Beware of falling rocks.

I don’t know why, but I love this sign.

Beware of falling parmesan flakes.

It makes me think of a huge chunk of crumbling parmesan. If you look at it “in negative”, ie. the black being the background and the white being the drawing, it looks like a walking building with chunky little feet. As I ponder what I see in it, I forget that it’s warning me there is a risk of rocks falling on my car, or that I may drive into an already-fallen rock, and then I drive into one. Which is ironic.

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Transient Synovitis or Septic Hip? Yikes.

I spent the night and this morning at hospital with Tommy and finally understood what he has/might have/might not have. I also found the English terms.
… which is a viral illness involving inflammation and pain around the hip and which clears up on its own with time and rest …
… which is serious and could cause permanent damage to the cartilege. It’s an infection within the hip joint – bacteria accumulates as pus, becomes very painful and requires surgery and strong antibiotics.
The thing with Tommy is that his symptoms were somewhere in-between the two. His blood tests showed he had an infection somewhere that was getting worse, he was in awful pain when anyone touched his hip or leg, yet he didn’t have much of a fever (it came and went but was never too high), he had a good appetite and was quite perky and ‘himself’. The MRI scan showed there was an accumulation of fluid on the hip so after consulting various other childrens’ wards in Lyon and Avignon, they decided to operate, extract the fluid, clean out the hip joint and put him on antibiotics just to ensure that if it is a case of septic hip there will be no permanent damage to his hip joint. He has to stay in hospital at least until Tuesday as the antibiotics are on a drip. Also they want to keep an eye on him to see how his hip pain evolves.
So there you go. It’s my turn at home with Léonie tonight, tomorrow I’ll put her down for her nap, Lorenzo will arrive home from the hospital, we’ll have a coffee and exchange news and then I’ll drive off to the hospital for the night to do a Tommy shift while Lorenzo takes over the Léonie shift.
It’s an odd sort of summer holiday.
He’s not ‘poorly’ in this photo, just having a peaceful nap. It’s the only time he’s not chatting away/playing on my iphone/watching Octonauts and saying all their lines before they do/buzzing the nurses to come and see him.
Not a very jolly post but I’m whamming it up here anyway in case one day another parent comes searching for ‘transient synovitis of the hip’ or ‘septic hip’. Should make my Google search terms more diverse.

CHOP!

That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’m getting my hair all chopped off again! I just can’t get through the growing-it-out stage! Look! I’m even using exclamation marks everywhere!!!! (my personal rule of thumb when writing: NEVER use more than one exclamation mark per 20 sentences.) AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!!!!!

I just came across this photo.

Yes, it’s blurry, which helps me look good, but even if it was in focus I still look a lot better than I do with this hair-helmet I’ve been wearing for over five months now. I can’t take it anymore. I’m sure this was what tipped me over the edge recently when I had a spell of feeling thoroughly depressed. So tomorrow morning I’m phoning Vincent  at “Le Salon” and booking an appointment with him and his shears. Don’t try to stop me.

(NB: I was about to write “I just can’t hack it” but realised this would have been a cringey pun. So I have spared you of such pain.)

Ruched flowery knickers

I often wish I was younger for many reasons. Less lines. Softer skin. More time to become a world famous film star. But mostly because I would like to be able to wear knickers like these.

 

Alas. In real life this is no longer possible. Or it is, but they would have to be hidden beneath outer garments, which means there’s no point in wearing them whatsoever. These knickers should be worn to be seen. Which is why I am contemplating doing a solo show as a girly clown. Just so that I can wear those knickers and show them to the 23 people in the audience whole wide world.

Back in the saddle again.

Quite sheepishly, here I am again. Having announced in a typically actressy dramatic fashion that THAT WAS IT, it was all over, finished, done with, through, I would no longer be writing my blog, may you all weep and mourn me for weeks and months to come… here I am, a mere ten days later.

