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Posts Tagged ‘Chiswick’

We live in Chiswick – and it’s never been exactly “with it”: it’s more strongly associated with leafy wide streets where solidly middle-class, ever-expanding families wheel pushchairs that cost about the same amount as a small car past a bewildering variety of candle and skincare emporia, estate agents and delicatessens to one of the four hundred coffee shops in which slyly competitive games of “Who’s MOST tired by the nanny’s latest exploits?” are played.

But recently, Chiswick has got (to quote Terence Rattigan) “des idees au-dessous de sa gare”. Maybe five years ago, High Road House and The Cowshed led the charge, to the evident delight of all the (other) media people who live in the area. Two Vietnamese restaurants, a good Tapas place and a “South African deli” (I know – me too) have also popped up and appear to be going great guns. If Chiswick is a barometer of the nation’s tastes (and I’m sure that we can all agree that it is nothing if not that), it seems that the more cooking programmes are put on TV, the more likely it is that people will give up cooking altogether and eat out at every meal, on every day.

The most recent additions to the High Road have been the fleeting stay of a Jamie Oliver restaurant (OK food, RIDICULOUS prices – you can’t charge five quid more just becuase you’ve put soemthing in a Kilner jar instead of in a bowl), Bill’s (which seems to be doing a roaring trade in “Greasy Spoon Food at Michelin starred prices”), Byron (which has transported my children to a level of delight that I would have thought it would be impossible for a hamburger to achieve) and – newest of all – Jackson and Rye, a New York style bar and diner that has yet to open, but looks pretty cool.

So, where next for Ritzy Chiswick? McDonald’s has shut – which is only a shame if you need to lay your hands on twenty gobby schoolchildren in a hurry – and the bets are on for what will replace it. Pret-A-Manger appears to be the current favourite, but I’m wondering if we might not find ourselves hosting something EVEN COOLER! These are exciting times.

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The last time that I had my children (Half-Term: brilliant), one of the things that I promised Youngest Son was that we would play football on Sunday. After Church, and after “I’ve bought a few things for lunch” and after “I’ve got the lunch under way.”.

In readiness for this, we went off to Argos and chose him the football of his dreams (bright orange, covered in Nike swooshes and Premiership endorsements), which came what I can only describe as “flat-packed” – or, I suppose, a better descriptor would be “uninflated”. It was the work of but forty minutes to get in the car, drive to Richmond (where my parents live), borrow their pump, get back in the car, and get back to Chiswick – so that was GREAT. By the time we had a workable (playable?) football with us, there was only going to be an hour and a half for the football itself, it seemed.

Never mind: he’s only seven and even he’s not up for a full ninety minutes.

Daughter put the brakes on: “What am I going to do?”

“What would you like to do, darling? You’re very welcome to play football too.”

“I don’t like football.”

“Well… what would you LIKE to do?”

(The likelihood of her saying “Play on my DSi” had already been addressed through a previously negotiated, adhered to and mandated “Electronics Embargo” for Sunday – so that wasn’t going to be a problem.)

“Can I bring Baby in her Push-A-Chair?” (This is Daughter’s phrase for her doll’s pushchair, which, it has been decreed, will go EVERYWHERE that we do).

“Of course you can, Darling – but we need to go now.”

With this, Daughter responded with a look of horrified urgency (as though she’d just been informed that the house was on fire and we needed to get DOWN these four flight, through that locked door, and out into the streets, carrying only what we most valued) and bolted up to her bedroom. She came bumping back down, with Baby, Push A Chair, Umbrella, Changing Bag, Changing Mat and Travel blanket. Baby had enough kit to see her through a month on a cruise liner, rather than an hour in the park. However: we were ready, and so we left the house, with Youngest Son jumping along like Zebedee with his new ball.

Daughter was not ready for the trip to go slowly. In fact, it soon became clear, that Daughter had envisioned this trip as the sort of excursion that would make Shackleton blench and think twice.

“STOP!”

(The men all wait)

“Her blanket has come loose. She’ll get a cold.”

We pause and look on as she re-arranges the covers with a fair bit of clucking and tutting – ensuring that Baby is toasty warm and safe. Eventually, the caravan moves off again.

“WAIT!”

Another break: I turn around to see her, feigning anxiety and resignation.

