Rebel Rebel/Don’t Tell Me Truth Hurts

david bowie rebel rebel

On the way home today, I told M that something sad had happened, that a man called David Bowie has died. He was mildly interested. I explained that he’s the man who sings the song “Dance Magic” (that I have played to M in the car and that he likes), and who stars in the film Labyrinth that I want to show him when he is a bit older. M absorbed this information and then, in all seriousness, he asked me: “Do they have it on DVD or does he have to act it all the time?” I said yes it is recorded on DVD, why, was he worried that he wouldn’t get to watch it now? He was. Then he checked that the song was also recorded. I laughed and said yes of course it is how else would we have listened to it – David Bowie wasn’t in our car singing it was he (though that would have been awesome).

I am not of the generation that grew up with David Bowie. When I discovered his music (through my mum’s The Singles Collection when I was 15) he was already in his 50s. I loved that album and I fell in love with him in Labyrinth; I am ashamed to admit that is the extent of my knowledge of Bowie’s legacy. I have not listened to his albums in their entirety, nor have I watched The Man Who Fell to Earth. I suppose I am not a “true” fan except that I remember discovering Bowie as a formative moment in my teen years (a moment that coincided with the feeling that I had been born in the wrong decade and a longing to be a child of the 70s).

I remember the songs and the lyrics that resonated with me at different periods in my life:

“Rebel Rebel you’ve torn your dress, Rebel Rebel your face is a mess…” (going out drinking when I was 16; wearing random combinations of goth and hippy clothes as I struggled to find my place in the world).

“And all these children that you spit on as they try to change their world, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware what they’re going through…” (classic teenage angst and being certain that I would indeed one day change the world).

“She wants the Young American…”/”I’m Afraid of Americans” (when I was obsessed with my American boyfriend/husband.

“Life isn’t easy, it’s not always swell; don’t tell me truth hurts little girl, ’cause it hurts like hell…” (whenever I need a reality check/am feeling sorry for myself).

Plus all the awesome freaky random totally cool classic Bowie (from, ahem, the Singles Collection) that is part of the soundtrack of my life.

I showed M the child-friendly “Heroes” on You Tube as a bedtime song tonight (and later, Ziggy Stardust). M immediately asked “are they a boy or a girl?” I asked what he thought. “Boy” he said. But that he asked the question I thought struck at the heart of what David Bowie is all about, and at the legacy he leaves behind. I explained the word “androgynous” to my five-year-old and told him some reasons why David Bowie was cool.

David Bowie was a part of my teen years and back then his music struck a chord with me that no other music really had – it was weird, it was cool, it was different, it was retro. Who was this weirdly sexy guy that in real-life was old enough to be my grandfather? I never imagined Bowie as old, but as Jareth the Goblin King – that was my Bowie – ageless and strikingly beautiful in an ethereal and slightly kinky way.

When I was a teenager I thought it would be cool to sleep with David Bowie; then I realised how old he was in real life and also that aspiring to sleep with someone was a bit of a crap goal. Subsequently I aspired to meet him and have a star-struck conversation (if I thought about it at all). Somehow, my life feels that bit emptier for knowing that I will never have that hypothetical conversation and get to tell David Bowie how cool I think he is. But then he obviously didn’t need me to tell him and after all:

“It’s only forever, it’s not long at all…”

Thank you David. My life would not have been quite the same without you.






In Condemnation of Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s “policy proposal” to ban all Muslims from entering the USA is as ridiculous as it is frightening. This is a man with a great deal of privilege and power who is using his platform to preach idiotic intolerance towards the Muslim population in America and now also towards the Muslim population abroad.

As a dual-national with an American husband I watch Trump’s public remarks with varying degrees of incredulity and horror, but not with amusement because this is getting serious.

This man is apparently the front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, which means that if he wins the nomination and then enough people vote Republican, he will be the next President.

This is very scary. It is a very scary thought that a man who displays such ignorance and intolerance could be the “leader of the free world.” How free we will all be with him at the helm is anyone’s guess. I am not naive enough to think that this will all blow over. I remember before I had even lived in America, when no one really believed they would elect George Bush. Look how that turned out. They could very well elect Trump as well. [Note to self: register as overseas voter to vote against Trump].

Those of us who disagree with Trump, who believe in tolerance and in freedom over fear and hatred need to speak out. This sort of talk is not acceptable. We are not living in 1930s Germany. We are not living in 1950s America. This is the 21st Century and this sort of thing should be behind us (though of course it never is).

