Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas: It's not for children.

Pre-child, I had a rather romanticized idea of what Christmas would be like when I had kids.  It generally featured a happy family with rosy cheeks drinking hot chocolate (stirred with candy canes a la Pinterest), gathering foliage to decorate the house with and visiting stately homes to see Father Christmas and buy artisan bread from farmers markets.  I thought of all the magical traditions I'd introduce and all the afternoons we'd spend curled up on the sofa together watching The Snowman.  It was bloody lovely, my idea of Christmas with a child.

Reality: You will not make it through December without wielding a sick bucket at some point.  There's going to be snot everywhere, and when they reach school or preschool age, they're going to  be fractious and knackered because it's the end of term.  The Snowman is declared to be "boring" after the age of 3 and they'd rather stay in watching Tom and Jerry and picking their noses than go to a farmers market.  And you can forget about the tasteful winter foliage; if it's not covered in glitter and playing a tinny version of Jingle Bells, they're not keen.

This year, I've found myself getting nostalgic for when Christmas was an adults only affair.  You know, when you and your partner would expend all your energy on choosing the perfect gifts for each other, when alcohol featured at the top of the agenda, and you could please your damn self.

Mr Disgrace and I moved into our current house two weeks before Christmas six years ago - two years before Rory came along.  We awoke on moving day to find the country encased in ice and snow, pelted up the motorway, full of naive enthusiasm and discovered that the contracts hadn't even been exchanged yet.  We sat freezing in the car until close of business at 5.30pm, when someone finally pulled their finger out and gave us the keys to our house.  Then, we discovered that there was no electricity, gas or water in the house, so we had to move in by the light of 3 candles.  We spent the next fortnight wearing all our clothes and shivering under a duvet because nobody could connect the gas.  It was so cold in the house that we could see our breath.  Plus the ceilings were falling in and all was exceedingly grubby.  Nevertheless, we bought a massive Christmas tree in an attempt at festive cheer and cracked open the Baileys.

Beacon of cheer in an otherwise bare house.

On Christmas Eve, we hit the M6 for my parents house (4 hours late because Rich got held up at work) in foul moods.  I was angry because he was so late and we were both pissed off with our useless, ugly, arctic house, not really sure about the little town we'd moved too and were desperately missing my cosy flat with underfloor heating in beautiful Harrogate.  Never had Christmas felt less Christmassy.  Then Rich put Radio 2 on to break the hostile silence, and the Suzi Q's American Rock 'n' Roll Christmas programme was playing.  Criminally, this is not available to listen to now, but the playlist is available at the link.  Suddenly, we couldn't stop singing along and sniggering at the crazy songs, and the last hour of our journey was spent singing, laughing and finally finding our Christmas cheer.  Then we pulled up at my mum and dad's house and good things were cooking and the house was warm and decorated for Christmas and there was Winter Pimms.  The happiest no-child Christmas followed.

Earlier this week, in an attempt to recapture a festive vibe after a couple of days with Rory and the vom bucket, I tracked down that playlist and found some of the songs on YouTube.  Then I cranked this up and grabbed Mr Disgrace for a bit of freestyle jiving around the house, some mulled wine and a mistletoe kiss.

"Nobody loves me any more.  Nobody wants me", sulked our jealous (and very dramatic) only child who never has to fight with anyone for our attention and doesn't approve of hugs that he isn't involved in.

I explained that we do still love him - very much - but that we have to work on still loving each other too. Because one day he'll be grown up and probably wanting to spend Christmas with his girlfriend's family, and that if we forget how to have fun without him, those adults only Christmases of the future could feel very lonely affairs.  Because the truth is, despite the vomit and the grumpiness and the endless kids telly Christmas specials and the tat, of course I'll miss child Christmases when they're gone.  He'll only be small for such a short amount of time, and I love that he believes in Father Christmas, and that he took a pile of Quality Street wrappers to bed with him last night because they're his 'treasure'.  I love Christmas stockings, and making wonky tree decorations with him and school nativities and seeing everything through his innocent, excited eyes again.  And my husband.  I love him too, which is why it's important that we occasionally ignore our child in favour of a grown-ups only dance.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Croods Review (with added anxiety)

We love a good sofa and film afternoon here at the Disgrace HQ.  We had nothing planned as a family for this weekend and, frankly, I'm fit for nothing as I've finally surrendered and gone back on the Sertraline after an epic battle with anxiety over the last month or so.  I've spent the last week running the gauntlet of side effects as the meds kick in again, including a disconcerting amount of 'room spin', so sitting under a blanket in front of the telly for a couple of hours suited me just fine.

