Buffy speaks!

This claim depends entirely on one's point of view and desire to recognise a child's innate brilliance. According to Andrew, Buffy is talking up a storm. She has two variations on one word. She says it all the time. She loves this word, and Andrew loves it even more. Her word? Da-da. All we have to do is ask, "Where's Daddy?" and Buffy will smile broadly at Andrew and say, "Da-da!" This sends Andrew into heavenly orbit.

Then I ask Buffy, "Where's Katie?" She grins broadly at Katie and says, "Da-da!"

I ask Buffy, "Where's Gramma?" She grins broadly at Gramma and says, "Da-da!"

One more to belabour the point. I show Buffy her nappy and she grins broadly and says, "Da-da!"

So, genius 8-month old or babbling baby? It's all in your perspective.

Britain's problems blamed on 81 year old disabled woman

They're at it again. She may be frail, having had several strokes, yet apparently it's all her fault that kids won't behave in schools. I refer, of course, to Baroness Thatcher, a former Prime Minister of this country.

The Labour Party loves to tell us how much good stuff it has achieved since 1997. So why is it so evasive when it comes to taking responsibility for the elements of Britain that aren't so great - teenage pregnancies, binge drinking, crap schools, bankrupt hospitals, feral pleb kids, road rage, nosebleeding levels of taxation... I could go on... Suddenly instead of these being consequences of Blair/Brown's "brilliant" leadership, they're intractable problems that directly result from her premiership.

Let's just consider that awhile. Margaret Thatcher became PM in 1979 and left office in 1990. So that's eleven years at the helm, followed by a further seven years of Conservative government under John Major and now nine years under Labour. How could one person be responsible for so much damage and, even if it were possible, how come subsequent Governments have been unable to put things right again?

The casual observer likes to glibly point out that Thatcher deliberately wanted to destroy society. "There's no such thing as society" she proclaimed. However, her critics are rather less keen on the rest of her original sentence, which continued "There are individual men and women, there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours. People have got their entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations." In fact, Thatcher was railing against those elements in society who know all their rights but fail to undertake their responsibilities. There's a brilliant analysis of Thatcher's position here.

The other criticism is that she fostered an "I'm alright, Jack" society. Of course, this is equally daft. Thatcher believed in personal responsibility, which means looking to yourself to find solutions to your problems, instead of expecting your neighbours to bail you out. By contrast, Labour has created a "You're alright, Jack" society, by protecting people from the bad consequences of their bad decisions. Stripped of the financial consequences of, say, having too many kids they can't afford or not having a job, it's perhaps no surprise that more people are doing just that.

And there's the irony. Britain's problems aren't Maggie's fault. They're all, universally, Labour's fault. By cosseting so many Britons from the free market, they have created a country of namby-pambies, unable to fend for themselves and increasingly looking for the Government to sort them out, not just when they're truly hard up, but through every minute of their lives.

Legoland II

The writing of this entry has been bedraggled by so many things, I can barely begin to explain. So let me sum up. First, a cat broke into our house and peed on every vertical surface so we came home to an ungodly stench that is only now beginning to abate. Second, Buffy is entering a delightful stage where she can tear apart the house in less than forty seconds. As it takes me a full minute to repair the damage, she is always ahead. Third, Katie is still off school and we are trying to fill her days with "fun" (to which she says, "I really just wanted to stay home today," after two hours of schlepping across London to get to just the right restaurant/play area.)

So, Legoland.

The first day we got up early and dragged our wheelie suitcases (Katie's is a Dora backpack) to the train that would take us to the other train to Windsor where we could catch a cab to Legoland. We made it to our destination just after opening. As it was Friday, the waves of people were not yet tidal and we were able to go on anything we (read: Katie) wanted without much waiting.

We all had different favourites, but they all centred on Katie's happiness. I liked the water play area, but I always do. I came prepared with Katie's wetsuit and blankets to dry her. She had so much fun, we probably spent the longest time there both days.

The days are blurring together, so what was going to be a day-by-day recap is turning into a whole trip account. I can't imagine anyone reading this will mind.

Katie says she loved driving the car, riding the little roller coaster with Gramma and the big roller coaster with Daddy, the Rat Trap play area, and the waterplay area. She also says she liked the pizza, but that was terrible, so she must be lying about some things.

