A few thoughts on the "cash for peerages" scandal

Oh dear. It seems that the Labour Government has got itself into a bit of a pickle over loans the party has received and a possible link between lenders and awards of life peerages. It turns out that we're not talking about small change here - the amounts total nearly £14 million.

Predictably, Labour ministers have blurted out that all this is totally legal. Which, no doubt, it is. Unfortunately that's simply not good enough. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been criticising companies over the last few years for exploiting tax avoidance schemes. Tax avoidance is the use of legal means to reduce the tax that a company or an individual pays, as opposed to tax evasion, which is the blatant refusal to pay tax that is legally due. Companies are evil, we are told, because they are exploiting the precise letter of the law instead of following the original intention of the law and thereby paying the tax that is due. But that's exactly what Labour is doing over these smelly loans! No matter what the letter of the law says, Labour should have voluntarily disclosed them.

Katie's social calendar

It's probably very simple why our social calendar is completely full this time of year. Katie was born in March, we met lots of other kids born in March, hence all the parties. That doesn't explain everything, though. In the next two weeks we have birthday parties, ballet recitals, baby christenings, friends and family coming over, a mini-marathon, drinks at friends, Easter egg hunts and a few dozen other things I am probably forgetting.

All this socialising is thrilling for Katie. Every day she asks if she can bring someone home or, at the very least, if she can stay afterschool. I guess the nightmares and crying out in her sleep ("No! Don't hit me with the balloon!") aren't indicative of hating school. Yesterday we had the new and exciting experience of playing with BOYS. They were probably the gentlest, sweetest, most adorable boys in the greater London area, but Katie was wary. I think they said BOO! to her early on, and she was scared for the rest of the party. It didn't dampen her enthusiasm for the party, though, so all is good.

Katie's school is all girls, so we don't get a whole lot of boy time. I am still not sure what this will mean to Katie's development. I know academically she should do better than in a co-ed environment. We also have loads of wonderful little boys on our street who think Katie is cool, so she's not living in a totally girl-centric universe.

When we arrived at the party the boys introduced themselves as Spiderman and Red Ranger. Katie decided she was a mermaid named Cinderella. Spiderman said Spiderman never met Cinderella, so they decided to make up a new story. Pretty cool stuff. It's good to be reminded just how fun and wonderful boys can be. (Katie's party will be in two weeks - all pink tutus and fairy wings with nary a spider or a ranger in sight.)

Dear Mom

I hope you know how excited we are that you're coming to visit. Katie tells us every few minutes what she's going to do when you're here. This morning she woke up with a rapturous look on her face and said, "Gramma's coming on Saturday! It's just so exciting!" Buffy is also very happy and excited, but that could also be because she found a dirt clod on the floor.

I must warn you that Katie thinks her birthday is immediately after your arrival. I've tried explaining, but it's not really getting through. I guess it's because this year is the first time she really understands enough to find birthdays wonderful. She is thrilled. Her invitations went out yesterday, and this morning several little girls ran up to her exclaiming, "Katie! We're coming to your party!" I hope both Katie and her classmates appreciate this party is also to celebrate M's birthday. If M is bummed out when she comes in second in the race to the steps, I'd hate to see what happens if people think her party is just for Katie. Fair play to her, I'd be pissed off, too.

You probably don't know this, but you will be here for Mothering Sunday. It's the same day as Buffy's christening. I am so happy I get to spend that day actually with my Mama. I'll give you lots of cuddles, probably some sort of card type thing, and at least one mother-daughter spat. It just wouldn't feel right if we didn't argue some of the time.

We will fight, I will be snotty. For that I am deeply sorry in advance. I hope that I am always improving. I hope you know that I never want to be snotty. I want us to have every day be like those days that we get - you know those days, those amazing days where everything clicks and we solve all the world's problems. You and me against the world, remember?

I hope you have a very safe and uneventful flight. I wish you drinkable wine, exact change for an extra bottle if you fancy it, a tall, bearded, friendly seatmate, and crappy films so you can rest.

