Duck

The toddler’s favourite word is ‘duck’. Much to my relief the pronunciation has improved terribly, and so I no longer fear the reprisal of others when leaving the house.  Kate does however use her word with great conviction, and often in a number of non-bird related scenarios, and there is no accounting for her immaculate comedy timing (all this has relevance later on, bare with me).

It’s exciting times at Ferguson Forts as a large proportion of our house is now missing courtesy of Steve (our builder) and his merry men. We have had breakers, diggers, grab loaders, skips, some wonderful wheelbarrows in jaunty green and yellow hues, and all manner of things that create noise and dust, but at the same time profound joy! We have always enjoyed a bit of a project when it comes to house related things, but this has been the grandest effort to date. I can’t wait to be living in the end result and making the most of what the new space will offer us in terms of daily living and also potential money making adventures (if I play my cards right).

With the fun however, has also been a lot of hard work and preparation for the great event, and so last Monday in much need of some R&R, our little family downed tools (yep, the Toddler is head of sweeping) and we set off to the beautiful gardens at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire.

We started out tour in the water garden which is everything a stately home garden should be, beautifully landscaped, planted with only the most fragrant and exotic blooms, and as it’s name would suggest, is host to a large number of lily laden ornamental duck ponds. Breaking with tradition we had actually taken the buggy with us on this particular outing as the Toddler was seen to be flagging from the start and we hoped she would eventually give in and make use of it. Sadly, this was not the case, and so we spent the entire time pushing the cumbersome thing round, but at least it was (I thought) a useful storage facility for my handbag and worldly possessions. 

At one point I was rather pleased that I had managed to traverse Kate’s aluminium chariot across a number of stepping stones to a grassy island where Neil and Kate had already made their way. I signalled to them that I had arrived and bent down to receive an incoming toddler who was bounding over to me.

Now at this point I understand it when people say their lives flash before their eyes and everything goes into slow motion…as I swept Kate into my arms I heard Neil call out! I looked behind me only to watch as the buggy, its brake not having been applied, deftly make its way down a neatly mown hillock towards a watery edge.  I ran after it, but unable to catch it as it picked up speed, it entered the water with an almighty ‘splosh’, sunk on impact,  and only its rear wheels were visible above the surface.

‘Duck’ said the Toddler.

I believe the correct terminology for my mobile telephone is ‘bricked’ as it displays only a flashing red light, the lady at the Co-op was quite mistrustful of my slightly damp and curly edged five pound note (I did explain), but at least the stamps still work, albeit with the application of a little Pritt Stick.

The buggy was eventually laid out to dry in the Children’s playground after Neil managed to rescue it in a manly display of strength over adversity, and we made several new acquaintances off the back of our spectacle, as fellow parents gathered to both commiserate and congratulate us on our efforts.

So the lesson in today’s story is thus. When life surrounds you with deep water, apply the brakes, because you never know what could end up getting bricked.

And if you visit Cliveden of an afternoon, do take in a cream tea on the parterre, it’s lovely!

It’s a busy day down on the farm…

Who’s that hiding in the barn? Our favourite book of the moment.

It has taken me a while because a great deal of my leisure time recently has been consumed with dispensing advice on upholstery cleaning to the elderly. Lucky for you however (?) I have also managed to find a few spare moments to upload pictorial evidence of our attendance at Open Farm Sunday. For anyone not familiar with this particular and sacred day,  it is an opportunity to have a mooch around your local agricultural establishment without fear of being caught out by an electric fence or worse, a farmer with a penchant for spit-roasted rambler.

I have to say, we were very taken with our chosen destination ‘Shiplake Farm’ in Oxfordshire. There were of course the fundamentals – tractor rides, heifer introductions, the opportunity to feel small next to a combine harvester, and lashings of homemade victoria sponge! Our farm however not only offered all of the above, but also an opportunity for colouring in (the equivalent of crack cocaine to an ex Geography Student) – whist their primary crop also just happens to be opium. I know! That may account for some of the tractor driving, but I feel it added to the ambiance and general authenticity of experience.