Thanks goodness, then, for Twentieth Century Fox, who sent us a copy of  DreamWorks 'The Croods' to watch and review ready for its release on 9th December.  We grabbed our blankets and a big packet of strawberry bootlaces and settled in for the afternoon.

The story centres around the Croods - the last remaining cavemen, who just happen to be a dysfunctional family with an overbearing father, a rebellious teen daughter, a pesky mother in law and a savage baby.  Eep, the daughter, is desperate to escape the boredom of the cave and to explore, but her father, Grug, has taught them to survive by being fearful of anything new or different and won't allow it:  "Fear keeps us alive. Stop looking for new things. New things are bad. Curiosity kills. (Cue Mr Disgrace sneaking a meaningful look at me.  This could be my current catchphrase).  Desperate to escape the monotony, Eep sneaks out of the cave one night and meets Guy, an adventurous loner with big ideas.  Her father is furious, but at that point, the world as they know it ends, their cave is destroyed, and if they are to survive the end of the world, they're going to need to do something radical.

The rest of the movie is basically a family road trip with action packed adventures, bizarre creatures, male one upmanship and plenty of slapstick, which pleased Rory who likes nothing better than seeing people getting hit in the face with stuff.  The animation is stunning and vividly detailed and the action and story never flagged, keeping us all watching laughing and sniffling (the husband, not me - he's a complete girl about films) all the way to the end.

It definitely took my mind off of the gruesome side effects I was going through for an hour or two, but also, unexpectedly, it spoke to me when I needed it to:

"Never NOT be afraid." Says Grug, in an attempt to save his families lives.
And Eep replies "Dad, this isn't living. This is just not dying."

And that, my friends, is why I'm enduring a week or two of non-stop nausea and dizziness as SSRIs make their merry way around my veins once again.  I want to live, not just not die, and I have to do what I have to do to get there.  Who'd have thought a kids animation could be so profound, hmmm?

The Croods:  Out Monday 9th December on DVD and Blu-ray.  It definitely gets our seal of approval as a Christmas stocking filler.

I was sent a copy of The Croods to review free of charge.  I was not paid for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Stupid Bears and Baby Clothes: A Rant

God, I hate bears.  Well, no.  No I don't.  Actual bears like this one aren't doing anything to wind me up.  I can get on board with proper bears.

But kids TV bears need drop-kicking. Quick - list all the telly bears from your childhood that you can and I bet there's not one bad-ass in the lot of them:

1. Sooty and Soo.  Well, you already know how I feel about Soo.  I have been known to drop the c-bomb regarding her on occasion.  Sooty's not much better either.  What's that you're saying Sooty? SPEAK UP, CAN'T HEAR YOU.

2. The Care Bears.  The only good one was the blue one with the pissed off expression, and that's because he was always getting a rollicking for not caring enough.  There he is in the middle, not giving a fig.

3. The Gummi Bears.  Bouncing here and there and everywhere.  Exuberant little fuckers weren't they?

4. Yogi and BooBoo.  I will make an exception for Yogi Bear - he's quite cool.  Booboo, however, is not.  I was going to compare him to Jar Jar Binks, but actually I think that would be inaccurate because as far as I know, he's always been a character in the show.  Therefore, I will simply compare him to a penis.

5. Kissyfur.  The clue is in the name.  I don't remember anything about Kissyfur other than him being nauseating.  Look at his annoying, simple face.

6. Teddy Ruxpin: No idea what was going on here either, but I clearly remember thinking that Teddy Ruxpin was a knob even though I was only about 7.  

7. Winnie the Pooh:  Not very bright, always moaning, always getting a fudging honey pot stuck on his stupid lard guzzling head.

