Ryder Cup blues

img_0352It amazes me that my husband has watched the Ryder Cup on TV every night this week and the tournament only started today. Apparently the build up is really important.

In truth, the Ryder Cup is probably the most interesting tournament there is for a golf layperson like myself and we all know that there are a lot to choose from. After all, there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and continuous coverage of golf tournaments on Sky Sports. I am not completely disinterested – I have some awareness that I must have acquired by osmosis: I know my foursomes from my fourballs; I know the names of the four majors; I know that Rory McIlroy won $10 million for playing a game of golf last weekend. I even went to huddle under an umbrella in 2011 at the final day of the Open on the Kent coast, hanging like a dog after being a bridesmaid in Dorset the day before. Now that’s commitment to the cause.

So what’s the beef with golf? Firstly, it’s the time commitment, whether you’re watching it or playing it. Golf clubs are only positioned at least an hour’s drive from where you live, preferably somewhere windswept on the coast (why?); if you factor in the drive, the 18 holes, the time spent at the 19th hole afterwards, it’s a good day out. For him. For me, it’s a bit dull: he has the car and I have three young children to entertain at home or in the immediate vicinity.

It wasn’t always thus. Pre-children, we both enjoyed our Saturdays pursuing our own hobbies, although mine tended to focus on shopping or lunching with friends. More fool me: these pursuits are the first to fall by the wayside when children enter the picture. I expect I should have taken up a ‘proper’ hobby, such as, I don’t know, learning how to iron maybe, that would have set me in good stead for future domestic duties. Still, I mustn’t grumble. My husband plays very little now and I (occasionally, after having had a glass of wine) encourage him to go to play more than he does; I like the fact he is passionate about a sport he is good at it and it is something he has done since he was 11 years old.

So the real beef, the real pink-in-the-middle chateaubriand for two, is about the golf clubs. Why are they still bastions of male tradition and exclusivity, with outdated rules and unnecessary conventions? When my mother-in-law came to pick up her young son from the club, she was turned away for wearing leggings. Yes this was nearly 30 years ago but unlike most of the rest of society, I’m not sure that things have changed much. When I went to the club many moons ago, I put on three-quarter length trousers, a pastel coloured polo shirt and a baseball cap. How ridiculous! One of my husband’s clubs (yes, there are two), only allowed women to become members last year and the handful of women I know of who play, took up the sport so that they can join in with their husbands and sons. But the clubs themselves are not exactly family-friendly and yes, I guess that this is the point. They are little pockets of old school Englishness, closeting away acres of glorious woodland and green spaces for the privileged few to enjoy. I don’t see them inviting me and the rugrats down to throw food around the jackets-only restaurant or for a romp on the putting green. Why no kid-friendly cafe? Why no windowless soft-play with a million brightly coloured plastic balls? No wonder the men flock there on a Saturday morning: the blissful peace and quiet is pure escapism.

But for this weekend only, I’ll join my husband on the sofa in front of the dedicated Ryder Cup channel, and cheer on Team Europe in their matching sunglasses. You never know, we may not be eligible to be on the team once we leave the EU: finally, I have found an upside to Brexit. (Joke, honey)

Apologies to the 1996 Epsom team whose photo I have made unauthorised use of. It’s a goody though.

The best things about having 3 children under 5 (yes, really)

Disclaimer: not all of these children are siblings and we may not have all been under 5, but to me this photo is the perfect reason to have 3 young children

It would have been much more straightforward to compose a piece on the subject of the worst things about having 3 children under 5 years old: including for example the nightly waking-up relay; sobbing infants clinging to various parts of my body; Peppa Pig on repeat; going anywhere or doing anything being a logistical nightmare; the constant battle to keep them amused; Weetabix stuck between my toes after every breakfast.

But that seemed unnecessarily negative. As much as I can find myself wishing away great swaths of time, the other part of me knows that one day in the not too distant future, I will hark back to this period as a happy time of innocence, (relative) harmony and sleep-deprived simplicity.

So here are my top 8 great things about having 3 under 5 (I was aiming for 10 but I got stuck – any suggestions welcome…)