Here are a few photos of our adventures, including one of a very exciting contraption used for weighing cows on their way to Tesco.

To collect Clubcard points.

Or so what Neil told me.

P.S. Note the Toddler is wearing her hat! Wonders never cease.

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake farm

John Deere Tractor - Open Farm Sunday 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Cow weighing machine

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

The Sofa Saga

We purchased two very nice and enormously comfortable cream sofa’s from Sofa.com a few years ago.

I know, how you laugh, but we didn’t know about toddlers then.

Anyway, we had a small incident a few weeks back involving a misplaced glass and some red wine which resulted in some unwanted decoration of a sofa arm. Luckily Neil is the sort for forward thinking (and having had experience of me and my blunders), and had enrolled us into something quite marvellous called ‘Guardsman’ where they send someone out to clean, or in the scenario where a stain cannot be removed, replace the affected bit of sofa for you.

So yesterday I phoned what I believed to be ‘Guardsman Sofa Protection’. Sadly in my distracted state (The Peppa Pig episode had ended and was dealing with a fractious toddler) I had accidentally dialled the wrong number and ended up having a delightful, if somewhat confused chat with an elderly lady called Edna. Our call went something like this…

‘Hello’?

‘Hello, is this Guardsman Protection?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Guardsman, I have a stain on my sofa and was wondering if I could claim on our policy?’

‘Who is this?’

‘Amy Ferguson, I bought a sofa from Sofa.com 2 years ago and took out a policy with you….have I got the wrong number? I think I do, I do apologise, I shall let you get on.’

‘I am Edna Bridge. The stain on my sofa.’

‘Yes?’

‘I have put my cushion over it.’

‘Ok..’

‘You can’t get someone to clean it you say?’

‘I apologise, the stain is on *my* sofa…’

<At this point I realise how terribly English I am>

‘…But I can recommend the fabric and upholstery stain remover that you can get from Sainsbury’s. it comes in a blue bottle and you just squirt it on. It’s very good. That might help.’

‘Ok dear. Thank you for calling.’

<And she puts the phone down>.

Now that is what I love about older people, they can accept that totally random strangers may just call them in the middle of the day and dispense stain cleaning advice without any question about the normality of this.

I just hope her stain comes out.

But at least I can rest well tonight in the knowledge that if it doesn’t, at least she has a cushion to put over it…

Why didn’t I think of that?

Sunglasses

Previously it was all about the balls.

And now for some context to that statement.

Moving on. The new fad in my toddler’s life is sunglasses. She has been major fans of both mine, Neil’s (and well anyone’s really) for some time now, so when strolling amongst the aisles of summer attire, I finally caved in and purchased some for the young lady in my life.

Kate had a choice of four pairs, including two brandishing the much favoured ‘Peppa Pig’, but apparently unable to influence the decision in any way,  we ended up with the bright pink oversized polka dot pair. They have not left her nose since.

I kid you not, even bath time has not been taken without the accompaniment of specs.

So without further ado, introducing the Toddler and her ‘rays’…

Toddler Sunglasses
They went on in the shop. They have not come off since.
Eating dinner in my sunglasses
Eating dinner 
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Digging the shades
Digging the shades
Greys Court Garden - National Trust
Giving coach tours 
Kate and Benjamin
Cake scoffing incognito

 

What can I say.

She’s a special girl.

A Post on Post

I think it is possible that the former occupant of our house received the most post ever. For months on end we were e-mailing an incredible amount of organisations to remove us from their mailing lists – from double glazing manufacturers to decathlon training outfitters, freemason organisations, and the one which tugged at my heart strings a little (and I had serious thoughts about joining). – ‘Friends of Ferrets’. Two years later we are still receiving letters for Mrs W, and ‘returning to sender’ has become almost a ritual in our household.

There is however one subscription that there is no way I will ever be able to part with, and that is Mrs W’s bi-annual wig catalogue.

