Piglet’s Birthday Party: A Review

OK, so I am not actually reviewing Piglet’s birthday, but rest assured that if I did, it would be a 10/10 from me.

It felt as though Piglet had already been two years old for several months, since I have been telling people that he is “almost two” for ages.  I have also been fretting over his not terribly impressive performance in the competitive world of baby milestones.

“There are babies from my NCT class who KNOW WHEN THEIR BIRTHDAYS ARE!” I have been heard to shriek regularly over the past few weeks.   “THEY CAN SING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THEMSELVES AND EVERYTHING!  PIGLET CAN STILL ONLY SAY “BALL” AND IDENTIFY SOME ANIMAL NOISES, AND EVEN THEN, HE’S NOT 100% CORRECT!”

I keep telling myself that I am being a ridiculous Competitive Mother, and that children develop at their own pace, and anyway, it’s a known fact that Einstein never uttered a word until he was at least fourteen, or something like that, so I once read on the Interwebs.

Anyway, Piglet, utterer of “ball,” maker of animal noises (the cat is a particular favourite) and all round Best Toddler in the Universe* has turned two.  And what a day it was.  My mother, as befits any event involving anything more taxing than putting the washing out (and even that is quite stressful) was extremely stressed for over a week previously, worrying that it would all be rained off (we watched the Countryfile long range forecast very carefully last week) and twenty five people including several small children would be let loose on her kitchen.  Then the anxiety levels went sky high when my brother, who was supposed to be driving us to the venue, found that his car wouldn’t start on several occasions , including on the morning of Piglet’s birthday.

I, meanwhile, mooched around the house all morning making a few sandwiches and trying out my DIY skills or lack thereof on one of Piglet’s birthday presents, a toy car transporter which was helpfully screwed into its packaging with actual metal screws.  Let’s just say that despite some promising early indications that this would turn out to be conclusive proof that I am a Capable Woman who can use a screwdriver effectively, as I managed to unscrew the front driver’s cab part from its moorings, the rest of the toy is still firmly attached to its base.  Thanks for that John Lewis.

We finally headed off during the afternoon to Blaise Castle, a location beloved of my own childhood and remembered with misty-eyed fondness as the location of that most sought after of children’s attractions, a mini railway.  Sadly, the mini railway is no longer there, but it does boast a rather fabulous play area, museum and, on this particular day, a fair which included a carousel with this bus, which Piglet quickly became particularly attached to.

bus on carousel

Now you may notice that Piglet is on the bus on his own.  This is because as yet I still have few friends in the local area, let alone friends with children of a similar age.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that the number is so low as to be basically zero, so there were only a handful of other children at the party, and with the exception of one friend that Piglet has made at nursery (for all his lack of vocabulary, he is clearly better at making friends than me) they were all related to us.  However, that did not stop me from polishing my Public Badge of Good Motherhood by attempting some party bags for those children that were in attendance.

This is where my shout out to Party Bags and Supplies comes in, as they kindly provided us with a set of eight party bags (reader, we had a few spares) and some additional party supplies.  There was a mind-boggling array of themes to choose from, including Paw Patrol, which we have only just discovered, not being avid watchers of Channel 5 unless they are broadcasting some shizzle with a name like “World’s Most Deadly Tornadoes,” in which case Channel 5 me up, everyone loves a good tornado.  However, I went for the safe option of Thomas and Friends (despite my misgivings about the not terribly progressive nature of the Isle of Sodor) as I suspected that this would be Piglet’s choice if he was old enough to make one without getting confused and shaking his head whilst answering in the affirmative, as he is weirdly keen on steam trains, and frequently shouts at BBC4 when one chuffs into view during documentaries on How Steam Revolutionised British Life in the 1800s (that is the sort of stuff we watch in our house.  I can’t get enough of it.  Give me Trainspotting Live, or Canal Walks with Julia Bradbury over anything on BBC1 or ITV.  I am officially an elderly man).

party supplies in box
A selection of the party supplies we were sent: paper cups and plates, napkins and a Really Useful plastic tablecloth