“The sun is in her eyes.”

It becomes clear, relatively quickly, that Daughter does not have a plan on this one. It’s simply a statement of fact and one that she is looking to her father to solve for her.

“Could she close her eyes until she gets to the end of this road? Then the sun won’t be in them.”

“She’s not tired.” (This is said with all the dreadful finality of a hanging judge passing sentence.)

“Why don’t you turn the chair around and walk backwards until we get to the end of the road?”

She’s dubious: she has to confess that this MIGHT work, but I don’t think that she was necessarily really looking for a solution. She gives it a go.

Our progress is now slowed to the rate where we would have packed a light meal “for the journey”, had we only had the fore-warning and Youngest Son’s Zebedee bounces are getting more like Eeyore’s; but with the critical end of the road in sight, we are ready to re-manoeuvre Baby around until she’s facing the front and Daughter is pushing her once again. We’re almost at the park now.

“STOP!”

There’s no disguising the boys’ frustration now. Indeed, Eldest Son (who likes to paint things in as emotive a way as possible) does all but fall to his knees, crying out “WHY??????????????????” at this next interruption.

I do my best to keep my voice concerned and level.

“What is it now, Darling?”

“She’s cold.”

“But her blanket’s wrapped around her.”

“This is her Summer blanket. I need her Winter blanket. Can we go back?”

We don’t go back, of course. Instead, I persuade Daughter of the health risks of Baby over-heating, and we plough on to our final destination.

The football was great, by the way. Friends of Eldest Son were all in the park and we rotated who went in goal and every single person scored (yes: including me – I’m pretty nifty when pitted against players with an average age of eight and a half) – so that was great.

And yes: Baby made it back alive.

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1. It was recently end of term, and so the children’s classwork was all returned to us in their book bags. One of the year’s projects had been “When I grow up…” and Youngest Son had played fairly true to type with “I want to be a vet and look after sharks”. His twin sister had slightly less esoteric ambitions: “When I grow up… I want to do the ironing.” –  a report which Wife had a mixed response to: on the plus side, it will be nice to have the help; on the negative side, we may have to do something to raise Daughter’s ambitions a little higher over the parapet.

2. In the religious part of the syllabus, Daughter had acquitted herself rather better (which is not that surprising, as she can often be heard, striding down Chiswick High Road with us, bellowing out sentiments such as “Oh Mary! How we love you, and we love Jesus your son!” to the amusement/horror of the townspeople); but Youngest Son was slightly less evangelical, it would seem. The subject in question was “The Good News”. The comment (admirably pithy, but somewhat disconcerting) was: “Even when pressed, he was unable to think of any good news”. Thanks.

3. It was (also recently) the twins’ fifth birthday. One of Youngest Son’s female classmates sent him a card with the following message: “I like you. I know you want to marry me. I love you.” Now – whether or not this is an indication that all it takes for “like” to turn into “love” is a declaration of desire to marry, to one side – I can’t help feel that Youngest Son will be lucky indeed if his future female inamorata are as transparent and easy-going as this. Fingers crossed.

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Well, as expected, Wife’s Private View was phenomenal – her work stood head and shoulders above that of the others who were exhibiting in the same gallery (although it is fair to say that “Fat Film” – a series of photographs wherein the iconic stars of modern masterpieces, in their most famous poses are replaced by fat, unattractive amateurs is something  that I think I shall never forget…). A number of people have asked for prints of the work (especially a series that she did, called “Variations on Hopper and Hitchcock”, which are really haunting, poignant pictures). It’s running for another month, but lots of our friends were there for the opening, which was nice. When the event closed, we stood outside in the car park (because we are classy) and drank sparkling wine out of plastic cups (see above), and then there was a move to go out for a meal.

I demurred and left at about 10.30pm to get home and relieve Hilarious Babysitter. I’d been up early at the gym, was planning to go the next morning, and had the vain desire not to turn up with vomit on my chin. 

And on that note: Wife returned at 2am, having spent a couple of hours drinking more, first in Fulham, then in Chiswick’s High Road House, managing to throw up over the loo in our bathroom and to sleep in her clothes. I daresay the enormous relief of her course being at an end – and of the exhibition going so well – is partially to blame, but more to the point was the fact that one of the people that she was out with was her Drinking Nemesis, who always spells disaster for Wife (and a morning after marked by wailing and complaining) – but hell: if you’ve worked as hard as she has, and achieved such results, I think it would be pretty poor form NOT to drink yourself into a near coma when it’s all over…

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I thought Eldest Son had been kidnapped today.

