Tag Archives: Things To Read

2016: the things underneath

I know, I think this might be the latest I’ve ever posted one of these. And I was just going to leave it – it feels irrelevant to relive 2016 halfway through January, not to say depressing – but I was surprised: it cheered me right up. Looking through all our photos, remembering the small, lovely things that happened in-between and underneath and despite the cataclysmic world events. Perhaps there’s something to be salvaged there, after all.

Anyway, here’s a map of 2016 in photos, tweets about bodily functions, and interesting things to read. Feels like it was made for your next long bathroom break, so hey: take fifteen minutes on me behind a locked door, while your children yell for status updates on your evacuations.

The January where we had literally no idea what was coming

An American broccoli and cheese soup recipe.
Frozen broccoli – ok
Cornstarch – um
1 loaf processed cheese food GET OUT GET OUT GET IN THE SEA

***

I know I should turn my nose up at chicken dippers, but I can’t ever truly disapprove of apostrophe-shaped food.

I read and loved:

This TOTALLY CONVINCING take-down of why Aragorn had no right to the throne of Gondor.

And I wrote: 

An impassioned defence of Always Taking The Damn Nap, Yes Always.

 

The February Heath Ledger and I Were Not The Same

Hey casual acquaintances! Just to say all my weirdness stems from my laser-focussed and obsessive attempts to seem less weird.

***

Sometimes I think that Heath Ledger dancing to Golden Years in A Knight’s Tale is one of the most exquisite moments in our human history.

(It is, though.)

I read and loved: 

This convincing explanation for why Harry Potter in Book Five is the absolute worst.

A gorgeous thing about To Kill a Mockingbird and our inner Scout Finches.

And I wrote: 

Something about David Bowie, and hawks, and dancing with toddlers (this is my favourite thing I wrote all year. Peaked early).

A controversial (as it turned out) article about how all two-year-olds are irrational tyrants, and we should definitely stop saying they aren’t.

 

The March We Survived A Transatlantic Flight With Small Children

2YO: I want a snack

Me: what kind? You’re already eating porridge

2YO: a…a green snack

Me: be more specific

2YO: I waaaant…porridge

***

I remember being a kid and consciously deciding that Belle ate the Be Our Guest food off-screen, because otherwise the waste was too annoying.

I read and loved:

Hilary Mantel (argh!) on Henry VIII’s bearded, Queen-stealing best friend (argh!).

This thing that basically confirmed my suspicion that Ben Affleck is a forever dirtbag.

And I wrote:

About Harry Potter and my teenaged life (terrible photos aplenty).

This piece for Selfish Mother about what happens once you’re out of the newlywed unicorn phase.

 

The April We Saw Lots of Beautiful America (Before, You Know, All That)

2YO, gagging gently, w. soap dispenser: urgh, soap

Me: did you put soap in your mouth?

2YO: yep

Me: why?!

4YO, wearily: it looks like syrup

***

Ate my 1st avocado-on-toast, so now I go to Instagram Heaven where all surfaces are white & food comes with hydrangea heads at a polite distance.

I read and loved:

This fascinating long-read about a woman with no long-term memory.

A gorgeous tribute to the late, great Victoria Wood.

And I wrote:

A piece about the most reliably thorny question in our marriage: who’s doing all the work?

 

The May It Was Actually Warm, No, I’m Being Serious, Take Your Coat Off

Getting a bit of Stockholm syndrome with this Eurovision presenter: he’s got more attractive the more HOURS this has gone on.

***

Went for my first run in about six months today, and this evening my legs are like ‘can u not’.

I read and loved: 

This invaluable collection of beauty recommendations for all age groups, by Sali Hughes (whom I love).

And I wrote: 

An article about body acceptance and shame.

An ode to babies-no-longer-babies.

And a Selfish Mother piece I had to screw up all my courage for, about gender-flipping periods.

 

The June We Spent Mostly Outside, Trying To Ignore That Other News Thing

I am making lists and 2YO is in the garden.

Me: you alright out there?

2YO. Yes! Do some work, OK?

Me: …ok.

***

Boy sneezes deliberately on the back of brother’s neck: a new low in sibling warfare.

I read and loved:

If Barack Obama Were Your Dad (gave myself whiplash clicking on this too fast).

The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’ Wife, a juicy saga about academic detective work, history and fraud.

And I wrote: 

A bit of hope for the toddler mothers: it’s going to get better.

A piece for TalkMum about keeping your hobbies and self intact after children arrive.

 

The July Outlander Finally Went Too Far

The fact that Claire would eat a Hershey bar after growing up in England is the most unbelievable thing in the Outlander book series so far.