Now I had little experience or knowledge of wigs until this arrived on our doorstep some months ago, but it has opened up a whole new world to me.

Firstly there is the choice (and considerable) price point between a synthetic and a real hair piece. It is a difficult decision, but having researched the issue thoroughly, I believe ‘real hair’ does indeed give you a more luscious look, but I am still unable to come to terms with the thought of stepping out with a head of hair manufactured by a foreign scalp. There is also the hassle of split ends and the thought of lingering dandruff or even head lice that seals the deal with synthetic for me. Even though this does, as warned, pose with it a greater risk if the wearer were to experiment with naked flames, or even ‘open the oven door’ in some cases. If attending an event therefore where unusually the host has brought in the caterers, the reason may not be purely gastronomical. And one ought to be cautious around the candelabra.

The main reason however, I appear to be so enthralled by these fascinating reads of follicle loveliness, is the rather endearing names given to each ‘do’. Rather than referring to each wig as a ‘bob’ or ‘elfin cut’ as one might given a conventional style, they are given monikers such as ‘The Virginia’, ‘The Sophia’, or if you are feeling rather racy, ‘The Mauritius’.

What is more, you may also choose from a wide range of shades such as ‘shaded wheat’, ‘platinum’ and the rather disappointingly named brunette choice – ‘medium’. For the older lady not afraid to sport some silver, ‘granite’, ‘truly mink’ and ‘sahara’ are also available. I am always rather tempted by styles in the fetching tone of ‘honey glaze’, but I then become rather distracted by a longing for gammon.

The Sophia
The ‘Sophia’ courtesy of naturalimagewigs.co.uk
The Virginia
‘The Virginia’, courtesy of naturalimagewigs.co.uk

‘Jacqueline Wigs’ and ‘Natural Image’, the two publications we receive also carry ‘wig styling and care’ tips which, of course, I too have a penchant for. Achieving a ‘wet look’ for example is possible by simply combing your ‘wig conditioner’ through from scalp to tip, and leaving for an hour for the fibres to assume a stylised placement.  An ‘up do’ may also be achieved for longer wigs by conventional means, but go easy on the hair spray as even a venture out in fine weather may mean a visit from the emergency services. The most important feature of securing the desired look however is to achieve a good fit on your wig. This is possible by adjusting the velcro fastenings inside the head piece, along with the ‘anti-slip strips’ which means the wearer may feel ever confident in blustery conditions. Vital I would have thought, particularly by the coast.

And so, I shall leave it here, sad in the fact I shall have to wait a further 6 months until my next wig fix, but rather excited at the thought of what the winter collection may bring. I shall be looking up tips on ‘hat hair’ in preparation.

Building

Now I always think to myself, there is nothing more inspiring than a pile of rockwool on a Wednesday.

But for me it is actually rather magnificent as it marks the start of building works at our home, and at long last, we can get this place looking a bit more like we own it and we can banish the ‘Granny smell’ of the previous occupant forever. There are likely to be many more updates on this over the coming weeks, particularly as I do love a mini digger, and nothing gets the heart racing like a plastic down-pipe, so bare with me but I will need an arena for my excitement.

In other news I have been working hard to counter the parts of my personality I take issue with, namely my inability to commit to a project for longer than 5 minutes without getting distracted and a new flight of fancy steering me off course. This is why I continue to watch a TED talk each morning, and why I am feeling particularly chipper that I find myself still sitting here typing at you.

Today I would like to share this from my a.m. viewing – definitely worth a watch if you have a few minutes – a very funny, provocative and (unfortunately for Stella) inspiring talk on disability.

P.S. UPVC patio doors will be going in the next few weeks. If these have been missing in your life, and the days have been long, hard, and at times rather chilly without the appropriate fenestration, then do get in touch. Also available with or without toddler lick.