  1. Finally, I’m funny!: When I do my distracting-them-at-tea-time totally crap juggling routine with two satsumas, they laugh hysterically and nearly fall off their chairs with amusement. Clearly, this one has a shelf life.
  2. Their friendship: They are close enough in age to enjoy playing with (or fighting over) the same toys and my oldest says that her little brothers are her best friends (I know this won’t last forever). She can even interpret my toddler’s words when I can’t (“Eye sore Ugg?” /“No, Mummy, he saw a slug” /“Aaaah”)
  3. Every day is a new day: Even if one of them (or me) has been grouchy or emotional the day before, they don’t remember. Or if they do remember, they don’t mind. Their little brains neither judge nor bear a grudge. And when they wake up each morning they are refreshed, happy and full of bounce. I hope one day that will rub off on me.
  4. The physical work out: I am so used to carrying a child in each arm (usually whilst avoiding the lego bricks on the stairs) that I am sure I could now hold my own in an arm wrestle, which I never used to be able to do. I imagine that I am Jeff Goldblum from ‘The Fly’ snapping the wrist of my opponent due to my brute force.
  5. Assistance with menial tasks: I can say ‘who wants to help water the garden?’ and they say ‘me, me, ME’ and run outside with their small plastic watering cans while I issue directions from the lounger. They even have a mini broom and dustpan and brush, and when I say ‘whoever sweeps all the food from the floor first can help me sort the washing’, they sweep and brush with even more determination.
  6. The welcome home: When I return home after an absence, long or short (usually short), they run or crawl with delight to the front door and nearly knock me over.
  7. The excuses: I can get away with being a bit rubbish on most fronts and it doesn’t usually seem to matter. Late for an appointment? I’ve got 3 children under 5! Forget a birthday? I’ve got 3 children under 5! Sainsbury’s delivery man waiting on the doorstep? Not volunteered for anything at school? Absent from the office Christmas party? Ditto, ditto, ditto.
  8. The smallness of their world: Their lives revolve around our little family and they copy what they see with their own miniature versions of adulthood: they push buggies, shove dolls under their jumpers and strut around in our shoes saying ‘hello, I’m too busy’ into plastic phones. If they have a problem they come straight to me, and I can usually fix it. And when they want comfort they can fit on my lap, sometimes all three of them together.

When I started writing this piece a while ago it was called ‘the best things about having 3 children under 4’ – but without me having had much to do with it, they got older. Maybe that is the best and the worst thing.

This Mum's Life

Advice I would give to my daughter on her first day of school (if she were old enough to understand)

7 September 1982

You’ve got the uniform (which is a bit big admittedly; I have to hunt for you beneath the green cardigan and sunhat), the smart new shoes (comfy but not too snug a fit that we won’t try to make them last the whole year), the water bottle (does everything have to be Smiggle these days?), the PE kit and the book bag (will you really be reading real books soon?).

So what else can I give you?

Well, the answer is probably, ‘not much’. I can’t come with you into the classroom: the chairs are too flimsy for me to sit on and green gingham just isn’t my style. There are a few things I’d like to say to you though, some of them based on my own experiences of early school life many moons ago, which you can read at a later date (when you can actually read):

  • I know you think that school is going to be like a fun playdate which you do on one day and then go to the park the next. I’ve tried to break it to you that school is somewhere you will go most weekdays for a long time. In truth, you started learning the moment you were born and I hope you’ll go on learning for the whole of your life, so if you decide you’re going to enjoy it then that’s half the battle.
  • Don’t be too shy to answer questions. If you think you know the answer to something, just give it a go. Being wrong isn’t a bad thing and it’s good practice to learn how to be wrong.
  • Likewise, if you need to go to the loo, please don’t wait until it’s too late to ask your teacher otherwise you’ll be wearing spare clothes for the rest of the day. Hopefully it won’t be the brown 80’s style dungarees that I had to wear.
  • Appreciate your teachers: they work hard and their day doesn’t finish at 3.10pm. You’re lucky in that I hope most teachers that you encounter will actually like teaching and like children. This wasn’t always the case in the history of the English schooling system.
  • Best not to take all your clothes off when you’re in the classroom and run around shouting ‘I love my bum bum, I love my bum bum’ like you do at home.
  • On that note, never stop loving your bum bum; it’s just that silent appreciation may be the way to go.
  • When you’re older, if we try to palm you off with your aunt’s 30 year old hockey stick which isn’t even regulation size any more, like my parents did to me, don’t stand for it. We may say that we are trying to build your character but actually we are just being a bit tight.
  • Love the friends you make: you never know, they may be your friends when you’re as old as me. I am still friends with a number of my primary school classmates; two or three of them I would count as my closest friends even now.
  • Try to be friends with boys as well as girls; they may not like playing with dolls as much as you do but it’s good practice for later life.
  • That said, not everyone is going to be your friend. You know how your little brothers annoy you, just as my little brother annoyed me? Well, other people in life will probably annoy you too, but don’t try to strangle them or pinch their faces. Just be nice, and I hope you’ll find that most people are nice to you as well.
  • If your drama teacher asks you to be a weasel in the school production of Toad of Toad Hall, just say politely but firmly, that you think you’d be better as a rabbit.
  • Remember last week when we put you on a climbing wall for the first time and you climbed right to the top without looking down? At first, I wanted to grab hold of your ankle so that you wouldn’t go any higher but in the end I let you go and I watched until it hurt my neck to keep looking at you. I think that starting school will be a bit like the climbing wall. So keep going, don’t look back and try to give me a little wave from the top if you remember. And whatever Pink Floyd might say, to me you’ll never be just another brick in the wall.image
  • Finally, don’t worry. The likelihood is that you’re not going to remember this day. Your father and I, however, will never forget it.