I have to say the tablecloth was particularly welcomed given that we were having a picnic.  Here’s a shot of it in action.

tablecloth and party bags

You can also see the party bags pictured here, which contained various bits of Thomas and Friends paraphernalia,  including a whistle, which Piglet was particularly keen on, and also educational as he now knows how to blow it, having been taught to do so this morning by yours truly (proud mummy moment, albeit one I may live to regret), a set of train tickets to various destinations on the fair Isle of Sodor (which my mother was disappointed to learn is not a real place), a kaleidoscope and a few other bits and bobs which you can see pictured here.

contents of party bag

I was disappointed that there was no food therein, however as they were sent through the post I can see why this was.   In my attempt to wear my Public Badge of Good Motherhood with pride, I added a piece of Piglet’s fantastic birthday cake which my cousin’s wife kindly made specially for the occasion, a chocolate (badge may be removed by parents who were hoping to have a healthier option), raisins and the obligatory balloon.  At least that was how I remembered children’s party bags from the last time I received one around 1988.  Hopefully they haven’t now gone all ridiculous and it isn’t now the done thing to put in fancy gold-plated helium balloons, or the keys to a luxury pedal car, or my name will be mud, and my badge firmly confiscated.  The main thing was, Piglet seemed to enjoy them.  Even if I did quietly steal his extra slice of birthday cake.  Got to keep that Public Badge of Good Motherhood polished, and too many sweet treats would never do.

 

birthday party bags

*This may not be an entirely unbiased opinion.

I was given the party bags and supplies in exchange for a review.  All opinions are my own.

Life: Perfectly Instagrammed?

This is a nice photo.

Everything on Instagram is nice.  Sometimes I almost think I could be a photographer, or at least someone with a lovely lifestyle blog full of beautiful soft-focus shots of their immaculate home full of spotless white furniture and inspirational quotes.

However, as we all know, life doesn’t come packaged up neatly in an Instagram-ready box, with all imperfections filtered out.  So here’s the real story behind this photo.*

1.) It was taken in the pub.  Yes, I took my toddler to the pub!  Unhand me now O officers of social services, for I had but one one glass of wine.  And it took hours to drink that, due to intermittently abandoning said wine to chase a toddler around.

2.) Yes, Piglet ran around in the pub.  I am the mother whose toddler runs riot in a drinking establishment.  Gone are the days when we used to sit in the corner of the local after work on a Friday afternoon and swear that we would never be those raucous parents at the bar, allowing their children free rein over the dry roasted peanuts and the “lounge bar” whilst they cackle over their Bacardi and Coke.

3.) As he has spent so much time running around a pub, Piglet has been exposed to a lot of swearing and bad language (NOT FROM ME OR MY COMPANIONS OR RELATIVES, I mean from others in the pub, just casually dropping an F-bomb here or there, in the context of their pub bantz, innit).  I am now convinced that his second word (he can already say “ball”-well done) will be something I don’t approve of, like “Noel Edmonds” (see below).

3.) In a bid to stop him running around (and to give me a welcome break from chasing him), I introduced Piglet to the fruit machines.  Not to play with actual money, obvs, but it can’t be far off, as he is now OBSESSED.  There is a future as a gambling addict awaiting him, and it is all my fault.

4.) This photo was taken when I tired of chasing Piglet around and holding him aloft to look at Noel Edmonds’ face amongst the flashing lights of Deal or No Deal, and handed him to my brother.

5.) Last but not least, it isn’t Christmas any more, so instead of a little boy looking eagerly at a snowman, with shades of the Snowman movie, and a youthful Aled Jones singing in the background, it’s a boy taking a breather from running around a pub on a Sunday lunchtime pointing at the fruit machines and absorbing age-inappropriate vocabulary whilst surrounded by the last vestiges of a Christmas that is no more.  Sad times.  Until next year.