When I was studying US History, I learned about the “myth of the black beast rapist.” In popular and political discourse, if a white man committed a rape, it was viewed as an aberration – as the work of one deranged individual but not reflective on the general nature of white men. If a black man committed a rape however, it was “proof” that black men, by their very nature, were dangerous rapists.

We are seeing this again in different form in America at the moment. If an average-Joe (non-Muslim) American kills a lot of people using a semi-automatic weapon, it is seen (in one narrative) as a terrible tragedy, but no big deal really – no reason to tighten up the gun laws, just the work of a deranged individual and not reflective on “Americans” in general or on gun-owners in general. When an Islamic fundamentalist-inspired shooting occurs, it is reason for Donald Trump to advocate a summary ban on all Muslims everywhere coming to the USA for any reason whatsoever.

This is ridiculous and dangerous and must be condemned.

So here I am condemning it just for the record.

We really cannot allow this man to continue to have his platform when he is preaching hatred, fear and division. We must all condemn him and his remarks as having no place on the world political stage.

Thank you.

Amaze (Coconut) Balls


Coconut cookies!

I did it! I made cookies like a normal person. Without trashing the kitchen. Without having a tantrum breakdown. Without using every utensil in the place. Without burning the cookies!

When my husband arrived home this evening the washing up was (mostly) done. The kids were fed and bathed and I was able to point to the bounty on the stove and say “there are cookies” without adding a long and tearful explanation of what went wrong or adding “but they’re not that great because…” to the end of the sentence.

Oatmeal raisin cookies (at front - ignore the ones at the back they are my weird banana and peanut butter muffin things only I will eat done as cookies to use up an old banana!

Oatmeal raisin cookies at the front (ignore the pale ones at the back they are my weird “banana peanut butter muffins” that no one but me will ever eat and that I make to use up old bananas, done as cookies to see what would happen).

I made easy oatmeal raisin cookies (all of my Google recipe searches start with the word “easy”) and very scrummy coconut cookies. The coconut cookies consist of a cup of self-raising flour, a cup of coconut, a cup of sugar, an egg, and half a cup of butter. The recipe says to roll them into little balls and place on the baking sheet but word to the wise, they expand! My knowledge of baking chemistry is sadly lacking so I was expecting the little balls to just cook into little ball-shaped cookies like these European Christmas biscuits a friend of mine at grad school used to make. Instead they expanded to fill the whole baking tray and I had to cut them up. But they taste good. I mean, how bad is it really to eat a cup of coconut, a cup of sugar and half a cup of butter in one sitting? If anything it will help me put back on some of the weight I have lost from feeding L for 13 months and counting (at time of writing I have only had three cookies but the night is still young).

I am now feeling suitably self-satisfied and validated as a human being (how sad it is that baking a delicious cookie can do this for me). I am also wondering if these particular recipes are particularly idiot-proof awesome or if tonight’s success stems from the fact that for once I set a timer and took them out of the oven when it went off?

That and we had all the actual ingredients to hand.

Who knows? But yay cookies!

That is all.

Posted by © A L Roark

A Battle of Wiills

Lately my days have started like this:

Baby L stirs, squawks, sits up in the bed at an unholy hour. Before I have even properly opened my eyes and certainly before I have managed to reach for my glasses, a thud comes from M’s room: the patter of not-so-tiny feet, a clambering onto my bed and the customary morning greeting: “Can I play the Wii?”

As the day continues I am constantly bombarded by euphemistic references to the little white box under the telly. “What can I do?” “What can I do now?” When I say we are going to lunch: “What can I do at lunch?” (this one a sly testing of the water to see if the little white box’s cousins: “Grandma’s iPad” or “whoever’s-smart-phone-I-can-con-off-them,” will be allowed an appearance).

When I mention at lunch that we are going to the circus (a surprise treat!) I am met with a droll “why?” When I say we will stop at home to walk the dog before the circus the dreaded “what can I do while you walk the dog?” makes a reappearance followed by “what can I not do?”

The Wii. You can’t play the f**king Wii. We are going to the goddamned circus what is wrong with you that you can’t wait five minutes without electronic stimulation? (N.B one of his uncles, who was also coming to the circus, waited with M while I popped the dog out).

Relaying my frustration with the constant barrage of Wii-related interrogation from my eldest child to my husband of an evening, I admit that I am thoroughly fed up. I am fed up of the first thing I hear in the morning being “can I play the Wii?” Fed up of that being the first question when we get back from anywhere (even the beach – all he wanted to know was if he could play the Wii when he got home!) Fed up of feeling a) like a terrible parent because he is addicted to technology, b) like a terrible parent because when I tell him to stop playing Wii and find something else to do he will not find anything that does not involve me and c) like a terrible parent for the arguments caused when he resists my attempts to curb his technology addiction.