But by far the worst rubbish little bear  has to be this one:

Tatty Teddy, the bland little grey git.  I hate that bear.  I think we're supposed to feel sorry for it, what with it falling apart and having sad eyes and stuff.  I don't buy it.  Tatty Teddy just makes me think of domestic abuse.  Here he is being sorry:

"I'm sorry Lisa.  I'm sorry I called you stupid/,made you cut off contact with your friends/locked you in the house so you couldn't go out/kicked you repeatedly.  I'm so sorry and I'll never do it again.  You just make me so angry.  You need to try harder and then it will never happen again, because I'm sorry, OK."

"I'm sorry too, Tatty Teddy.  I'll try really hard next time not to buy the wrong brand of mayonnaise/wear a low cut top in public/say anything to make you smack me in the face.  You're right, it is all my fault.  You'd better flagellate me now, actually, while I'm cowering."


Now, where I'm going with this meandering rant about bears, is down the route of clothing for babies and toddlers.  Here's the thing:

Baby clothes designers seem to take a perfectly decent and serviceable item of baby clothing (usually in pale blue or pink depending on gender, because those are obviously the only colours allowed and what we really need is gender stereotyping right from the moment we come out of the womb, don't get me started), and then they ruin it by putting a really rubbish cartoon bear on it.  You cannot escape Rubbish Bear baby clothing - there's examples of it in most high street stores.

Exhibit A (M&Co)

Exhibit B (BHS) 


It's not always a bear: It usually is, but sometimes it's a particularly insipid bunny rabbit, or a jaunty crocodile or a smirking giraffe, but they've always got the same bland expression and are right there, ruining an otherwise perfectly acceptable piece of clothing.  To make matters worse, the designer then adds a pointless embroidered phrase, usually with a pun relating to the rubbish creature portrayed.  If it's a monkey, you can guarantee it will say 'monkeying around'.  If it's a dog, it will be 'dog tired'.  Unless the designer is designing an item of sleepwear but still really wants to use a bear instead of a dog, in which case "I'm beary sleepy" is trotted out, and we all consider homicide.

Please high street baby clothing designers, stop it with the pointless, bland bears.  Just because babies are babies does not mean that they need an inane character on their clothing.  Leave it plain or use a particularly fabulous pattern please - yes, one that involves bears if you really must.  Only good bears though.  Look, H&M have got it right:

and this polish brand which I can't pronounce or spell:

JUST SAY NO TO INSIPID BEARS.  Hashtag it on Twitter.  Pin it.  Whatever, just join me in my crusade to ban the pointless little bleeders and make the world of children's high street clothing a less annoying place.

Hampergifts Review (Working Title: Hurrah! Now we can eat!)

You might imagine that there's not much better than being sent a massive hamper stuffed full of chocolate, wine and baked goods to test and review.  You're wrong.  The one thing better than that is being sent a hamper stuffed with chocolate, wine and baked goods to test and review 2 days before pay day when you've run out of money and are down to the tin with no label in the cupboard that nobody dares open, some stale bread, half an onion and a bit of crusty cheese.

Picture the joy as the delivery man arrives and the shriek goes up: "WE CAN EAT!  WE CAN EAT! AND IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE CHEESE ON TOAST AGAIN."

Oh yes my friends, we could eat:

And there were three bottles of wine under all that food that you can't even see in the picture.  Our end of the month blues were clearing up in record time.

We were sent the Christmas Sparkle Hamper from www.hampergifts.co.uk who sell a huge range of beautiful looking hampers for all budgets.

Here's a much better picture of it than the one I snapped in the 3 seconds before my growling stomach took over and stuffed the entire contents into my mouth:

Within seconds we were feasting like kings, stacking up preserved fruits on biscuits and sandwiching them between mince pies and using chocolate mint thins as kebab sticks.  Everything got a bit of chutney of a chunk of fudge on top and the jam tarted up our stale toast no end.  All in all, it was like some bizarre modern day re-working of an Enid Blyton midnight feast.  When Rory went to bed, stuffed full of delectable little olive bread sesame nibble things, we cracked open the wine and put our feet up, thanking the God of Hampers for our gluttonous pre-payday treat.

You'll be pleased to know that some of the contents of the hamper have survived well into December and are still going strong.  Everything was delicious, and the basket is really nice quality and is going to make an excellent home for all the crap lying about the house decorative piece.  Everything was really well packaged too.  A hearty recommendation for this company for all your hamper needs from the Disgrace family this Christmas.

I was sent a hamper free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I was not paid and all opinions are my own.