A collection of random

Today I found the charger to an Eee PC that was my work horse for a number of years until it was replaced with a shiny big screened Dell. Regrettably I haven’t turned it on for years, but have had a lovely couple of hours reuniting myself with old writings, classic tunes and best of all, forgotten moments captured on film. I always tend to have a folder for miscellaneous photos, and these are always my favourite to rediscover. Here are a few gems from this evening’s little foray.

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The wife and I visited Vietnam and Cambodia on our honeymoon, and typically when Neil and I go anywhere, there are moments when we want to cry. But in a good way. Our driver greeted us with this sign in Hanoi. I am pleased to report spellcheck is alive and well in Vietnam.

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There is a famous children’s book in the US called ‘Make way for  Ducklings‘ set in Boston Common, and I found them. A bit star struck here as you can tell.

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Also Boston – and now it is Mr F that is often on that plane heading home from Logan Airport. Wave if you see him.

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My friend Kat who sadly I don’t see as often as I like, but when I do it is always an adventure. This photo was taken on a no.17 bus after a night on the town, when Kat engaged some pearly queens in a rendition of such war time classics as ‘There’ll be bluebirds over’. A verse in and the entire lower deck had joined us. There should be more singing on buses.

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Clearly I have issues. This was taken pre-toddler and when I was home alone for the weekend and happened upon some shaving foam. I would like to say this doesn’t still happen.

Addy Road

My very good friend Adeline Santos had the cheek to change jobs when we were both working as planners at Wokingham Borough Council. We made her our own version of a mix tape and named it ‘Addy Road’, featuring all of our favourites we used to rock to when the bureaucracy just got too much.

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The Euphorbia Wulfenii from my our old garden. One of my most favourite plants. It will be featuring in our new garden, and frankly, it doesn’t feel like spring without it.

Matias Hampton Court

Matias Sakorai. A legend in his own right and my intern buddy when we were both learning the social media trade in Kew Gardens. A 118 body double, he is also in a heavy rock band and arrived from Brazil to the UK with nothing but a set of kitchen knives (apparently an essential) and a bottle of Jack Daniels he bought in duty free. This photo was taken on our first assignment to interview the Chairman of a Digital Leaders think tank, and we of course got lost. Epically so. Carrying thousands of pounds of camera equipment on the tube.

Fun times.

 

Scarecrow Trail

The village of Sonning in Berkshire hold an annual Scarecrow Trail. If you know anything about the residents of Sonning, you will know that a charity shop suit stuffed with straw would never hold muster.

A collection of 2014 entries:

Policeman - Sonning Scarecrow Trail 2014
The Old Police Station
Eeyore - Sonning Scarecrow Trail 2014
Wouldn’t sell houses…
Neil and Kate - Sonning Scarecrow Trail 2014
Wildcard entry
Mr Mannering, Dads Army - Sonning Scarecrow Trail 2014
Stupid boy…
Willy Wonka - Sonning Scarecrow Trail 2014
‘Because I’ve got a golden ticket!’
101 Dalmations - Sonning Scarecrow Trail 2014
Lacked true commitment. There were only 15.
Vespa - Sonning Scarecrow Trail 2014
Mod squad

Indian food served on the street, the chance to nose around residents gardens. Pimms.

I know.

See you next year.

The great debate

I have much admiration for the Allsopp. She can pull off a bit of casual chinz with impractical heels, she has a lovely house with blue windows, her cousin is Cath Kidston so invariably she gets a discount, and, well, she works with Phil Spencer.

But yesterday this interview with Ms A was published, and my fan-ship felt rather in turmoil.

I have long resisted a temptation to enter into the great debate on parenthood – i.e. when it should be entered into and under what circumstances, but for what it is worth, here’s my ten pence worth.

It is proven that fertility does start to pack its bags after a lady’s 35th birthday. I believe this is because the price of Oil of Olay begins to render the expenses associated with child raising untenable. I do however also believe that it is impossible to put an age bracket on when its considered ‘the right time’ to produce offspring.

I had my daughter at age 31. This was due to a number of another including finding the right person to have her with, being in a place both physically and financially that we felt we could give her the best start in life, and because sometimes shit happens. Eight months before I became pregnant with Kate, I had a miscarriage and emergency surgery. Not caused by age, just misfortune.