This is (as with any parent) the nightmare to end all nightmares, and it strikes me most forcibly when Wife is (as she was today) engaged elsewhere. Shepherding three children, particularly around the catnip-filled lagoons of Chiswick’s Waterstone’s, is pretty heavy-going – and so I am always nervous that I’m going to be looking the wrong way when one of my children is snatched/falls under a lorry/signs up for an X Factor audition.

Anyway, on this occasion, I had been talking to Eldest Son about a book that he wanted bought for him, which I judged to be (at eighteen pounds) a little too expensive to suffer the fate of most of his books (pored over for a couple of hours, then discarded or simply pulled apart), so I tried to explain to him that I thought it was best that he just LOOK at the book, and we find him something cheaper to buy (as we had for his brother and sister). His eyes misted with tears and I could see this was going to be heavy going, but I was determined not to give on on this one, so I told him to look through it while I went to go and try and find a book for me (Jonathan Bate’s new book on Shakespeare, since you ask, which I deemed, to ALSO be too expensive  – not a good day for booksellers…). My final words to him were “Darling, we just don’t have enough money to buy it.”

When I went back into the Children’s section, he wasn’t there. I circled the area and called his name – still nothing. A member of Waterstone’s staff asked me if I was looking for a little boy with blonde hair, in a fawn coat: “He’s by the till.”

Needless to say, my relief was enormous – until I saw him standing at the till, with the book, an earnest and pained look upon his face. As I drew near, I could see the sympathetic look on the cashier’s face, because Eldest Son was telling her:

“I really like this book, but I can’t have it because we are so poor. My daddy doesn’t have any money, you see.”

He was trying to negotiate her down to (essentially) donating it – but I managed to get there in just the nick of time. Of course, I bought it for him (figuring that if he wanted it that much, he ought to have it) – but not before I had heard him entertain the rest of the queue to a story of his bread-line status, and our family’s battle for survival. I wasn’t really concentrating on the story, but as I turned to hold his hand and walk him to the door, I was THRILLED to see that the person standing next to us in the queue was our neighbour of three doors’ away…

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Not fashionable, I know – but here’s something positive to say about the Police:-

This morning, they rang our doorbell to see if anyone answered, because our bedroom window on the first floor was wide open and the burglar alarm was tilted at an angle. The police, seeing this, were concerned that someone had used the burglar alarm as a foothold (a certain raffish irony to this…) and used it to gain entrance through a window which they had left flapping in the wind, tilting the alarm off its moorings as they moved their weight off it.

In fact, the burglar alarm was ripped from its moorings when I (in a fit of over-enthusiastic pruning) yanked the leggy climbing rose and vigorous, grout-displacing climbing hydrangea off the front of the house; and I ALWAYS throw our bedroom window wide open (though won’t be doing so again). But I was very impressed at their vigilance – and at their imagination…

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Armed with the new satellite navigation thing that Wife gave me for Christmas (in the knowledge that I could get lost in a cardboard box), we all set off to see Best Friend and Talented Art Director with Monkey Arms for lunch today. We managed to make a brief (three hours) and not financially ruinous detour via “Westfield” (the below mentioned threat to our financial stability), which yielded some clothes for the children and for Wife, and some DVDs for me (specifically “Doctor Who”, with which I am OBSESSED) – and then we were off to dine and laugh (my favourite pastime in the world – even better than a Ferero Rocher and a wank).

Thanks to the calm, controlled tones of “Jane” (our selected guide voice) we got from Chiswick to North London effortlessly and in good time – and into Best Friend and TADwMA’s house we piled for a fantastic lunch. It’s strange to reflect on the fact that the next time we see them, they will both be parents (their baby is due within the next two weeks) – but I am so excited at the prospect of seeing them as a family that I can barely put my socks on. Dealing with our three children today, they were relaxed, kind, clear and fair – one can tell who’s going to be a good parent when one sees them with other people’s children – and I am properly excited for all of them – especially for the lucky, lucky baby that’s going to be born into that wonderful life.

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