My son thinks the Gruffalo is from Bristol


Poor Dick Van Dyke, I’m sure most people have had a chuckle at his ‘Maeree Paarpins’ British accent. Or Anne Hathaway’s attempt at ‘Northern’ in One Day (which I still think has an unnecessarily cruel ending. Dexter and Emma should have been allowed to be happy! Why Lord, why?)

Moving on… I can do precisely three accents – Cornish, Bristolian (NO, THEY ARE NOT THE SAME…) and a deep voiced East Ender (think Danny Dyer rather than Barbara Windsor). I am Cornish and also lived in Bristol for a while so I can see how those accents developed. I can only blame the East End interpretation on my love of TV.

Not being an amdramer, prank caller or spy (they must need a good bank of accents surely? Fake documents can only get a person so far…), I’ve not had much call to extend the repertoire until now.

You see, children’s stories have characters. And those characters need accents. If one is to provide a satisfactory reading experience (i.e entertain child long enough to make them forget about wanting to take cars to bed), then it is not sufficient to have just the one reading voice. Which means my three accents are getting plenty of practice.

Gruffalo? Bristolian. Mouse in Gruffalo? East End. Tiddler? East End. Plaice in Tiddler? Bristolian. Snail in The Snail and the Whale? Cornish. Whale? Whale. Wait a minute, I CAN DO WHALE! ADD THAT TO THE BANK!

This would be fine if I were reading a book a night to my child like the helpful post that’s doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment – you know, the one that says that if you read a book a night to your one year old that by the time they reach five they’ll have read a gazillion books? (I may be   paraphrasing here…) But we’re stuck in a Julia Donaldson loop at the moment of Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale and Tiddler. We’ve read the same books over and over again  – and in the case of Tiddler, every night since the start of February. My son is picking up on the intonation of the sentences and trying to repeat the words in the way I’m saying them as I read. So while he has no idea at the moment what or where Bristol is, when he does, I’m having visions of one day being asked if the Gruffalo lives just off the M5…





What’s your favourite position?

We all have a preferred position… Mine has to be a sort of semi reclining in the right corner of the sofa – the exact spot outlined by an indentation of my arse. Usually I’m joined by the dog who has somehow managed to contort herself in such a way that leaves me jostling for space.

How about you? Perhaps you’re a fan of a beanbag? Hunched over a kitchen table? Or, maybe an under-the-covers-with-a-tablet?

Today I thought I’d write about my favourite pastime, something that is fairly satisfying and has always been there for me when I needed it. Yes – television. Oh, you thought I was talking about sex?! As if…

Taking stock of life as a relatively newly-single gal about town on the sofa, I realise that I have allowed my brain to atrophy – fed on a diet of dramas, comedies, soaps, documentaries, reality TV, talkshows… (I could go on, but you get the idea). Most nights involved flopping down in front of the box and remaining there for most of the evening. Somewhere after the age of about 25 (let’s not share how long ago that was…) I began the process of prematurely turning into an 80-year old who schedules phone calls around her soaps (which, don’t get me wrong, you have totally earned the right to do at 80). Other than work, or my beautiful gorgeous son and almost equally gorgeous dog, TV is the only thing I can talk about with any sort of confidence. Which is really frickin’ sad.

(In my defence though, it does rain a shit load in Cornwall, and cold, wet and dark evenings do lend themselves to a night in front of the box and reaffirming a commitment to the sofa arse indent.)

So, as I glossed over earlier (more to follow on that, but it’s a whole other post. Heck, it’s a whole other blog…), I am now single. Almost out the other side of a painful divorce (a cliché but is there a better adjective?), it’s time to work out what’s next. And struck with the realisation that there is much more to life and how precious it is, I’m going to have to curb the urge to watch all the must-see shows and start feeding my brain again.

There will be a new grand plan (more on that another time). There will be a television. But the new sofa will remain indent-free.

Has my diet consigned my child to a future of poor health?

Is anyone else slightly depressed at this week’s story about how dietary choices in pregnancy can influence the health of your child in later life? And if you’re struggling with morning sickness or just general food aversion, do you now feel even worse about not being able to face anything vaguely healthy?

It’s now two years since I was pregnant with E, but I can still remember days upon days where all I ate was toast or crackers (broken up by the occasional frequent dirty burger. Not actual ‘dirty’ burger. The drive-through variety. Golden arches. Oh, you know what I mean).

I took the expensive vitamins and put the guilty twinges about food choices to one side while I focussed on the fact that at least I wasn’t smoking, drinking or taking drugs.

But now the guilt has reared its ugly head again. You are what you eat and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that diet in pregnancy will impact in some way on the growing baby. Is the fact that my son appears to have had a permanent cold since January the fault of one too many takeaways, or more likely thanks to the little germ carriers at his nursery? Was the frequent waking during the night – which went on until he was 18 months! – because I had a couple of glasses of wine in the third trimester?