I can’t seem to stick at anything, not even being depressed. I tried my hardest, I lay on the sofa crying, I hated myself with a vengeance, I concentrated my hardest on thinking gloomy thoughts, but then our first load of summer visitors arrived and having a house full of people jolted me sharpishly out of feeling sorry for myself. You just can’t be depressed with a ton of friends around, smiling and pouring you a glass of wine and saying how they love your house and how adorable your kids are and isn’t your man handsome and funny and how gorgeous the weather is and aren’t you lucky. I started to feel quite selfish and even a little stupid about feeling so down.

And then there was a circus festival down the road where I saw a ton of shows, seething with jealousy at the performers on stage and willing one of them to break their ankle so that I could leap up and cry “Have no fear! I can replace him/her/it! I’m a multi-talented actress/dancer/accordion player/juggler/trapeze artist/bareback horse rider/acrobatic horse!” (the last five are lies but I was ready to try). I also really enjoyed the shows and swore to steal as many ideas as possible and make my own one woman show, with which I am planning to tour the world, be knighted for cheering whole continents up and conquer the universe. All that by next year. So I was already feeling a lot more cheery and was considering maybe writing a post or two, and then my sister (Sister 2) went and created her own blog for her homemade kids’ clothes line, Heavens-to-Betsy. Well, not only did it look a lot better than my blog, which I hadn’t updated visuals-wise since 1977, but by her 4th day she already had 94 readers. My utter maximum in a day is 144. There is nothing better than sibling rivalry to give you a wake-up call in the form of a slap round the face. Which is why I am sitting on our sofa right now, ignoring the glorious sunshine outside (no, I don’t live in the UK) and making my blog at least look a bit better, even if the content is still waffly and largely incoherent.

The other thing that stopped my down-in-the-dumpsiness in its tracks was having to rush Tommy to emergency ward on Sunday afternoon. His right leg just stopped working. He couldn’t walk, stand up or even move it without screaming with pain. I drove him to the hospital where they did x-rays, scans and blood tests and slept overnight with him on a camp bed. L’Homme took over yesterday and I came home to look after Léonie. This morning they operated on Tommy. They extracted the fluid that was in his hip and sent it off to be tested. We’ll know more about what he’s got in a couple of days when we get the results. It’s either a benign “rhume de hanche” (“hip cold” which I had never heard of) or it’s something more serious, maybe treatable with antibiotics, maybe not. I drove Léonie and I to the hospital this morning to be there when he woke up from his anaesthetic. His leg was in a traction thing with a weight on the end to try and straighten it out. He has a small incision on his left hip. He was all grumpy and upset and worried that he would always have a weight attached to his ankle. “It’s there forever Mummy? Oh no Mummy!” I reassured him that he would be up and about in a couple of days but the doctors reckon they’re keeping him in at least another 3 or 4 days. They need to be sure it’s not anything serious and they need the blood tests to show the infection marker going down, rather than up, which is what it has been doing until now.

Just a few days ago I remarked out loud how lovely it is in the summer because the kids are never ill.

All this makes me wonder whether I should put off going back to acting and performing for another year or so. The kids are still so little and still so prone to dodgy illnesses which land them in hospital. With L’Homme on the road 8 months out of every 12 I’m usually the only one here to look after them, although this time we are lucky it has happened while L’Homme is home.

Ironic really. We had put this week aside to “spend time together” – ie. put the kids to bed early and stay up late sipping wine in the sunset. Instead we’ll be seeing each other fleetingly at the hospital as the other one takes over, swapping car keys and nappy bag and Léonie. But at least all this has put life into perspective and hoisted me back into the saddle again (even if I do have a bit of chafing saddle sore).

I’m just crossing my fingers and praying to Zeus (or whatever god will listen to me), that Tommy’s leg problem is nothing serious and that he’ll be back on his bike soon.

Goodbye for now.

I’m stopping blog-writing for the moment, like I’m stopping a lot of things. I’m a tad lost and my sense of humour has deserted me, which is a definite no-no for a decent blog. So rather than boring you with depressive whinging, or putting on a brave face and writing empty, forced posts, I’m packing this in until I have worked out where I am and what I am going to do with myself now. Normal service will resume one day, I just don’t know when.

