Yes, they're twins. Both of them!

Everyday experiences with twins. The ups, downs and downright unexpected.

Dull women have immaculate homes August 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 1:24 pm
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If the saying is true, then I’m fairly sure that there must be a number of dull women living near Stow on the Wold. Today I ventured to the pinnacle of Cotswolds lifestyle chic – Daylesford Organic.

For the uninitiated, it’s a collection of charmingly restored barns devoted to an organic farm shop, restaurant, spa and clothing boutique; owned by the Bamford family of JCB fame.

It’s also a melting pot for all the terribly yah ladies who need somewhere to congregate and discuss the merits of taupe versus cappuccino in their ‘oh so Kelly Hoppen’ interiors.

To say I felt somewhat out-of-place is seriously underplaying the situation. Every female in there was glossy, groomed and immaculate. No one else appeared to be showcasing this morning’s porridge on their shoulders and none of their offspring (Tarquin, Tabitha and Talullah?) were showing any interest in morphing into Jedi Knights.

The barns are as far removed from barns as you can possibly imagine. It’s a little ironic to think that animals ever dared to roam in these outbuildings. It’s all chic decor, perfectly positioned stock and minimalist packaging. Even the milk bottles are glam. Tesco, this is not!

And there is everything you could possibly want to complete your immaculate Cotswolds bolt-hole. From food, to kitchen ware, to candles, clothes and gardening gear. They even sell paint in “Daylesford Brown” so you can recreate your own little Bamford Barn at home.

But the real eye-opener was neither the stock, nor the clientele. It was the prices. This lifestyle living doesn’t come cheap. It’s amazing how natural and neutral could possibly become so expensive. I’m guessing the lovely ladies in Daylesford daren’t cook for fear of getting flour on the flagstones, so for them, a spiced apple cake at a snip under £6.

£6? You can buy an awful lot of flour and apples for £6 in the South Cotswolds where I’m from. Evidently, there is an inclement micro-climate in the North Cotswolds which is having an adverse effect on their food prices.

And forget the food… what about the clothing. There is a separate barn dedicated to the clothing and skin care line. As one might expect, racks of divine cashmere in black, grey and stone. I picked up a beautiful little (and I mean ‘little’) vest top which I was just mentally slotting into my wardrobe when I spotted the price tag. £169. Perhaps not.

So, I guess where I’m getting to is the fact that my Cotswolds home won’t be immaculately Daylesford-esque any time soon. And I will console myself in the hope that I’m neither immaculate, nor dull!

 

I’m sure holidays used to be easier than this August 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 10:05 pm
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This week, the party bus has moved to Stow on the Wold. We are having a few days en famille, before heading back to the sandpit at the weekend. It was supposed to be an excuse for some ‘quality’ time together. A holiday for just the five of us.

Now I’m sure I remember a time when holiday’s involved nice restaurants, great bars and the only consideration of a morning was “pool or beach?”. Days passed leisurely with no thoughts of whether or not the day’s bistro would have baby-change facilities, or if high chairs were freely available. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever seeing any children on the holidays we used to indulge in. We were more discerning than I’d given myself credit for.

Things have definitely changed. This morning, we were woken by the sounds of shouts various coming from the children’s bedroom. We are staying in a beautiful Cotswold stone cottage that was designed and built for a family of munchkins. It is cute and quaint but the novelty of cracking my skull every time I walk upstairs to the one and only toilet in the property, has well and truly worn off.

There are two bedrooms, so the children are all in together. This has worked very well in the past as they seem to amuse each other. However, for reasons best known to the little people, this morning, no one was enjoying anyone’s company.

We thought we’d solved the problem by separating no. 1 son from the twins. He came into our bed and we left the girls to go back to sleep. No. 1 son then proceeded to kick and wriggle for a full hour before we admitted defeat and told him he could go and play downstairs.

Still hopeful of a tiny bit more shut-eye, we tried to ignore the wailing from the girls room but after another 20 minutes, admitted the inevitable and plucked them from their cots. Their mood hadn’t improved much and there was a fair amount of grizzling before milk arrived.