***

Ten minutes into the car journey, I am now convinced that the thing on my rear wiper is a decent chunk of brown bread. #parenting

I read and loved:

This unbelievably cheering profile of a man who was stabbed on the Tube, and bounced back like a legend (I’m being flippant because I can’t do justice to it in a sentence: go read).

‘I Will Bear Witness, Though Heavy Laden’ (sob).

And I wrote: 

T’s three-year-old birthday letter.

A teary goodbye to H’s first year at school.

 

The August With All The Secret Cheese Crackers and Crying

The thing I have learned is you shouldn’t start using any phrase ironically bc your brain is like ‘cool, incorporating into vocab forever’. I am now a person who says ‘100%’ when I mean ‘definitely, absolutely’, so I am only fit for The Apprentice and quiet shame.

***

Sat here in an empty house wincing, aloud, over gingerbread avalanches. What a time to be alive. #GBBO

I read and loved:

What came next after Bones inexplicably reversed death and never mentioned it again in that Star Trek film (BEST. BEST.)

A hilarious look through a seventies Happy Bride cookbook.

And I wrote: 

H’s five-year-old birthday letter.

An angry post about token girls and token helicopters in kids’ TV.

 

The September of School, and Nursery, and Babies

Parental maths: if I did breakfast yesterday and last Sunday but @mrjeffcoat got up with 3YO in the night, who does breakfast today? Show your working.

***

I just accidentally sat on a big blob of breakfast porridge and for a moment thought I’d managed to poop my pants by osmosis #miracle

I read and loved: 

I am sorry about both of these, but I weep with laughter every time: this calculation of the exact amount of banter in that photo of the Eton boys meeting Vladimir Putin (remember that?); also, this weird and wonderful thing about the fox on Splash Mountain coming disturbingly to life.

The power of internet friendships, by the founders of The Toast (I love them both, and this is beautiful).

And I wrote: 

An honest appraisal of the first trimester, third time around (spoiler: it sucks).

A piece for TalkMum about five things you shouldn’t worry about when your baby starts school.

 

The October Facebook Sassed Back

Since I shut down my Facebook newsfeed (<3) I get this message there instead: ‘You’d have more items if you added more friends’. Pure sass.

***

Me: it’s wet. Let’s just walk in our woods and then fetch something to bake.

5YO: or! We could play here in the warm and then have a calm lunch.

I read and loved: 

This lovely bittersweet article about tracking our different lives on Google Maps.

I will read anything that trashes ‘clean eating’ for the dangerous nonsense it is: this is sensible and good.

And I wrote: 

When is a roast chicken not a roast chicken? When it’s this.

 

The November We Won’t Talk About Except In Trivialities Like The Below

Marriage is two consecutive text messages: one recording in loving detail the consistency of our child’s vomit, the next, filthy innuendo.

***

Me: [sigh] 5YO, just let him do what he wants  

This is the youngest-child-rearing policy I never meant to have, yet somehow do have at 5.30pm

I read and loved:

How a Kashmiri mother’s cooking bound her to her daughter.

Behind the scenes of a full-time carer in Anne of Green Gables – one of the best things I read all year, this.

And I wrote:

This about why it’s important to be a bit of a rubbish parent sometimes.

 

The December We Stayed Home For Christmas And Now We’ll Never Do Anything Else

5YO: so then you tie our laces together

Me: right. Why?

5YO: for the game

Me: I want you to know I’m doing this against my better judgement

***

Does it hurt?’

‘I’ve got other stuff that hurts more’

‘Like what?’ 

‘Things from my past’ <-the point where I decided this book was Not Good

I read and loved: 

Something we desperately needed by this point: eight ordinary heroes from 2016

And this very heartfelt, touching letter to the midwife who blew in with the snow

And I wrote: 

An installment of Notes from the Trenches with, could it be, a little less excrement than usual?

Maybe the small things in this year will turn out to be unexpectedly cheering too? Here’s hoping.

2015, in bits and pieces

I had a professor once, at university, who sat us down at the beginning of our module – the two of us, in the study we’d had to go through three quads and two staircases to find – and gave us a reading list of books and articles he’d written himself. And that was, like, it.

Here’s a list of my wisdom; please study it in your spare time.

It was one of the most Oxford things that ever happened to me.

Anyway, I must’ve learned something from good old Professor B, because I’m about to do sort of the same thing.

2015 didn’t feel like much of a banner year – a great one, definitely, but a bit of a nondescript twelve months. Until I looked at my Twitter timeline, and remembered that a) between the holidays and milestones, all sorts of little things happened, and b) I read some articles that were so fantastic and brilliant, it was pure joy to reread them, and c) I actually wrote some things I was pretty proud of too.