Pirate Cake Ahoy

A few weeks ago, when we were planning Tommy’s birthday party, I opened my big mouth and stupidly asked him what sort of birthday cake he would like.

“A pirate ship cake. Mummy, yes, a pirate ship cake! With sails and pirates and treasure and treasure chests and cannons and everything!”

Ah.

My mind went utterly blank as brain cells and synapses struggled to imagine how on earth to bake and make such a cake, resulting in an electrical spark going awol and burning a fuse in my head. Some smoke came out of my ears. I am not a great cake baker. I am quite good at drawing, so I can draw a pirate ship, but I had no idea how to conceptualise the drawing as a three-dimensional chocolate sponge thing.

So off I went to visit Granny Google and lo, she had ideas a-plenty as to how to make a pirate cake. I printed out what seemed to be the easiest yet still looked pretty impressive as edible pirate ships go, and of course, left it until the morning of the party to actually start making the thing. Which created a problem: how to make the boat-cake without Tommy seeing? It wouldn’t be a surprise. And there lies the beauty of this whole baking project… it doesn’t need to be a surprise. In fact, it’s far better for it NOT to be a surprise, as then your little boy can thoroughly enjoy seeing it made and spend time gazing at it, rather than glimpsing it for 20 seconds while everyone yells Happy Birthday TO YOU, blowing out the candles and watching it being hacked into pieces and eaten before having really taken it in. Another advantage of getting your little boy roped into the creation of the cake is that little boys are top whizz experts in pirate boats and therefore can advise you regarding essential features, where they should be, what colour and how many. Tommy directed me with great authority on the number of masts, sails, oars and cannons, and patiently explained that there needed to be a treasure chest overflowing with gold and jewels, at least 3 pirates, one of whom whould be climbing into the boat having just fought off a shark, plus a shark in the sea by the boat, a desert island nearby, some rope and various cutlasses and knives.

Together we baked two round chocolate sponge cakes and once they had cooled off a bit I cut them in half and sandwiched them together with some chocolate icing to make the hull of the boat. I poked two straws through them to hold them together, wrapped the whole lot in foil and put it in the freezer for half an hour to make it more solid.

When I took it out of the freezer I cut the curved bottom off to make the boat sit properly on my “ocean” (more foil) and Tommy and I smothered the boat in chocolate icing. We then made barriers with pretzels and a flake, coils of rope with liquorice spirals, a mini Mars bar became a treasure chest and little red and yellow jelly sweeties cut into bits became the overflowing pirate booty.

We put the boat back into the fridge and cut out sails from gold and orange chinese paper which we threaded onto three mikado sticks. I found a little Union Jack ‘flag’ from a Jubilee skirt my sister had sent Léonie and we prepared three Playmobil soldiers for their birthday mission. The kids arrived (all 12 of them. I know, I know… we clearly didn’t learn our lesson from last year’s party) and we soon threw them all into the pool, which is tiny and meant the kids were so squished in that no-one had enough space to drown. Good safety technique. After the ice-cream boutique episode (me cramped into the little kiddy playhouse in the garden somehow serving ice-creams through the window), Tommy and I slipped away to finish the cake. We hoisted the sails and the flag, lit the cannons (candles), taught the pirates a last sea shanty before they left for sea… and we set sail. HA HAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH ME HEARTIES!

The kids were gobsmacked. I loved their faces. We sang happy birthday and joyeux anniversaire over and over again, relighting the cannons each time. And then came the moment to cut the cake. “Non!” shouted one of the boys. And another one asked “can we eat it without cutting it?” Which of course posed a slight problem. So I suggested we cut into the ship as if it was being attacked by a giant sea monster (me), then we could all eat some of it, and the rest we could leave as a shipwreck. “Yay! Oui!” So I donned an evil sea creature persona and hacked into the gateau-bateau with a huge knife fang, serving portions of boat to 13 wide-eyed mini-pirates. At the end there was just a chunk of boat left, keel reeling, sails toppling. One kid even ate the rocky island and tried eating the candle in the shape of a 5. And they adored munching on the salty pretzel-barriers along with the sweet chocolate cake.

