Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

To Cornwall for New Year with a carload of children and a husband muttering, 'It will be cold, you know how you hate the cold.' I'm a glass-half-full kind of a person, and the prospect of a beautiful clifftop break was blotting out the weather warnings and those of our friends, who had kindly lent us their house, saying: 'We don't really have much by way of heating.' Our kids are used to sitting still in a car for precisely six minutes, the time it takes to drive them from Islington to Camden for school. Six hours stretched ahead. We alternated between listening to Ed Stourton's ever so elegant explanation of his truce with the Today programme and the Mamma Mia CD, which along with the DVD now seems to be playing in a constant loop in our lives. Recession-proof exhibit A - Abba's royalties.

Alas, glass-half-empty kinds of people are often right. The wind blew straight off the Atlantic around us from nearby St Agnes, and bitter chill it was too. During the night the temperature plummeted further and we tried to thaw our youngest with a hot water bottle. Even he-who-wears-shorts-allyear was in fleece sweatpants, admitting a chill. I looked like a yeti, all to no avail. And so it came to be that we drove back along the A30-M5-M4 with an eagerness which blotted out the 24-hour turnaround. My husband collected his bets from the children - he had been running a secret book to see how long I'd last. The children weren't complaining. What London child regards fresh air as more than a brief nuisance, time away from the computer? What country child, come to that? Back in London but not yet back at work, my thumbs began to twiddle ever so slightly. Multi-tasking mothers like me are not quite sure what to do when activities slow to single digits. So I busied myself being Marvellous Mum. Out came Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food and everyone under four foot was frogmarched into the kitchen to make lunch and supper. Out came the old-fashioned bingo bought from Pollock's Toy Museum. I did sensible things like cupboard clearing and practised family diplomacy with various members. At night we watched Wallander. . . in the warm.

After a couple of days supermumming, the computers were back on and the children were busy with some hastily convened playdates. I took the opportunity to bolt to the Conran sale in South Kensington with my friend Saskia, another demob mum.

Well, in theory it is a sale, if you can call 20 per cent off those exorbitant prices that. I'm not the only one to think that Snooty Chic's days are numbered. A well-heeled woman could be heard complaining loudly, 'They may think they can charge that much this year but they won't in 12 months. …

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