Regardless of all of the above, I would not have wished to have had my daughter any sooner. Indeed, I felt that to be the best sort of Mum I wanted to be, I needed to grow up first. So I spent my formative years getting things wrong, and getting things right. I was in relationships that didn’t work out for one reason or another, but I learnt from them. I got myself an education, a career, I traveled quite a bit. I saw, I thought, I tested myself, I listened and I formed opinions. I did all the things you are meant to do when you are young and silly, and it doesn’t matter.

Because now it does.

If I had been a Mum in my twenties I could not have afforded to stay at home and raise our daughter as I had wanted. I wouldn’t have had the emotional maturity to deal with the relentless responsibility you face as the parent of a small child, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the life experience to answer the questions no doubt my daughter will have for me in later life.

So I feel very lucky really that everything came together at the right time for me, and I was able to have a baby without the need for medical intervention. But this also goes for ladies both older and younger than me. And there are women of all ages too who do require help for one reason or another to have their children. It’s a bit of a lottery as to whether our bodies are up to the job, and yes we can maybe increase our chances in when we buy a ticket, but that doesn’t always guarantee a win. And don’t I know.

To conclude finally (and apologies for the metaphorical stream in this post) I think that whereas our baby bearing potential is set against a clock, I don’t think it is ever practical to set an alarm. In my opinion, children deserve us at our best, and not just be at our convenience.

Thought for Food

Spiderman on a porch roof. No reason.

Now I can’t say my life is stressful in the sense that I do not have to file reports, meet press deadlines, create spreadsheets for inexplicable data, worry whether HR are monitoring ‘all’ email attachments , or suffer the unbearable sweat inducing hunger that every British person must in preference to taking the last biscuit during a meeting. Even if it is only one of those shortcake ones with the dried currants in.

So yes, I am lucky in that sense, but instead my mind is generally preoccupied with a hundred and one other things, some useful, some not – but strangely I’m finding that the more I have to think about the happier a person I am. Curious in a sense, as previously when I found myself in conventional employment, the notion of relaxing and not having to think about anything was a distinct luxury. Now I find it is quite the opposite.

Along with the mental chaos that comes of making sure three people are alive, clothed and fed, I have found myself develop a yearning for learning about random things at the moment. In fact it’s become a serious addiction that requires feeding, a nourishment that I crave and never thought I would – a genuine need of ‘thought for food’.  This is why I think I have become so fixated with TED.com – I can get a fix of trivia in the time it takes to don a clean pair of socks and dab on a bit of mascara.

I think I rather wish I had become addicted to something useful like jogging or hot yoga or something. Then I could have a toned physique and buns of steel! Instead here I sit, cherry bakewell in hand, learning about how the human brain is wired to comprehend our own mortality. Now there’s a delicious irony for you.

There are however downsides in wanting to fill my brain with random curiosities, in that sometimes over capacity often leads to a distinct malfunction. And I do stupid things. Some recent embarrassments include:

  1. Wearing my pyjama top to the supermarket, featuring an over-sized bunny;
  2. Hunting for a cup of tea I made, only to find it in the toddler’s wardrobe;
  3. Using deodorant to polish the bedroom furniture;
  4. Leaving a voicemail for my builder explaining why I can’t make my dental appointment…

and most unfortunately…

5. Inviting a friend to meet me at a local National Trust property. She arrived at said property on time. I also arrived promptly and began looking for my friend at the ticket office (as agreed). It was after some moments of confusion when neither of us could find each other at the modestly sized ticket office, that I realised I had suggested a destination and meant another. My friend was in Basingstoke. I was 25 miles away in Henley-on-Thames. Yep.

So I need to come up with a way that I can maintain a working level of mental stimulation without also compromising friendships and causing myself public humiliation and eventually, dehydration.

But at least in the short term, my bedroom smells 24 hour fresh.

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