So to any parents wondering what kind of cake creation they dare to tackle for a looming birthday party, I thoroughly recommend this one. It was easy peasy and so much fun to decorate. If I can do it, anyone can.

Close-up of treasure chest with gold and jewels. Ho ho ho and a bottle of gummy bears.

Tried and Tested

So I have been inadvertently testing a theory out these last three weeks and I can now confirm that yes, when one stops writing regular posts on one’s blog, no-one reads it anymore. This may be common knowledge to 85 million bloggers out there, but I am stubborn and I won’t believe something until I have tried it out (admittedly I have already tried this out without knowing because I rarely used to check my reader numbers, but now I do check them and so am now known to weep in the kitchen corner on days when less than 40 people read my nonsensical waffle). Always having to try things out for myself has often proved to be a pain in the arse where my life is concerned, as things would have been a lot easier had I just listened to others and learnt from their experience. But no. I had to have my own experiences. Mostly painful and/or embarrassing and/or disappointing, only to realise that what so-and-so told me in the first place was true.

TRIED AND TESTED:

1/ Running on magic petrol. ie: Not stopping at the motorway services to fill up with petrol because baby was sleeping. I thought I had enough to get to the next service station. Or that my car would just float there if I ran out. It didn’t. That was an expensive one. If you run out of petrol on the French autoroute you have to remortgage your home to pay the fine and promise to give them your next born.

2/ Going to a concert dressed like a 24 year old, real age: 16… very high heels, tiny weeny mini-skirt, lots of eye make-up,  not much else. I ended up snogging the lead singer of the heavy metal group ‘Acid Reign’ backstage.  My boyfriend (who wasn’t there)’s best mate smacked the singer over the head with a plank and stopped things going any further.

3/ Inviting 2 different families for Christmas when Léonie was 2 weeks old and the upstairs wasn’t yet finished. I have some great memories of this Christmas, and some utterly exhausting ones too. It was a haze of no-sleep, festivities and kids screaming though the house. I can remember looking at L’Homme in a state of utter fatigue and him looking at me in a “I told you so” way but not actually saying it as I would have ripped the water boiler off the wall and dropped it on his face.

4/ Wearing a puff ball skirt. Nuff said.

5/ Being in love with 2 men at the same time. This wasn’t actually a decision I took. I wasn’t testing out a theory. It just happened. I accidentally tried it out. I thought it was an impossibility, but all of a sudden, there I was, in love with 2 blokes and not knowing what on earth to do about it. Although, if I’m totally honest with myself, I was probably slightly more head-over-heels crazy about one of them. The one I couldn’t keep, of course. Just the fact I couldn’t keep him made me crazier and crazier about him.  Like eating a Flake and knowing that I won’t be able to eat another one until the next time I visit the UK. I love that Flake so much more than the Smarties because I can buy Smarties in any shop I want in France (they even sell them in lingerie shops). However, nowadays when I think of “the one that got away” I doubt things would have come to much even if I had managed to stuff him in my sock drawer and keep him there. One day he will be a big French film star and I shall reveal his identity and bump my daily reader statistics into the thousands. I have a calendar photo of him in the buff. That should do it.

But until that day, my daily reader numbers rely on me writing posts regularly. So here I am. I’m back. Ahoy there.

Jubilee?

For those of you looking for ways to avoid the Jubilee week-end, I have a solution. Simply leave the country. Just until Wednesday. Outside of England the world goes on, oblivious to all the bunting and Union Jack cupcakes. For those of you really allergic, make sure you go to a rural area of whatever country you have chosen to avoid the Jubilee in. That way you will ensure any sort of reference to the Jubilee whatsoever. We live in the countryside in the south of France where most of the villagers aren’t quite sure where Britain is situated, and those that remember it’s northwards think King George is still in charge.