Getting them dressed proved more of a challenge than usual and once clothed, twin 1 decided it would be great fun to start battering her sister with a book. Twin 2 wasn’t amused. Twin 1 swiftly moved from paperback to hardback and before we could say “Maisy Goes to Playschool”, twin 2 had taken a vicious blow to the nose.

The wailing was instantaneous and we were ready for it. What we weren’t prepared for was the sudden rush of blood that followed. The poor girl had a nose bleed and dear God, was it messy. Twin 1 sat in bemused silence as twin 2 sobbed with all her might, which was perfectly understandable, but just served to hasten the flow of blood that by now had spread way beyond her pjs, soaking her father and heading for the lovely pale blue White Company bedding.

Did we leave a deposit when we booked?

I glanced over at the clock. 8.17am. I hope the next 10 hours are a little less fraught.

 

The Great British Supermarket August 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 11:18 pm
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It’s official. British supermarkets are the best. Obviously I haven’t conducted a thorough or even unbiased study on the subject, but from my experiences on holiday in Europe, and living in the Far East and now the Middle East, it’s beyond doubt; no supermarkets in any of those locations come close to the ones back home.

I think it comes down to the range of products on offer. This afternoon, I popped into Sainsbury’s to pick up some sausages for my son. I just wanted a pack of good quality pork bangers. I struggled to find them. Did I want ones with apple in? Or caramelized onion? Or leek? Or even mustard? Well no, not really. I just wanted good old-fashioned pig in them.

In the end, I settled for finest pork with a hint of sage and nutmeg. From my son’s perspective, they could just have well have contained a hint of Tom & Jerry. He just fancied sausages.

The point is, there is just so much choice. It’s impossible to drop in for a pint of milk and a newspaper without also picking up coronation chicken, lemon tarts and an extra-large bottle of Pimms, just because you can. You can even buy clothes. And saucepans. And garden furniture. It’s amazing.

The downside of this of course is that supermarket shopping seems to have become a national sport for the British. Whatever day or time it is, people congregate in droves to see what’s on offer this week or what’s new. People swarm the aisles in search of those extra Nectar points, or whatever bogus big brother loyalty scheme is currently de rigueur.

Ready meals are no longer restricted to ready-to microwave trays of limp looking lasagne. In Waitrose, you can choose your Italian favourite by region! If you fancy a curry, you can choose Indian, Thai, Sri Lankan, Indonesian or even Birmingham’s finest. Ok so that last bit was perhaps a fib, but I bet someone somewhere is considering it.

And the greatest revelation about shopping in a British supermarket for the first time in a year?

I was asked if I was over 25 and therefore legally allowed to purchase the bottle of red wine in my basket.

Honestly.

It’s the most amazing complement I’ve ever been paid.

 

An Education August 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 12:06 am
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One of the reasons we’re keen to come back to the UK is so that the children can enjoy a British education. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the schools in Dubai, but since living abroad we seem to have developed a patriotic crush on all things British, and are now dead set on educating the children here.

And no, we’re not talking private education. The arrival of twins put paid to that great plan. With one child it was doable, with two,  a stretch; but with three of them and two in the same year? No chance.

For the past 6 months I’ve been swotting up on which locations offer us the best state schools. Friends have been amused to see my homework on the subject, which consists of an AA road atlas covered in dozens of tiny yellow dot stickers identifying hot spots for free education in Britain.

Once I’d identified a secondary school hotspot, then I was off on a mission to find a complementary primary. It was a time-consuming process.

Yellow dots were joined by spotty dots and then when I felt I’d identified a prime location, it was crowned with that ultimate accolade. A shiny star sticker.

But today I have encountered a problem. An issue that is niggling me and making me doubt all my good work. Could it be that all my extensive research has gone to waste?

The reason for my doubts?

Glen in Harry Ramsden’s.

I’m not sure if he is actually called Glen but I think it suits him. Glen is around 24 years old with spiky, greasy hair. I suppose working in Harry Ramsden’s means a far greater propensity towards grease. All that hot fat and the need to flick back his fringe at regular intervals.

Anyway, I’m going to make an assumption that Glen was schooled in Britain. Yes it is possible that he was outsourced to a Swiss academy of excellence but I’m going to place my money on the fact that his education took place in Swindon.

