I phoned round neighbours and the local authorities but no-one had seen her. When I got home I went looking for her in the countryside and woodland around our friend’s house, where she had been staying. But it really was like looking for a needle in a haystack. After a while I wondered if I even wanted to find her. What would I find anyway? Grisly remains? Did I really want to see her like that? I imagined what it must be like when it’s not an old dog you’re searching for, but a lost child. I suddenly felt very cold. I thought how lucky I was to have my kids safe at home in the warm. In the end I turned back to my car and drove home.

We are still getting used to Baloo not being around. Every time we arrive home Léonie calls her. Every time we drive past our friend’s house Tommy goes very quiet and sometimes cries a bit. I had a good old bawl the day I spent the morning searching for her in the woods. But in the end it’s typical of Baloo to spare us of the trouble of dealing with her death and the pain of seeing her dead. She was such a gentle, easy, loving dog.

R.I.P. Baloo. We loved you so very much.

NB: For those of you who can’t stand people going on about their pets, Normal Service will be resumed post hastily.

Alas poor toothbrush, I knew her well.

Yesterday was a day when everything seemed destined for failure/breakage/spillage/tantrum/desperation/loss of voice. The (squashed) cherry on the cake was when I was brushing my teeth and my toothbrush snapped.

Did she fall or was she pushed?

I cannot tell you how difficult it is to brush your teeth with just a knobbly bit of brush end and no “stalk”. It is impossible to do a half decent job and you feel utterly ridiculous. Tommy watched me and said “Mummy, why are you brushing your teeth with just your fingers?” because that’s what it looked like I was doing. I showed him the brush bit and he rolled his eyes. “That’s not a good idea, Mummy”. I had a flash-forward of him being 17 and watching me clean the kitchen floor with two small sponges, squatted down like a frog (my favourite technique) and him saying exactly the same thing. Maybe by then I will have become sophisticated and elegant and will no longer have breakable toothbrushes and use sponges to mop floors. Somehow I doubt it.

Padded bras for kids.

Ahem. I fear I have become a little dull. Writing about insects and home renovation. In the list of Topics To Avoid Like The Plague When Writing A Blog, these are numbers 3 and 4 (numbers 1 and 2 are personal hygiene problems and favourite cleaning products).

Well today I’m writing about a subject that involves sex, which is always a good crowd puller, although today I wish my subject wasn’t about sex. But it is. Yet it shouldn’t be.

Whilst searching for slippers in the childrens’ section of Monoprix I found myself in front of a whole range of padded bras. Nothing strange there. Well, it is a bit strange when you realise that nowadays padded bras outnumber the non-padded ones by about five to one, but anyway, that’s not the point. The very disturbing thing about these rows of padded bras were they were in the children’s section. Not by accident. On purpose. They are for little girls. We’re talking TEN YEAR OLDS and upwards.

Mothers of ten year olds may be thinking I’m very naive and that yeah, these padded bras for children are everywhere and have been everywhere for ages. Or maybe they’re just rife in France. I have no idea. All I know is that I find the concept of making little girls’ breasts look a lot bigger is creepy and perverted. TEN YEAR OLDS. Even 12 year olds, 13, 14 year olds… what does it mean when underwear manufacturers are selling “bigger boobs bras” to such young girls?

Oh but I am naive. I’m totally out of touch. It’s nothing, just sexualising kids in yet another way, the way everything is sexualised nowadays. I should lighten up. I mean I don’t have to buy those bras for my little girl, do I? But that’s not the point. The point is that someone, somewhere, thought they could make some money by selling bras for children who don’t need bras and then adding a ton of padding so that those children look like they do need bras. Why balloon our little girls’ breasts? To make them look like women, to make them sexually attractive. Bloody hell, it’s already hard enough when you’re 18 to fight off men’s stares, wolf-whistles, and hands, imagine a ten year old having to deal with all that.

We don’t sell cod-pieces to little boys. We don’t sell special padded-pants to make them look like they have large willies ready for adult action. We don’t glue fake stubble on their faces.