So here they are. 2015, in the tiny bits and pieces.

That January Feeling

January (640x640)

Will be sat on this sofa forever until I have melded with the fabric & they try to spatula me off & Tim is all ‘no this is the sofa she loved’

***

Working thru Harry Potter audiobooks in instalments while houseworking. Book 5 might’s well have been called ‘That Time Harry Was A Jerk’.

I read and loved:

an article by Kate Gross’ mum, about her final moments on Christmas day (you should also read Kate Gross’ book, Late Fragments, which is one of the very best books I read this year).

this series called How Wizards Do Money (the financial management of Harry Potter characters), of which you should read every last scrap because it’s wonderful.

And I wrote:

A letter to the self I was before I had children, with some friendly advice (eat slower, have more schedule-free sex).

The February I took against Stephen Hawking in Awkward Fashion

February (640x511)

So we saw #TheTheoryofEverything last night. This morning I am spitting mad at Stephen Hawking, and by extension, all men. This is awkward.

I read and loved:

this beautiful post about all our possible imaginary children.

this gorgeously evocative article about the food story of a marriage.

this best everrrrr review of Fifty Shades.

The March I Turned Thirty and Discovered This Philip Larkin Poem

March (640x512)

In fact, may you be dull – / If that is what a skilled, / 

Vigilant, flexible, / Unemphasised, enthralled /

Catching of happiness is called.

***

3YO thinks that Nelly and Kelly song is about art.

Listen: ‘no matter what I do – ART – all I think about is you – ART’.

I read and loved:

this analogy you’ve probably seen by now, about how making tea is like consent (a swear-free version is here, if you want it).

this list of every Buffy argument made on the internet since 1998.

And I wrote:

a confessional piece about my inappropriate fiction crushes (PRINCE CASPIAN, HOLLA)

a mother’s day tribute to the women who made me

The April I was Diet-Shamed By Tesco

April (640x640)

Tesco: ‘we notice you have not bought these items you often buy’

Me: *looks* Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra YES ALRIGHT TESCO I FEEL ASHAMED

***

We don’t need the heating on, that’s for sure’, he said, heading downstairs. ‘…we do though’, I whispered plaintively to the empty air. #scenesfromamarriage

I read and loved:

this magnificent grammar-geek article about the phrase ‘no, totally’.

And I wrote:

A piece finally admitting my angry mummy tendencies

A letter to my shy boy eldest

The May Where Antler-Pinterest Got a Bit Much

May (640x640)

Child has been saying he’s still hungry for an hour, but hasn’t had any better suggestions for what he wants than ‘invisible sandwich’.

***

Hey guys, just got back from the future and they said that decorating with antlers when you’re not a cowboy or Gaston was a little weird, k?

***

The particular shame when it’s your boy clutching a dog-eared chicken nugget he won’t throw away as he toddles round a village playground.

I swear every mother was in Boden and everyone threw shade like I’ve never seen.

Then the worst part, when I look at him five minutes later and the nugget is nowhere to be seen #whereisthenugget

I read and loved:

this beautiful short story, ‘Light’.

I Stole a Pen from Douglas Adams’ Grave – just lovely

And I wrote:

The funny old thing about time

The post that made me cry the most while writing it: Be brave

The June We Spent Mostly in Bed

June (640x497)

Flipping ravaged by this stomach bug. Just wept at the delicious prospect of a cola ice pop and wept again at the Hunger Games teaser.

***

Almost-2YO just described a sneeze as a ‘burp splash’,which is easily the most satisfying thing that’ll happen today.

I read and loved:

A billion reasons why I hate the school run, by the incomparable Hurrah for Gin

And I wrote:

A runners’ creed, for those who hate it (I STILL HATE IT)

The July We Started to Go a Bit Mad

July (640x640)

That hot-day thing when you’re towelling dry and a giant moth flutters out on your vulnerable naked body all OH HI, I’M SHOWERING TOO #nope

***

Boys banging walls and chanting a self-penned song entitled ‘Time to Wee’. All we need is a conch to go full on ‘Flies’. #summerholidays

I read and loved:

This raw, moving, dignified letter from the Huff Post Executive editor to her husband lost to suicide

And I wrote:

T’s now-you-are-two birthday letter

An indignant post about speaking up for your bad days, fellow women

The August that BAKE-OFF CAME BACK

August (640x640)

‘I want to get in there’
we all do Mary, we all do #GBBO

***

Just said ‘scuse me, loves’ to a group of #readingfestival-goers in Tesco.
Them: deliberating about beer.
Me: trying to reach the nappies.