*OK, so I’m not that Australian girl who had like, 500,000 followers and got loads of free clothes and then revealed the real life behind the Instagram shots in a not very surprising expose.  My real life behind the Instagram doesn’t involve free clothes, loads of likes OR posing 50,000 times until you get that one great shot.  Have you ever met a toddler?  That camera would be going straight into their little hands, and into the Lair of Lost Toys under the sofa, or lobbed across the kitchen until it smashes into a thousand tiny pieces.

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Thomas and his Friends, the Patriarchy

Today Piglet and I went to the library. The reason for this was that I had a book on helping child language development which was due back (having been barely touched.  I have resigned myself to the fact that Piglet’s vocabulary is likely to consist of no more than “ball” and “A-DA” for some time to come, as I have written about here).  However, while we were there I availed myself of the opportunity to look like a shining example of motherhood by reading books to Piglet and successfully not allowing him to pull piles of them off the shelves or rip out any flaps that happened to be lurking inside.  I steered him towards Charlie and Lola, which turned out to be a bit too long to hold his attention, and after briefly being interested in some books with pictures of animals in, he settled on several of the apparently limitless collection of books known nowadays as Thomas and Friends.

I’m assuming that the words “tank engine” were removed simply because no one knows what a tank engine is anymore, since there is barely a person still living who remembers steam trains when they were actually a thing, right?

However, despite the removal of “tank engine” from the title, very little else appears to have changed in the past 60 years in Thomas-Land, also known as the Isle of Sodor.  Based on the Thomas books I have seen so far (I admit I haven’t seen the TV series in a while), let’s take a closer look at the evidence.

1.) Thomas and his Friends are all steam engines.  And unlike Real Life present-day steam engines, they are not lovingly restored museum pieces that run on special lines a couple of times a year staffed by enthusiasts.  They do ACTUAL REAL WORK, like pulling passengers and freight around the Isle of Sodor.  Given that the entire Isle of Sodor was probably shut down by Beeching around 1962, this is surely a lie of epic proportions.  I am more inclined to believe that the moon is actually occupied by the Clangers in their natty fabric body-armour outfits than I am to believe that the Isle of Sodor is representative of any real present-day island.

2.) As Thomas and Friends are all steam engines, there is an underlying current of menace and threat surrounding the few resident non-steam-powered trains.  Diesel, for example, is considered the enemy.  Luddites, much?

3.) Thomas and his Friends all have massive faces.  This is seriously creepy.  I have seen some books where everything at Brendam Docks has a big, scary face, even the cranes.  A CRANE WITH A FACE, people.  This will HAUNT MY DREAMS.

4.) Where there are traces of modernity, these appear to be glaring anachronisms on Ye Olde Sceptr’d Isle of Sodor.  For example I have seen a helicopter in one book-a helicopter!  In the 1950s!  Pass the smelling salts for I hath glimpsed the future and it is TERRIFYING!  A flying machine with a great big propeller on top.  Who’d have thought it?  The helicopter is called Harold.  As in, 1066, or tuba-playing Neighbours character of yore.  Who would even call a helicopter Harold?

However, the fifth, and most important beef I have with Thomas (and his Friends) concerns the Friends themselves.  Let’s take a look at these Friends: James, Henry, Gordon, Edward, Percy, Victor, Harold (don’t forget Harold!), Douglas, Diesel, Bertie, the Fat Controller…..are you noticing a pattern here?  Of course, how could I have missed it, these Friends are, without exception MALE.

So apparently there are no females on the Isle of Sodor.

A splendid specimen of the 1950s if ever I saw one
A splendid specimen of the 1950s if ever I saw one

Oh yes, of course there are, I had forgotten Annie and Clarabel!  Ah, Annie and Clarabel, Thomas’ CARRIAGES.

I get it now, on Sodor the females are seen and not heard, quite literally.  They are mere passive vessels, to be pushed and pulled about by the men.  I’m starting to think that this Sodor isn’t quite as idyllic a place as it likes to present itself.

Not only that but even the characters who are humans as opposed to inanimate methods of transportation are male.  Take this guy, for example.

