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A competitive marriage

Posted by Mum About Town
Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 24 April 2014
Last Monday we all woke with too much chocolate in our tummies. A family run to the top of Primrose Hill seemed like the only thing for it. So, on went the lycra and trainers, as the Smalls limbered up in the hall. Finally, He was ready and off we went.

You’ll be relieved to know that there was much sweat but no tears. However, there was a certain amount of healthy competition, as we huffed and puffed our way up and down that hill. And I say healthy in the most Royal way possible. Because it’s fun to see William and Kate race each other furiously round Auckland harbour and then again challenge each other last night as she beat him on the music decks.

Anyone who knows us well can confirm that He and I are a little competitive. We stopped playing tennis long ago (or at least scoring properly) and no holiday is complete without the four-lap sprint with one gloating winner.

William is right because ‘healthy competition’ is just what we all need to avoid taking life too seriously. Anyway, I’d rather be pipped to the post by Him than someone who might feel embarrassed to beat me.

You can read more musings from Emma at

Every day is Earth Day.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Tuesday was Earth Day. I’m never quite sure what all these special days mean, or who invents them. For me, every day is earth day. This takes a literal form, since I spend a vast amount of time with bits of mud adhering to various parts of my body. (I still rue the day when I went round the whole village, smiling at the lady in the chemist, having a good chat with the butcher, only realising when I got home that I had a large smear of Scottish earth across my forehead.)
Tania Kindersley

Things of the earth are of particular immediacy at this time of year. There is of course the intensive tracking of the progress of the spring grass, for the horses. It is slow to come, and even this far into April, hay is still required. There is my own private springwatch. This morning, my heart lifted to see the first of the cherry blossom out. The sticky buds of the horse chestnuts have just exploded into stinging green leaves. The pied wagtails have arrived, and are flirting shamelessly, no better than they ought to be. As we groom the horses to get rid of the last of the winter coats, and great clumps of bay and chestnut hair fall to the ground, I think the birds’ nests will be very soft and colourful this year. Horse hair is one of their favourite ingredients, and by the time I go back for evening stables, it will all have been collected.
Tania Kindersley

It is the earthy things which also provide consolation. We have suffered a sad loss in the family, and hearts are sore. When mortality strikes, I find myself staring very hard at leaves and moss and lichen, as if the trees and the green grass and the old granite stone which is so much a feature of this part of the world can anchor me and keep me safe. The blue hills console too, with their ancient perspective. I look up at them and think they were here for millions of years before puny humans arrived, and they shall stand for millions more as the generations pass away. It may sound a little doomy, but I find it reassuring.

A friend had to go to stay in a city for the last couple of weeks. I was once a very urban creature, and loved the hard pavements of Soho with a burning passion. Now, I need the things of the earth. My friend said, as we were walking past the hills and along the beech avenue: ‘You know, there were no trees. I missed the trees.’ She paused, and we contemplated the arboreal magnificence. ‘We are so lucky,’ she said. ‘Some people have no trees.’ Of course there are trees in the cities. I remember always being astonished by how verdant London was, with huge old plane trees pushing up through the asphalt. But it’s not quite the same.
Tania Kindersley

I think the idea of Earth Day is to remind humans to cherish the planet, and understand its daily marvels. That surely must be a good thing. My own private resolution is never to take the growing things for granted. I am in very real danger of getting a bit Hello sky, hello clouds, and the old hippy in me is coming out and singing her song. But nature is a miracle, and I shall never be blasé about that.


Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Wednesday, 23 April 2014
I like to think that when Plato coined the phrase that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”, he was inspired by a remarkable woman rather than poetic expression.

Every mother is remarkable every day she cooks, cleans, teaches, works, washes and cares for her family. Multi-tasking is what we call it today, but mothers have been supreme jugglers since, well, FOREVER.

I recently read a good news story about an Israeli mum who invented a harness to help her son with cerebral palsy, learn to walk. Now that’s necessity. And as admirable as Debby Elnatan and her creation are, more than anything she symbolizes what mothers and nannies do on a daily basis.

Maybe they aren’t patent-worthy nor money making discoveries, but if they entertain a child, keep a child occupied, safe, amused, distracted, and interested, I regard the effort commendable. Give them a medal or a homemade crown…with lots of glitter and feathers.

An empty egg carton, brown paper bag (invented by a mother in 1868), with string, glue, scissors, paint and a balloon, on a rainy afternoon and voila, Miss Sara will have her own piggybank.

Games, recipes, all sorts of objects we take for granted were the brainchild of a woman who was not limited by “how”, and inspired by “what”.

Where would we be without chocolate chip cookies, bullet proof vests, windshield wipers, retractable dog leash, monopoly, disposable nappies and computers?

Grace Hopper may have not been the first person to invent a computer but she is responsible for creating a writing code for one of the first computers at Harvard University. And like every talented hausfrau she also dusted the five-ton machine to remove the moths it attracted, literally the “bugs” we now refer to when our systems crash.

I praise all the women with children in their lives who get through the day and make things happen. And I applaud them for their creativity and stamina and passion, but mostly for the unconditional love in everything they do for the future inventors and mums and nannies.

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A lesson in marathons

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Last Sunday, as I was looking on in awe and horror (in equal measure) at the London Marathon, my mind started to race. Is there a bigger message in this no-mean-feat other than just sweat and blisters?

As many as 40,000 people pounded the pavements of the capital to run, walk or hobble the 26.2 miles. Ranging from elite (Mo) athletes to the average fit-loving person to some pretty comical run runners, the entrants all seemed to have a point to make.

Aside from the crucial fundraising, it seems that a personal best time is the main driver. A challenge, a goal and (hopefully) an achievement drive the best of us on a daily basis. And this must be the main attraction. But does it justify the sheer pain that so many of those runners clearly experienced en route?

From what I can understand from questioning those with now aching muscles, all those signals sent from the body to the head scream: ‘PLEASE STOP’ and ‘THIS HURTS’ and ‘MY LEGS ARE KILLING ME’. But those on this running race mission hardly stop, absolutely overruling any body weaknesses. The gig certainly sounds tough.

The biggest tonic of all is the crowd. My sister-in-law, who ran the race (in admirable time), told me that the cheering of her name while showing admiration for her drive gave her the power she needed to finish the race.

And so my point this week isn’t really about running a race but more about how we introduce our children to idea of realistic challenges in their lives – therefore giving them the possibility of that glorious feeling of achievement and recognition. With our encouragement and some sheer determination, they should be made to feel that they can finish the course. Whatever that course is. And without even caring about winning.

You can read more musings from Emma at


Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 14 April 2014
When most people eat chocolate Easter bunnies they eat the ears first.

I can’t recall where or when I read this. But I can tell you I like to observe how children devour an odd shaped item of food, and what parts are leftover because rarely do they seem to consume an entire bunny…my turn to “help out”.

Does starting with the ears imply a cautious individual? Is biting off the tail indicative of a leader? Or poking a hole in the belly suggest an artistic future? The psychology would be an interesting read. However, I say enjoy and savour.

Easter offers a Christian occasion to reflect on life and meaning. Whether it is of importance for this reason or simply time for family, sharing and making memories, enjoy and savour.

You can bake hot cross buns, decorate eggs, organise an egg hunt, play at being bunnies in the park, read together. Indulge in all that is playful and fun about holidays with your children… and they don’t need to know if mum has nibbled on a discarded bunny foot.

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"AS a general rule, one’s stern duty in life seems to be to avoid the things in life that are pleasant, especially in the matter of diet."

The Lady. Living Well. 16th August, 1928
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