I read an article in the Guardian the other day (which I can’t find now of course) about people who like having sex with much younger partners. This was written following the whole Jimmy Savile scandal which still makes me feel sick to the stomach. The writer was saying that it’s about power, not sex. The older partner is interested in the power he/she gets to wield over someone so much younger, less-experienced, less sure of themselves. This in turn indicates the older partner is actually hugely lacking in self-confidence and is searching to feel powerful by having much younger sexual partners. Yup, that makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is how this ‘preference’ has permeated our society. The “ideal body” resembles a 16 year old body, not a 36 year old one.

Most young girls now grow up thinking their worth is largely built on their sex appeal. Ten and eleven year olds trying to be women as fast as possible will love those padded bras. I can just see their mothers trying to dissuade them. I can see the little girls happily carrying their new padded bra back home and trying it on, coming downstairs with their new boobs, Mum and Dad choking on their tea, looking at each other in panic, wondering how on earth to deal with the situation. Try telling an eleven year old that her boobs will grow in time, that she doesn’t need a padded bra at her age, that having boobs doesn’t matter – the rest of the world is telling her it does.

(NB: I have chosen the title on purpose because I bet some parents/kids are actually using those words as a search term. Maybe, just maybe they’ll read my post and MIGHT spend 20 seconds thinking about it. Or maybe not. Any comments on this topic are more than welcome. Léonie is only just coming up to 2, so I’ve got a few years to think about this one…)

And then there was light.

This weekend we decided to knock a hole in our kitchen wall and wham a window in. In terms of how your body feels the next morning, it’s the physical equivalent of taking a load of drugs and dancing all night in a field, then sleeping in a damp sleeping bag in the back of a van. That’s how we get our kicks nowadays. Crazy 30’s-nearly-40-year-olds that we are.

L’Homme arrived home on Saturday at midday. We ate lunch and L’Homme started power-drilling the kitchen wall from the top of a ladder… A few hours later and there was a massive hole in the wall, just along from the sink. A MUCH bigger hole than expected because, well, that’s old stone walls for you. You inevitably end up having to knock out more stones than you expected just because a tiny nobble was in the way. (knobble? nobble?) L’Homme put the window in and set it with that gungy stuff that sets really fast – no not Superglue, although he would have used anything at that point as it was getting dark. We went to bed with a window surrounded by mostly hole, hoping it wouldn’t rain in the night.

It didn’t. And in the morning we came down to a kitchen full of light. We had breakfast admiring the view and cooing at the sunlight on the hills, as if we had never seen sunlight or hills before. The rest of the day was a manic rush to build the wall back up again around the window as L’Homme was due to leave at 5 p.m. He found a very old piece of oak and shaved it down to the right size to make a lintel. Then it was up and down the ladder (the window is five metres up the outside wall as our house is built on a slope) carrying stones and mortar, with me working from the inside of the kitchen, mostly moral support at that point (and pointing out bits that weren’t right), passing pints of lemon fizzy water through and a lot of cleaning of centimetre-thick dust that had settled over everything. L’Homme miraculously managed to finish the job before having to drive off to Bourgogne, although he ended up leaving at 8, with jelly-legs and a sore back. He’ll do the finishing touches next weekend when the mortar has dried, but the kitchen is already transformed. Hallelujah, we have light! Especially over the sink. I even enjoyed doing the washing up today (hmmm, is this a ploy?…) I can also watch the builders next door which is hugely exciting entertainment when you live in a village of 30 inhabitants and the highlight of your day is throwing fallen figs at to the farm pigs.

My step-mum commented that it takes some men ten times as long to change a light bulb. She is right, L’Homme is brilliant at all that home-renovation-maintenance-bangin’-in-windows-and-building-walls stuff. Ten out of ten there. But even though few women would manage such a physically heavy job as the one L’Homme just took on (the window weighs nearly as much as I do and he was balancing it up a ladder), most women CAN change lightbulbs. Go on girls, try it! Once you’ve changed one you’ll realise it’s mad to wait for weeks for the boys to do it. Let there be light!



From the outside…


PS: the t-shirt says it all.