OK so he's a figure of fun here, but I can guarantee he's having the last laugh, as long as patriarchy still reigns supreme.
OK so he’s a figure of fun here, but I can guarantee he’s having the last laugh, as long as patriarchy still reigns supreme.

Surely there can be no better representative of patriarchy, the world as literally controlled by pompous middle-aged white men-possibly wearing top hats-than this one.  I also particularly like the fact that the other characters in this picture are also white males.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen any railway worker in a Thomas book-and there are quite a few-who was not a white man.  I’m also enjoying the future leaders of Sodor-apparently public schoolboys-in the corner here.  Do the girls on Sodor not go to school?  Was it wash day when this picture was taken, or were they all on their period and hence confined to some outbuilding for a week or so, so as not to pollute the crisp air of Sodor’s houses with their uncleanliness?

Come on Thomas, get with the programme.  Chuggington has a female mayor you know.  And she’s black.  Sodor is over.  Embrace the future!

My Random Musings

A-DA!

As regular readers of this blog will attest, Piglet is a man of few words.

The words are:

“BBBBBBB-AAAALLL.”  This means “ball,” and is proclaimed whenever a ball comes into view.  Even a rugby ball, which I maintain is proof of Piglet’s budding intellectualism, as rugby balls aren’t even real balls.  They aren’t even circular, so it is impressive that Piglet is able to recognise them as belonging in the same category as ordinary, round-shaped balls.

“Brrruu.”  This is a generic term for food, usually food that is small and round, such as blueberries.  Piglet loves things that are small and round.  He is also a big fan of a pea, although he can’t say that yet.

“A-DA!”  This is a word that Piglet has been saying since around the age of eight months.  And I still have no idea what it actually means.  Various theories have been mooted.  He is obsessed with someone called Adam; he is already bemoaning his lack of a father by asking if every person who passes by is his “da;” he is saying “oh dear” a lot, probably as an expression of frustration that he was born to me and not to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as he doubtless would have preferred.  However, none of these theories have yet scratched the surface of the sheer range of emotions, adjectives, nouns and verbs of what “A-DA” appears to mean.

Take today, for example.  I picked Piglet up from nursery at 5pm, and when I arrived he was off having his nappy changed (I wonder if they sing that old chestnut, What You Got For Mummy in that Nap-Nap, at nursery?  Or do they prefer the dulcet tones of Mr Nap-Nap, Bring Me a Poo, with musical arrangement by yours truly, to the theme of Mr Sandman, as performed in Grease 2 by boys in matching jackets which get stolen by the T-Birds.  What do you mean I’m the only person in the universe insane enough to sing songs about poo?)

When Piglet returned from the changing station, he was naked apart from his nappy (although for some reason, they weren’t singing my other favourite tune, I’m a Naked Baby and I Like to Run Around) as he had a bit of a temperature.

And as he was carried aloft back into the baby room in all his naked glory, a great chorus of “A-DA!” went up, from all the assorted babies and adults greeting him.

“A-DA!” came Piglet’s commanding reply.

“A-DA!” was how he used to greet the childminder every morning.

“A-DA!” was what he said repeatedly on the bus on the way home from nursery, whilst pointing at indeterminate passing objects out of the window.

“A-DA!” was what he yelled angrily, through his sobs, from the depths of his too-small car seat as I tried desperately to placate him with small, round pieces of brrruu the last time my brother gave us a lift back from London.

“A-DA!” is his way of acknowledging my mother when I put him into her bed each morning as I go to work.

“A-DA!” is hello.  It is goodbye.  It is everything in between.  It’s a dog chasing a stick in the distance. It’s a squirrel climbing a tree.  It’s a relative stopping by to say hello.  It’s anger.  It’s reproach.  It’s “when the parents were being given out, why did I get you and not Brad and Angelina?” It’s “I bet they wouldn’t tie me into this ridiculous newborn-sized car seat at the age of FOURTEEN MONTHS and ANYWAY, GIVE ME SOME BRRUU.”

It’s the catch-all term for The World According to Piglet, and there’s a part of me that will be sad when he no longer has a use for this most useful and all-encompassing of words.

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