See you on Saturday!

Buffy vs Katie

I was just sitting here reading Dooce, as you do, when an infernal crash landed two feet from my two feet. Buffy managed to topple the entire bucket of Lego onto the floor. Instinctively, I braced myself for the kitten howl of misery that always accompanies such crashes. Andrew was similarly braced. Buffy looked up and me and smiled as if to say, “Did you see that? That was COOL!� That’s when we remembered that Buffy isn’t Katie.

Looking at their pictures lends credence to our claim that we have twins born 3 1/2 years apart. Except for a couple extra rolls of chub, Katie and Buffy are eerily similar. Physically, that is. Not in personality. At all.

Buffy is right now trying to either pull herself up onto any available support or bring whatever's on top of it crashing down around her. This very second she is playing with Katie's unsturdy plastic chair, trying to decide if she wants to climb it, eat the book sitting on it, or put the whole thing on her head. Fortunately, she's still a highly distractable baby and has opted to eat the remote instead. This is why I leave these things lying around the floor. It's not about untidiness, it's about carefully placed distractions. Crap, she's got my bookmark, brb.

Having these girls so far apart, we thought there was no way Buffy would catch up before her mid-twenties. We forgot to tell her that, though. She is in some kind of mad rush to catch up with her big sister. Instead of being content to sit and play happily with a toy, as soon as she mastered sitting, she went straight for crawling. She hasn't been crawling that long and isn't that good at it. Still, she's trying hard to pull herself up on the furniture to try cruising. Sheesh, kiddo, there is time aplenty to do all of these things.

The exciting news is Gramma arrives on Saturday to marvel at our talented girls and confirm our suspicions that we have made the best grandbabies a lady could hope for.

Chew on This

Guess who has a tooth? Buffy! She just cut it today or last night. I think she probably cut it on my friend's finger at Starbucks while we were discussing the joys of hiking with almost-four-year olds. I guess that means I'm the second person to know, but I don't care. She's been working on this for months and months. It explains the vile poops, the drooling, the faucet nostrils, the attitude... Grumpy Buffy is sort of like a mildly sleepy puppy - not unhappy just not AS happy as before.

Must go, Puppy Buffy is crawling around with a toy in her mouth. I guess we're up for another round of fetch. (You think I'm joking, don't you?)

Posh Tea for Eight

Okay, good children once, sheer dumb luck; good children twice, this is starting to feel like more than a coincidence. In fact, we are feeling like super parents right now and our heads have grown three sizes too big. Yesterday, we took Katie and Buffy to a very posh tea with Granny, Granddad, Aunty Cathy and Uncle John. Our little girls knocked our socks off. They were so good! Maybe it's just the valium we gave them on the trainride over there, but they were perfect children. Katie ate her finger sandwiches and cakes very dantily. She only spilled a blueberry on her cardigan when I tried to feed it to her. I guess that means I spilled it on her, not the other way around. Buffy smiled and cooed until I fed her* and she went to sleep in a warm, adorable lump on Andrew's chest.

*I asked the exceedingly friendly staff if there was a quiet, discreet corner in which I could nurse Buffy. They looked confused and worried for half a second then they gave me a ROOM! I started to feel a tiny bit indignant until my senses returned and I realised I could check out a ROOM in this amazing hotel. It was obviously designed by someone who knew his stuff. The closet handles were made of stripy stained glass. There was a bidet in the generous bathroom. The toilet paper was folded into a little triangle. Really, I just got down to business so the scones wouldn't be gone before I got back to the table. This didn't leave much time for exploring.

The whole tea experience was amazing. It's like it was designed specifically to facilitate conversation. The finger sandwiches, the dainty cakes, the tea, the unobtrusive yet attentive staff, and, Oh God, the scones with jam and clotted cream were all sidenotes to the easy conversation. Expressing our buried sexist tendencies, the females spread out on the sofa and the men sat in chairs opposite. This was perfect for Katie and Buffy who moved around the sofa comfortably uninhibited.

As Ferris says, if you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Brown's Hotel