Yes, I’m sorry. Swindon again. The hell hole with the mini roundabouts for those with a short attention span.

The children, my parents and I were in Swindon for the day, and for reasons that are too painful to go into we ended up in Harry Ramsden’s.

Now you’ll just have to trust me that the words, ‘my mother’, ‘Harry Ramsden’s’ and ‘Swindon’, are not a natural fit. I’m not sure what further explanation I can give except to say that this is the woman who once made me go into a branch of Iceland and ask if they stocked Poussin. I rest my case.

My father and I volunteered to go and place our order whilst my mother watched the troops.  By the time Glen got to us, we were all ready with our request and happily ordered Harry’s finest.

It took a while to assemble all the various elements of our order, but as the trays of food were passed to us, it was obvious we were missing one vital component.

“Could we have some cutlery please?”, asked my father, very politely.

Blank look from Glen.

“Some cutlery please?”, he said again a little louder.

Still nothing registering with Glen.

By now my father was speaking at the same volume that I use when calling my son in from the far end of the garden. And you need to remember, we live damn close to the Dubai Airport flight path.

“SOME CUTLERY?”, he bellowed.

And then it dawned on me. Glen wasn’t deaf. He was stupid.

“Could we have some knives and forks please?”, I asked.

“Sure”, said Glen and duly provided a stash of plastic utensils.

He wasn’t being rude, or unhelpful. He just had no idea what the word ‘cutlery’ meant.

So here’s the concern. Should I really be placing so much faith in the British education system.

It’s a worry.

 

Things that make you go hmmmm August 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 12:26 am
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It has been something of a strange day. There were no fabulous highs but no desperate lows either. What the day did throw up however, are a number of unanswered questions that I’m going to share on the off-chance that someone can answer any of them for me. A few niggles that have given me the urge to rant a little. You’ll have to excuse me.

1) Why are baby change cubicles never large enough to accommodate a double buggy?

There has been one occasion, and one occasion only, when I have been able to change my twin girls in the designated area provided. Step up Marks and Spencer’s, Cheltenham. The only venue on the planet large enough to let all three of us in. It is actually so large, that you could take all of Angelina Jolie’s children in and still have room for my three. It’s vast and it’s clean. It’ll never last. I bet next time I visit, it’ll have been turned into a carbon neutral, wind-powered, gluten-free, non-denominational prayer room.

It’s not as if the miniscule changing cubicles are only penalizing parents with twins either. I mean, plenty of families have a double buggy to accommodate a newborn plus an older sibling. There are thousands of us out there. The planners wouldn’t be daft enough to make disabled loos that wheelchairs can’t fit in would they? Then again…

2) Why are venues of public interest not sign posted?

Today we visited the McArthur Glen Shopping Outlet in Swindon. For anyone who’s been fortunate enough to have never visited Swindon, it is a hell hole of a town held together by 187 mini roundabouts. None of which have signage to the shopping centre. There are few reasons that anyone would ever willingly visit Swindon. Surely the presence of a half-decent outlet centre would be something to promote and try to encourage people to visit? All I can say is, apparently not!

3) Why are estate agents inherently useless?

We are in the process of buying a house. Well, let’s rephrase that. We are in the process of trying to buy a house. The house in question has planning permission for a substantial garage / cottage in the grounds. Well, according to the agents it does. Not according to the solicitor. Or the surveyor. Or the Land Registry. I telephoned Rupert (and why are all estate agents in the Cotswolds called Rupert?) to push him on the subject. All I can say is he managed to solidify my opinion of his company. Knight Frank(ly Useless).

So answers on a postcard please. If anyone has answers to any of the above, I’d be delighted to hear them.

 

A Two Woman Parking Mission July 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 5:48 pm
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The other day we took the troops shopping for the day. In any instance, taking 3 small children shopping is ambitious; but this was an even more elaborate mission. We were going to use the Park and Ride!

I was a little nervous, but my mother assured me that the buggy would fit on the bus and that the bus stop was perfectly located near our targeted shops.

We arrived at the car park, parked in a Mother and Child space, and began the usual unloading routine – buggy, baby 1, baby 2, no. 1 son, bags various, cuddly toys, fondue set…

As we loaded up, I became aware of other cars parking up in the parent spaces and then leaping out and heading towards the bus. Not a child in sight.