My old age is assured and only death remains ahead.

I read and loved:

This fantastic list for new parents from Steph Douglas

This installment of Ask Polly (I LOVE ASK POLLY) about being a ‘calm question mark’

And I wrote:

An impassioned post for World Breastfeeding Day about how motherhood is so much more than your milk

H’s now-you-are-four birthday letter, with much sobbing (the last one before school, argh)

Something I’d been thinking about for a while: how parenting a mini-me is so much harder than you’d think

The September That Was All About School

September 15 (640x384)

So how much jogging on the spot would I need to do to eat a chocolate digestive? Asking for a friend. #caloriecounting #bleurgh

***

Apple: WE JUST INVENTED THE PENCIL
everyone: apple, the pencil’s been around for…
Apple: IT’S GOT OUR NAME ON IT IT’S OURS NOW
Apple: what a great idea
Apple: well done apple

I read and loved:

this by Sali Hughes about when the cult of wellness becomes unhealthy (you should read anything by Sali Hughes)

And I wrote:

this nowhere-near-comprehensive list of all the inappropriate places H has peed

after experiencing the September Rages: dear boy, you can be unpretty here

that time a McDonald’s addict counted calories for a month and did not die

The October We Listened to Harry Potter a Lot

October (640x640)

Me: ‘it’s either a kite or a hawk.’
4YO: ‘I know! It’s a hawk-rocks’
Me: ‘a what?’
4YO: ‘a hawk-rux’
Me:’oh. No, he’s not a horcrux’

***

There are only three ways of using a car horn that don’t make you a jerk.

1. Hello, friend! [cheerful beep and wave]
2. Madam, I am here and you appear not to have seen me [short urgent beep and serious face]
3. Sir, the light has gone green and you have not noticed [polite beep, smile]

If you use the horn angrily, you are a jerk. If you lean on it for 3 seconds+, you are a jerk. If you do it while gesticulating furiously…
..you are a jerk. Like, people aren’t omniscient. They make mistakes. Cut the human race a bit of slack. (Seems to be mostly men, too)

I read and loved:

a gorgeously written article by Sophie Heawood about what it’s really like to be a single parent (you should also read everything Sophie Heawood writes. E v e r y t h i n g.)

an eye-opening post by my bloggy friend Amy, about washing away her day as a children’s nurse

this weep-inducing imagining of a Harry Potter where Hermione never did anyone’s homework for them

this happy-making article on how Nora Ephron made friends

And I wrote:

on marriage – ask for what you need; stand up for what you think

a letter to the brand-new mother of two – embrace the chaos, because it’s all going to be fine

The November T’s Favourite Song Became Hey Jude

November (640x640)

Imagine being this guy & remembering how you refused to clap to the recording of Hey Jude, even for a double fee.

CTc0EdWWcAAAoLo

***

[thumbs down] = finding a bogey that’s not yours underneath your chin
[thumbs up] = it’s not a bogey, it’s a piece of porridge!
[thumbs down] = the porridge wasn’t yours either

***

I have reached a level of hormonal stability where ‘God on High’ still makes me cry but ‘A Little Drop of Rain’ doesn’t, so good job uterus.

I read and loved: 

My kid is a tiny pedant, and I’m not sorry (SO MUCH MY LIFE)

this life-changing article about how much cod The Rock eats daily

‘I did not know how loved we were’: one of Ella Risbridger’s wonderful articles about lipstick and cancer (read the rest also)

this article about snooping in a dead man’s house that just about knocked me over

And I wrote: 

How not to be a big fat parenting loser

Five messages to give your tiny introvert (both products of much head-bashing)

The December Everyone Came to Stay

December (640x640)

Happy I-Have-No-Idea-Whether-I-Brushed-My-Teeth- So-I’ll-Brush-Them-Again-So-As-Not-To-Gross-Out-The-Playgroup-Mums Friday!

***

‘So. Eet is certain zat the murderer eez on ze train, and eez with us…right…NOW’

YEAH HE IS.

GET ‘IM POIROT #poirotontheradio

I read and loved: 

this lovely post by Radio 4’s Robin Ince (him of the Infinite Monkey Cage, and others) about performing after a loss

this old post which NEVER GETS OLD TO ME about how Peeta is Katniss’ Movie Girlfriend (we must talk about Mockingjay at some point, because Katniiiiiiiiiiss)

And I wrote: 

some things I wish I could say to my hairdresser

this melancholy little post about how Christmasses change and stay the same.

Actually I’ve awarded 2015 an upgrade: it was an excellent year. Here’s to whatever might come in 2016.

%d bloggers like this: