Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Party Post Mortem

The preparation wasn’t so bad, after all. I had spent some time on a conference call packing party favour bags, which was actually quite fun. And I  rather enjoyed a quiet night in making fairy cakes and meatballs. TLOML picked up some booze and 50 red balloons, and we strung up a few paper chains. Boom, just like that, ready to party.


The party itself was pretty fun too. Kids played, adults drank and chatted, it was all suitably relaxed and fun and we felt vindicated in our decision to opt out of the big hired venue party. ‘This is easy,’ I thought, ‘Who needs to outsource?’

Then there was the moment I realized there was kinetic sand all over every surface in the house (what kind of idiot rookie mum allows her 3 year old to open a toy like that at her party in her own goddamn home – with 7 toddler partners in crime ready to help spread it out?!).
A low point. My mistake.
Just for a second or two I thought ‘So that’s why people outsource’. I briefly considered the beach, or a park, for next year’s party. But February is a tricky time of year for that, due to the 10% chance of rain. Yes. I know, that’s about the same as London in June, and you'd still throw a party under a cloudy sky, but here a grey day would be considered disastrous.

Anyway, the clean up operation didn’t take long at all, and afterwards TLOML and I congratulated ourselves on a successful party. We’ll do it again next year, we decided. The same thing – a handful of kids, a little home cooking, some balloons and a lot of toys. What could be better?

And then… Lady P passed judgement.  ‘Did you like your party? Wasn’t it fun?’ I asked. ‘No.’ she said. ‘There were too many people. I like playing on my own’.

Well, I guess that’s next year’s birthday party planned already then. She can play on her own while TLOML and I sip champagne in her honour. Even easier!

Monday, February 15, 2016

I still love London. Sorry.

That trip to London did not, predictably, cure me of my love for my former city.

How could it? A trip to Buckingham Palace and a couple of days with the originals of my family was just an absolute treat. There was the delight of an evening at the theatre, something I never do in LA. And a morning at the National Gallery, because in London you can just wander in off the street and gaze at Renoirs and Canalettos and Gainsboroughs and it’s no big deal (I’m still building up to the 40 minute drive and weeks-ahead booking required for the Broad here in LA). I've been visiting the National for almost twenty years but I still see something new every time I visit: I'd never really paid attention before to the awesome mosaics on the landings.

And quality time – not quite enough of it, but still – with some of my oldest, dearest friends, setting the world to rights and catching up on trivia and gossip. There was really really good cheese and passable black pudding at perfectly ordinary cafes. Proper cups of tea. Sitting on the top deck of a bus and enjoying the view. Pubs. Dogs in pubs. That thing they're doing where they put pianos in stations for anyone to play.
Classic London corner shop

Mosaics on the floor at the National

Piano at St Pancras

Bricks and mortar and old fashioned signs

Grey skies over Hampstead Heath

Brick houses all in a row

Dogs in pubs

And there were the perhaps less obvious pleasures. Like WHSmiths and corner shops and Marks and Spencer. Brick houses all in a row, pleasingly uniform in design. Painted road signs on the brick houses. Walking into the Booking Office bar, at St Pancras, to be surprised by a row of men all in suits. Because lots of men in London do wear suits. To my eyes, accustomed to t-shirts and flip-flops everywhere, for a moment it looked like a scene from a period drama. But that's just London.

Oh, and the cosy pleasure of wearing knee socks pulled up under jeans. That’s right, even the alternately freezing and damp weather couldn’t dint my happiness at being in London. I even enjoyed running for a train and having to stand up on a cramped tube. Admittedly those pleasures might fade after a long winter or a regular commute.

Having said all that, I was in fact extremely, giddily happy to come home to Hermosa. Any pangs I felt on leaving London were suffocated in Lady P’s excited embrace, and TLOML’s relieved one. For home is where the heart is, after all. And sweet, sunny Hermosa Beach is where my heart resides*.

*All of it except that little sliver I left behind, somewhere between the Portugese deli in Kentish Town where a pound of parma ham costs three quid, and that walk in the drizzle across the bottom of Hampstead Heath.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A flying visit

The first year that I lived in LA I returned to the UK no fewer than eight times. Sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a week or two. Sometimes on a whim, sometimes for a good reason. Sometimes with TLOML, sometimes solo. I stayed pretty well connected with my friends and family. There are plenty of people I saw just as frequently that first year in LA as I had done when I lived in London.

These days, trips back home are planned far in advance, and heavily itinerised.  It's too far to go for Lady P to handle a short trip. So we go for a couple of weeks or more in the summer, and pack in as many friends and family as we possibly can.

When my parents and sisters started planning a trip to London in February I didn't plan on joining them. Not at first anyway.

My mum is getting an MBE. Which is kind of a big deal. My parents and my three sisters will all be together in London celebrating. And I think what really tipped me over the edge was my dad asking me for restaurant suggestions, and the thought of them all together for my mum's big day in my city, and me, thousands of miles away... I couldn't stand not to be a part of it. TLOML told me 'You have to go'. And he's rarely so dictatorial, so I think he really meant it.

One last minute flight booking later, and I am London-bound. Abandoning Lady P and TLOML for five days while I live it up in my old stamping grounds. I'll spend a couple of days with my family, and another day or so catching up with a couple of good friends, trying not to fret too much about the friends (and nieces and nephews and so on) that I won't get to see. It could be a bit of an exercise in frustration, because the time is so short, but I'll take what I can get.

Every time I say that I miss London and the seasons, TLOML says 'Go! Go now, while it's cold and dark and rainy!'. Well, it's 26c with glorious clear blue skies in Hermosa as I write this. And it'll be 9c and rainy in London when I land. Despite that, and much to TLOML's bafflement, I'm pretty excited.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Resisting peer pressure

'You do you', the trainer at my gym says, as I manhandle an empty bar bell while all around me women are thrusting 75lbs above their heads. I do. I do me.

And Lady P, most of the time, does Lady P. I hope her resistance to peer pressure remains strong as her birthday approaches. Now she's at pre-school, it's quite the event.

For her sugar-free birthday celebration at school we have to make a board about her. The brief is a bit vague but TLOML told me the other day he saw one that had been framed. I also saw a sparkly one once. I have used felt-tip pens, stickers and photos on a white foamex board to create something I am proud of. And as I was making it, TLOML said 'One of the things I love about you is how you didn't change your plans when I told you about that framed wooden birthday board, you just stick to your guns because you don't care about impressing the other mums'. Which I think is known as damning with faint praise, but I'll take what I can get.

We are similarly resolute in our attempt not to impress anyone with Lady P's birthday party. Barring one, all the birthday parties her classmates have thrown so far have been big dos. Hosted at indoor play areas with inflatable slides, trampolines, and (my favourite) a brilliantly messy art materials, they involve 30 odd kids, pizza and cake, giveaway bags full of plastic toys that delight a toddler and last about five minutes. The whole shebang costs as much as a flight to London and I'm just not sure Lady P needs us to throw her such a party.

So we're shrugging off the tyranny of an almost-three year old's social life, and going with a very small party at home, at which we will open up her toy cupboard, serve some goldfish crackers and fairy cakes, and hope that Lady P thinks it's the best party ever. I have consulted her about it and all she seems to really care about is that the balloons are red. Which they are. So, we'll do us and hopefully everyone will have a jolly time.