A single woman in her 50s pulled up in the space next to us and we decided to take action. My mother politely informed her, in case she had somehow missed the flourescent yellow painted sign of a buggy on the ground; that the space she had parked in was reserved for parents of small children.

“Oh” she replied, and started to walk off.

Undeterred, my mother shouted after her. “It’s just, you could get fined”, she said. I think she was hoping to sound like a friendly, fellow park-ee, and not a militant civilian parking monitor about to make a citizen’s arrest.

“Thank you”, said our middle-aged offender.

And kept right on walking.

We debated how disgusted we were, then set upon everyone else that parked in our aisle. By the time we’d finished, we’d had a full on debate of the slightly warm variety with one man; accosted an elderly couple in a disabled bay; and pulled faces at a very sprightly woman who popped her VW Polo into a disabled space and then approached the bus with the nippy disposition of an Olympic hopeful. She was so fast, we couldn’t even catch her to give her the benefit of our by-now, well-practised speech.

We got on the bus and tried to ignore the glares of all the people we’d reprimanded.

I was happy to discover that my double buggy was just that bit too large and unwieldy for the bus, so that all our visually impaired parking numpties had to squeeze themselves around the twins at some inconvenience. I did nothing to help them.

I’m thinking of suggesting a new parking symbol to the council. The word “LAZY” painted in flourescent paint with flashing lights and a sound effect. Just so all the charming men and women I met in Cheltenham at the Park and Ride last week, know exactly where they should leave their vehicles.

 

It’s A-maze-ing July 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 5:27 pm
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As part of our cultural tour of England, today’s excitement was a trip to a Maize Maze. There is a farm not far from my sister’s home which every summer, creates a maze from their maize crop. It’s quite famous in the area and as it’s only open for a few weeks a year, is also very popular.

It all looked promising until we reached the entrance where we were charged £24 for the privilege of getting lost. Put me in the car park at the Dubai Mall and I can easily get myself lost for free with the added benefit that I’m in the comfort of my own vehicle, so this seemed a little steep to me. However, we did get a map and the loan of a long stick with a flag on the end.

“What’s it for?”, asked my son.

The helpful student-type who’d relieved us of our £24 explained that ‘if’ we got lost, we could simply raise the flag and shout loudly and someone would come to rescue us.

At this point, I was still blissfully unaware that the maze was actually quite complicated and the chances of us getting lost were incredibly high.

As we entered the maze, my son instructed us that there was to be a girl’s team and a boy’s team. He would be negotiating the maze with the help of my sister’s boyfriend, whilst my sister and I had the benefit of the twin’s navigational skills.

We set off in different directions and soon realised that the maize was in fact, quite tall. We could only see the heads of people who were at least 6 ft tall and there seemed to be an awful lot of flag waving going on.

The initial paths were well-worn and nicely flat. The girls’ buggy trundled easily along the soil and the twins themselves seemed jolly.

20 minutes later we were deep in the middle of the maze, the well-worn paths a distant memory, and spots of rain dropped on us from ominously grey clouds. By now we’d realised that flip-flops aren’t appropriate footwear; that it would have been a good idea to pack the buggy’s rain cover; and that maybe, just maybe, if we’d looked at the map at the start, we may actually have an idea of where we now were.

Sense of humours still intact… just,  my sister and I took turns to drag the buggy over the increasingly bumpy terrain. At one point, with me pushing, and her pulling, we dissolved into fits of giggles as no amount of brute force would force the thing to move. We considered abandoning the buggy and carrying the girls out, but as we had no idea of which way to go, conceded that it wasn’t the greatest plan as we’d probably just end up abandoning the girls once they got too heavy and wriggly to carry.

By now, we’d been in the maze for over 45 minutes and it’s fair to say, it had lost its element of fun.

The girls were getting tired and grumpy and not even date and apple bars could take their minds off the whiplash.

The fact that we kept passing the same people didn’t fill me with hope that we’d ever find our way out.

And then we realised we’d lost our flag!

So come on then… own up.. who’s bright idea was it?