Am now wondering if in future years pregnant women eating a takeaway will be frowned upon the way they are now if smoking or drinking? I hope not – yes we know we need to eat well, but sometimes it’s the easiest bit to let slip when we’re trying not to fall asleep at work, preparing for the arrival of a newborn and building pelvic floors of steel.

Discovery of the day

Turns out I can no longer crouch down by the cot while hoping E drifts off to sleep. For while on my knees in a sort of half praying, half yoga child pose, I felt a tap on my bum. E, having pulled down the bumper and reached through the bars, was delighted by the discovery!

Isn’t it a wonder (week)?

Along with the phrases ‘this soon will pass’ and ‘he has to sleep sometime’ is one I have been using regularly of late (and usually said in an exasperated tone); ‘it’s a Wonder Week‘.

When I first heard of Wonder Weeks, I thought of them as having little more relevance on E’s behaviour than a horoscope would. In that if you look hard enough, you can fit the behaviour or event to what has been predicted. And if you look really hard then you might just be tempting fate enough to fulfil the prophecy.

Side note, sleep deprivation is now causing mild paranoia. Rational me says baby’s behaviour isn’t moulded by a parent thinking too much about a book’s predictions. But it has been a long week, so here we are.

And then one day while out pushing E in his pram ‘helping’ him to nap, I set foot in our local library for the first time since I was a teenager and, of course, headed to the baby section. Where else?! Google wasn’t giving me a satisfactory response to questions about my son’s sudden grumpiness, so perhaps the old fashioned route might do the trick.

As I scanned the books, one stood out. Mainly because it was large and had pretty writing on the cover. ‘The Wonder Weeks’, by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij, looks at how babies develop over the first 18 months of life and how this development impacts on their behaviour.

The theory goes that babies’ fussy and irritable periods can be predicted and are more likely to occur when they are going through a developmental leap. And for me, always looking for an excuse a reason why E is going through a particularly crappy sleep period and praying that I don’t have a grumpy child, the idea makes sense.

However, as his mood and sleep have become steady worse with the advent on each new leap, I am expecting E to be able to juggle while standing in his head by the time we see the light at the end of the tunnel of this latest one.

‘U ok, hon?’

Very soon people will stop asking me how things are going. For there only ever is one answer and even I am beginning to get bored of saying it.

I’m knackered. Exhausted. Don’t dare drive anywhere for fear of falling asleep at the wheel tired. I’m stuck in Groundhog Day delirium.

The night hallucinations have made a return and I’m regularly waking up in panic thinking that I’ve fallen asleep while E is feeding and have forgotten to put him back in his cot. Last night with the ‘bed pat down’ doing nothing to allay my fears, I turned on the light and conducted a thorough search of the bedroom. And then went into E’s room to make sure he was secure in bed. I’m sure I’m bordering on some sort of OCD.

E, on the other hand, is developing superhero tendencies which improve day by day. ‘No Sleep, No Solid Food’ man is successfully avoiding any attempts to thwart his mission to stay awake and on the boob.

I should have known the merest hint of improvement in sleeping habit would end in tears. After moving E into his own room we had about a week where he had three naps in his cot and woke twice at night. It was bliss and I started to feel like I was finally getting the hang of this motherhood thing. I wanted to shout ‘MY CHILD CAN SELF SOOTHE!’ from the rooftops.

But oh how the smug have fallen. A nice dose of a heavy cold, the advent of another Wonder Week (more on that another time) and teething have conspired against me. And a short break away put the final nail in the coffin of hope for chunks of more than two hours sleep at a time.

I’m feeling a bit sad that the sleep issue is overshadowing everything else that’s going on at the moment. E went swimming for the first time and loved it (I did not appreciate the logistics of getting dry again) and we went on our first family holiday with friends. But everything comes back to sleep and my lack of energy.

Next time anyone asks me how I am, I’m going to try to say something really positive. Just give me a minute to think about it…

The best laid plans

I should be writing about our attempts this week to re-introduce a bottle at night and whether or not this was having an impact on E’s sleeping patterns. But, like all best laid plans, this has suffered a setback.

Struck down with our worst cold to date, all of us in the Matchsticks household are currently living less than half a metre from a box of tissues. My pockets are stuffed with the balsam variety in the hope that I can avoid looking like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. The husband is diligently washing his hands at every cough and splutter (locking doors and bolting horses springs to mind).

And poor E doesn’t know what to make of it all. Having inherited my family’s penchant for earth-shattering sneezing, he either wakes or scares himself with each eruption. I’m trying and failing to do that ‘no sneeze’ sneezing, so am also waking him up on a regular basis. I dread to think what he’d be like without the baby Vicks and my beloved Calpol.

Limited to paracetamol and steaming with Olbas Oil, it’s times like this that I cling on to the health benefits of breastfeeding. The first sign of a sore throat will usually see me stocking up on cold relief remedies, but as these are not compatible with breastfeeding, I’m just going to have to ride it out.

Fortunately as a big believer in the ‘feed a cold, starve the fever’ philosophy, I’ve just tucked into a healthy slice of chocolate cake.