I love you kid but L cannot play games with tiny pieces, he is a crawling/cruising machine at the moment, and we do not have a maid or a cook and my to-do list for your birthday, going back to work, you starting school, etc etc is running at about four pages. I love you but it is not true that I never play with you, I do, but I cannot entertain you all the time and you can’t play the Wii all day long it just isn’t healthy.

Daddy’s solution? Let him play the Wii. Without limits. Without nagging. Let him choose what he plays and if it the Wii just let it be. He will play it all day for a couple of days and then get bored of his own accord and find something else to do. And if this theory doesn’t pan out, it is only a month until he starts school and at least in the meantime I will get some peace from the constant asking about it.

Today I tried it. Why not. The day started with: “can I play the Wii?”

“You can choose what you do.”

He played Wii for four hours. It was 11am and we were going somewhere for 12pm. I couldn’t take it any more. I told him four hours was enough for now and to take a break for lunch. We went out for a few hours, including lunch with Grandma and the iPad.

When we got back I got the question: “what can I do?” which again was met with: “you can choose what to do.” He played the Wii for an hour before dinner.

Daddy came home and asked him to turn it off for dinner after finishing the current level. While Daddy and I said hello, how was your day, etc Daddy noticed M had started another level. Daddy said to turn it off. M whined. Daddy said if he had to turn it off there would be trouble. M turned it off.

M is currently whining that he wants to play with his (real) golf set. I point out that he chose to play Wii all day and now it is bath time and bed time but he can choose to play golf tomorrow if he wants to.

Today was peaceful. L crawled and played. I alternated playing with him and organising stuff on the laptop (one of the things on my to-do list). No one whined or argued about the Wii. But I still felt incredibly irritated watching M glued to the screen for four hours without a break. I know it is not good for him. He has so many toys: action figures, Batman and TMNT houses, Duplo, Lego, puzzles, a castle play set, colouring, playdoh, blocks, cars, a huge train set and a massive Hotwheels collection. All of which need minimum input from me (though even when I do play he loses interest after a few minutes). If we didn’t have L to pass them on to those toys would be out the door to the charity shop.

I still feel like a failure. I still feel like I want to throw the Wii in the bin. If Daddy’s theory doesn’t pan out, that may well be where M finds it one day.

On the other hand, it is the last month of freedom before he starts a life of school and work. He loves the Wii. I get a bit of peace and quiet to tackle my to-do list. He can read and write. He is ready for school. We went to a playground today.

Watch this space for tomorrow’s choices. I may choose not to care either way, but I doubt it.

Posted by © A L Roark

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside


Today I decided to be spontaneous. Well, as spontaneous as you can be when you have to decide to do it (and when you have two kids nothing is really spontaneous). I had decided that if it was sunny this weekend, we would go to the beach. Not the crap pebbly beach five minutes walk from our front door. Oh no. The sandy beach from my childhood (ok, the pebbly beach is also from my childhood, but the sandy one always made me think I had stumbled into another country; it looked just like the beaches in the South of France which was my only other beach reference point and the sand dunes you have to climb to get to the beach put me in mind of being an Egyptian explorer). I don’t class myself as a beach person; I am definitely not a sun person. I figured if I was going to brave the beach with the kids it may as well be the nice sandy one that we could do classic things like building sandcastles on.

I kept my beach plan a secret “surprise” in case I decided that I couldn’t face it after all. I took the boys shopping this morning and M didn’t twig what the surprise was even when I bought a Minion theme bucket and spade set and two beach towels. His guess was that he was going to Grandma’s House. His second guess was that he was going for a Sleepover at Grandma’s House. He then asked if Favourite Uncle was coming with us on the surprise.

I was determined that we would have a nice day. Or more to the point that I would have a nice day. I took the boys to the swimming pool (with Favourite Uncle) yesterday and I was so wrapped up in planning, packing all the stuff, making sure that no one drowned, feeling vaguely jealous of Favourite Uncle because M wanted to play with him and not me (which was pretty obviously going to be the case; he is not Favourite Uncle for nothing), and feeling a sense of my lost childhood as I gazed wistfully at the inflatable obstacle course whilst holding onto a wriggly baby in the shallow end and figuring that even if someone held the baby while I went on it I would look like a massive freak going on the kids’ toy, that I didn’t really enjoy the pool at all.