Since yesterday I have been ignoring the Jubilee by cleaning our summer room and getting it ready for today’s guests. L’Homme is whisking Tommy off to the restaurant before taking him to circus rehearsals. At 4 o’clock we’ll all get to see him doing his circus show (note: Tommy is 4 and just yesterday announced he does trapeze in their show. Gulp.) I am only aware it’s Jubilee weekend because Sister 2 sent me an invitation to her Jubilee Sale of bespoke skirts and dresses for those of us short and cute enough to wear them (under 8 year olds). No doubt a significant percentage of little girls in Sheffield are wearing her skirts today. For those of you living in or near Sheffield, her cottage shed industry is called Heavens To Betsy. For some reason her website isn’t up, probably because she’s frightened of being overwhelmed by 500 orders coming in and having to disappoint people seeing as she is also taking care of three children. This is the danger of making beautiful clothes yet only having 6 and a half minutes to yourself per day. Anyway, here’s her invitation to give you an idea of her skirts. This is the only thing vaguely Jubilee-ish that I am happy to celebrate.

Heavens to Betsy Jubilee sale

Yesterday I read about a campaign to rename the tower housing Big Ben Elizabeth Tower. It has received the backing of the majority of MPs. The Bournemouth East MP has said the clock tower should be formally named in honour of the Queen, in recognition of 60 years’ of unbroken public service for her country. Well, wouldn’t you retain your unbroken public service when it involved living in the lap of luxury, having numerous big houses, servants running around at your beck and call, a collection of tiaras and lots of different pairs of sequined gloves to wear while waving at the masses? I would. I bet she doesn’t even have to walk her dogs.

When I first came to France I plunged headfirst into all things French. My English went wonky, I forgot who played who in Blackadder, I had no idea Take That were making a come-back. Sister 2, along with Sister 1 who got me back into Radio 4, became responsable for reminding me I am English and for keeping me in touch with British culture. When it was the world cup, she sent me England football team pants for Tommy. For the Kate & Will’s wedding last year she sent Tommy the main members of the Royal family in plastic figurine format. She also sent Léonie a pair of little Union Jack baby slippers, which Léonie adores. That is, until this morning, when she loudly and kickingly refused to put them on, threw them across the bathroom and later tried to put them in the kitchen bin. Could this be her way of poo-pooing the Jubilee celebrations? Little anarchist.

Stop the bloodshed.

I arrived home from Paris late last night. I hadn’t seen my 5 year old boy and my 18-month old girl for three days. This morning I was rewarded with two warm bundles in my bed – a small one, baby-signing “milk” at me with big eyes and a huge grin, and a bigger bundle smothering me in kisses and cuddles and stories of his adventures at school.

On the other side of the world, in Syria’s central Homs province, 49 warm bundles of joy and fun and wide-eyed grins are no more. They are now 49 cold bundles. They were killed one by one, shot and stabbed in their houses. This is from Wednesday’s Times:

‘The children of Houla were not killed by random shelling. The UN yesterday revealed that they were murdered one by one. The militia came in the night armed with knives and guns, and the young victims were executed with a bullet to the head or a knife to the throat.’

There are virtually no eyewitnesses of the massacre as anyone who saw what was happening was then slaughtered. One 11-year old boy survived. He watched his parents, sisters and brothers killed and then smothered himself in his brother’s blood and pretended to be dead. Here is his story. I had to fight against my instinct to shrink away from such gruesome, bloody news and I forced myself to read it. Part of me wants to hide from this horrific nightmare. But the families out there in Houla can’t hide from it. For them it’s not just a nightmare. It’s reality. Their reality. And they must be wondering why the rest of the world isn’t doing something to stop it.

Today thousands of bloggers are writing about what’s happening out there in syria. I am far from the most informed. But I wanted to join in this cry for help. To stop the violence and the bloodshed.  If you want to join in too, you can …

  • By signing the petition from Save the Children.
  • By signing the petition from Amnesty.
  • By blogging about it, tweeting about it, sharing links on Facebook.
  • By ReTweeting tweets you see using the hashtags #tippingpoint #syria #stopthekilling.
I wasn’t sure whether I should add a photo of some of the children, but I have decided to do so. It was when I saw the photos that the extent of the horror really hit me. I have, however, chosen one of the less graphic ones.