So I got up this morning and tried to stay calm as I put together the things we would need for the beach whilst telling myself that it was okay if I chickened out as I had not actually told anyone we were going anywhere. My one bag of stuff quickly became five bags. Luckily my darling husband decided he would rather come with us than plaster L’s bedroom (or, more likely, he thought my head might actually explode if he didn’t come too). I was going to take them on my own though, honest. But I am glad he came: it was a lovely family day out.

For a bit of background, last night before bed, my telling M it was time to turn off the Wii initiated a mega-tantrum that saw him in his room screaming “I want to play on the Wii and I want Blankie!” at the top of his lungs. Repeatedly. For long enough that I felt sure someone would call the police until my husband pointed out that people only call the police if they hear the parents shouting back. I still felt like an utter failure. It is amazing how much a small child, apoplectic with technology-deprivation-induced rage, can send me into an OCD spiral: I am a loving mother, but have I really emotionally scarred him by telling him to turn it off?

Today I was determined to have a nice day, notwithstanding whatever M threw my way. We were going to the beach. What could be nicer than the beach?

I didn’t drop my sunny less-grumpy-than-usual demeanour when M’s face fell as I told him what the surprise was (“we’re going to the beach! A nice one. With sand” *M’s face like I had just slapped him with a wet fish*)

I didn’t let it phase me (by letting Daddy deal with it) when we arrived at said beach and had to wake up a sleeping (and evidently very irritable) M who sat on the floor of the (thankfully grassy) car park screaming that he was too cold (it was a boiling hot sunny day) because his swimming trunks were a bit damp from yesterday’s trip to the pool – he stuck his hands down his trunks and tried to hold the slightly-damp material away from his skin and screamed and cried as we put his shoes and sun cream on.

It got better from there although M didn’t enjoy the beach the way I thought he would: He paddled a bit in the water. He got cold. He ate some food. He sat on the blanket and watched me make a sandcastle after losing interest in it when he discovered sweets in the picnic bag. He asked when he could have his ice cream.

L meanwhile crawled around on the sand and ate a good amount of it (the possibility of which did not occur to me and in the event there was not a lot to be done about it). He also seemed to enjoy the water. I crawled around with him for a bit, collecting pretty shells to use in a sensory toy and trying to spot shells and stones before he did lest he eat those too. I felt a strange sense of calm as I crawled on the beach with my baby, oblivious to the hundreds of people surrounding us.

I also found a zen moment when building a sandcastle. We abandoned our first attempt to the incoming tide. L crawled through my second attempt, getting grounded on top of one of the castles and flailing around like a little seal pup. M lost interest at this point and I carried on by myself and realised that I never knew how to build sandcastles as a kid. I used to just pile sand upon sand and end up with a rather wide and hill-shaped castle.

Today though, inspiration struck and I used the spade to slice straight walls down the side of my castle. I was inordinately pleased with my efforts (as well as concluding that I must have been a particularly dense child, though I was good at digging holes to bury my little brothers in) and found a great sense of peace building with sand. I had plans for crenellations and for making a whole square courtyard flanked by four towers (more prison yard than castle?) but the kids got tired and the parking was running out, so we left.

It was a lovely day, though I am tempted to return without them all to have another go at my castle.

Posted by © A L Roark

“I’m the mum and I’m listening to Radio 4!”


We get in the car to go to gym club and the radio is tuned to Radio 3. I’m not in the mood for classical (am I ever?) So I click the little steering wheel button and it stops on Radio 4. It’s a show about bread. From what I can gather over M’s intermittent protests it is about a collective social experiment bakery in Scotland. I think it sounds vaguely interesting though I don’t get to really listen to it as I kept having to turn the radio off to address M’s whining about wanting music on.

After a few days of having him shadow me around the house “in case of Dracula,” combined with his complete inability to go and play with anything without me (to the point that this morning I suggested he go play for five minutes while I got L cleaned up after lunch and I was met with: “I’ll just sit here on this step and wait for you. Mum, I’m just sitting on the step, I’m on the step mum is that okay? Mum?!”) I feel a little at the end of my tether and evidently like asserting some of my own (non-mummy) identity.

Quite why I decide to stake my claim to identity on Radio 4 is anyone’s guess other than that it happens to be on the radio, I am vaguely interested in listening to it, and am feeling a bit fed up of trying to get through the day with a four-year-old shadow come interrogator.

So after switching off the radio a few times to explain that I want to listen to this programme and M responding: “but it’s about bread! I already know about bread!” I say in my bossiest voice: “We are listening to this because the world does not always revolve around what you want. I’m the mum, it’s my car, and I want to listen to Radio 4!”

Mummy would really like a date night with daddy, a G&T and a lie-in but at the moment I’ll take Radio 4 for five minutes. My mini-tantrum does little to dampen his protests and he rests his case with “but wouldn’t you rather listen to Uptown Funk?” Yes, yes I would, but I’m not letting on. This bread show is where I have stuck my flag of independence and that is where it is staying.

Posted by © A L Roark

Explaining the World To A Four-Year-Old: There is No Such Thing As Drac-clea

I find myself out 50p tonight. At least, I have given an IOU for 50p (four year olds evidently don’t take debit cards). I may have made the mistake of taking a minor detour down memory lane at bedtime and telling M that I would show him old episodes of Duckula (which was awesome, but which I only actually watched about three episodes of, because we only had one Duckula VHS tape for some reason. I was explaining to my husband that I learned what the French Revolution was from Duckula. He hasn’t heard of it, apparently it is a British TV show – who knew, it is certainly weird enough!)

My innocent reminiscing went awry when I realised that I had only reminded M of his worst fear: Dracula, or as he pronounces it: Drac-clea. (I did this in a very stupid way of course, by saying “oh wait no, you won’t like Duckula because it will remind you of Dracula, never mind.” You could almost see the colour drain from his face).

The rest of bedtime went something like this:

M: I’m too scared to sleep in my bed!

Me: Why?

M: Because of Drac-clea.

Me: Well he’s not real is he. Even if he was real I still haven’t invited him in have you?

M: No.

Me: There you go then. If you are that worried you can have some garlic if you want. I mean, he’s not real but in the stories garlic keeps vampires away.

M: Scooby Doo waves some garlic at a werewolf!

Me: I’m not sure that would work, it’s silver bullets to kill werewolves I think.

M: Does garlic kill vampires?

Me: No if just keeps them away. You kill vampires with steaks, like sharp bits of wood.

M: Have we got any steaks?

Me: What? No – you’re not planning on killing Dracula are you? He’s not real anyway, he’s just a story from a book written long ago. People like scary stories just like they like scary rides it’s just scary fun.

M: I wish the word vampire didn’t exist.

Me: Ah, well, it does exist. It’s just a word for a mythical creature, like dragon, or unicorn.

M: Or Kraken?

Me: Yes, or Kraken *flashback to the Mythical Creatures exhibit we saw at the museum on holiday. I read M the bit about the Kraken, to which he replied:  “Mum this has RUINED our holiday ’cause now we can’t got to the beach ’cause I’m scared of the Kraken” to which I explained that there weren’t any beaches in Colorado anyway!*

L lets out a shrill cry from downstairs in protest at his dad’s attempts to rock him to sleep.

M: I just heard a witchy sort of a noise!

Me: That was your brother crying. Honestly!

M rolls over to lie on his back and looks dramatically at me.

M: I keep thinking Drac-clea is behind my back.

Me: *laughs* honestly! Why would he be behind your back? He’s not real.

M jumps half a foot in the air and looks behind him

Me: There’s nothing there! If you are that scared you can sleep in our bed and daddy will put you in bed later.

M: But I will be scared in the night.

Me: If you are scared in the night you can come and find me and get in with us.

M: But how will I get to you?

Me: What?

M: How will I get down my ladder fast enough?

Me: You mean you will be so paralysed with fear that you won’t be able to get out of bed?

M: Yes.

Me: Well call me then and I will come get you.

M: What does Drac-clea eat?

Me: What? Um… Nothing, he doesn’t eat anything, like zombies *instantly realise my mistake*

M: But zombies eat brains. What does Drac-clea eat?

Me: Nothing. He eats nothing I tell you!

M: Oh, like ghosts? They eat things and it falls right through them. Can ghosts drink?

Me: I don’t know, speaking of which I need a drink, wait here.

M: *look of terror flashes across his face* but Drac-clea…

Me: I will be two minutes. I will bet you 50p that Dracula will not come into this bedroom while I run downstairs to get a drink.

M: *bravely* okaaay.

I run down to get a drink, quickly exchanging an exasperated giggle about the whole situation with my husband who is dutifully rocking L while faffing on his phone.

Me: I’m back, do I owe you 50p?

M: *grins sheepishly* yes!

Me: Are you still scared?

M: Yes.

Me: How about I lie here with you and you go to sleep while I write about how daft you are on my blog?

M: *smiles* OK

Me: And when you are older you can read it.

He is now cuddled up on my shoulder, fast asleep. I have yet to see Dracula make an appearance.

Posted by © A L Roark