What I love about Legoland is the interactivity. The helicopter ride lets her be the pilot. The digger ride lets her control a real JCB (following a short instructional video, of course). There are loads of rooms to build and test Lego creations - robots, towers, cars, etc. I don't delude myself that this is science museum-level play, but it is more than I would have expected from an amusement park. Andrew was so smitted he nearly bought her the big pink Lego castle and would have bought the Lego chess set if we'd pushed.

I must briefly mention the hotel, the Slough/Windsor Marriott which was named "Legoland Hotel of the Year" with good reason. It was so family-friendly with generous buffets and comfortable rooms. We even had a nice swim in the pool (Buffy's first!) before we checked out on Sunday. I would definitely stay there again.

That's the whole point about Legoland, actually. Whereas I have no need to ever go back to Disneyland and I may not ever return to Blue Kangaroo restaurant, I am counting the days til we get back to Windsor. Next time I want to stay a whole week and see some more of Windsor, itself a delightful town. I don't need to see the castle again, but it was still cool. HRH was there at the same time, but we didn't meet up.

Phew! I finally did got this typed up! I had to do it with Buffy on my breast whilst balancing the laptop on her bum, but I did it. Hook or crook and all that. Next time: Buffy's first words.

Legoland

I can tell this will take a few stabs to get it all down. That several days have already passed with only TWO photos is proof enough. Let me just say that Legoland is AWESOME. The crowds were manageable, the rides were fantastic, and the building and waterplay areas were sensational. I can't wait to go back. A dear friend has mentioned taking her girls this summer. I wonder if she'd let us tag along?

Legoland rocks!

Pukefest '06

Maybe you don't think two pukes from only one child don't qualify as a proper pukefest, but you didn't see the quality of the mess. This was proper MESS. I don't know if Katie slept through the puke or just decided to roll around in it for a few minutes before crying for us, but this was mess not to be messed with. This is mess we are still dealing with twenty four hours later. The crowning achievement was covering her top with puke and then trying to take it off over her head. This small action more than doubled the mess and easily tripled the cleaning difficulty score.

Thank goodness my mom was around to handle Buffy. Andrew took charge of the sheets, blankets, pyjamas, and carpet (yes, carpet!). I took charge of the vomit-sodden and very unhappy child. It took us just over an hour to get Katie back in bed. She managed to hit the bucket for her second hurl, so that was an easy clean-up.

Today has been quiet. Katie hasn't had much of an appetite, but she is drinking lots of fluids and keeping them down. We're all sleeping lots. Hopefully this isn't something that will visit us all in turn. We did have a wonderful time in Legoland, and I'll post about that later assuming tonight is filled with more sleep than hosing down children.

Disneyland Sucks

I have had three experiences with Disneyland and only one didn’t completely suck. It was my first time. I was eight and my mom took me out to Anaheim for the ultimate rite of passage into full-blown consumerhood. It was nice. Actually, it was nice-ish. I think we managed to go on five rides because we had to queue for so damned long. We didn’t get another chance, because my mom could only afford the one day. Still, my memories are relatively positive. They didn’t have any Mickey Mouse ears with my name on them (go figure), but I think someone may have stitched something for me in the shop. I remember the mountain train ride the best. I wanted to go on Space Mountain, but I feared it would go upside down. I was sure I was not ready to go upside down. Ironically, I spent that entire summer and the two subsequent upside down turning cartwheels.

My second visit to Disneyland was in college. A conference at UC Fullerton had the option of extending to a day at the Magical Kingdom. I figured loads of people would be going, so I signed up too. It ended up being just three of us. I really didn’t like two of the other people, so it wasn’t going to be great. I have only one unrepressed memory from that day – walking around Roger Rabbit’s world. If that’s all I can remember, it can’t have been that good.

Still, when December 2004 rolled around, I started looking at cheap minibreaks to Paris that I could take Katie (then 2 ¾). I think we’d had a positive experience at Legoland, and I thought it would be more of the same wonderfulness we’d had in Windsor. I booked the trip and we were off on the Eurostar. Oh, we’d also been to Paris for Katie’s first birthday and had had a wonderful, wonderful time. Several things I forgot: 1. I wouldn’t have Andrew or my mom to help out 2. Paris in December sucks 3. No one says nice things about EuroDisney, especially not in winter. 4. I had never loved Disneyland. And 5. Everything I loved about Legoland was anti-Disney. Nevermind all that, I was determined to have a nice time with my special girl.

Well, it sucked. It was frigid, rainy, and miserable. Half the rides were closed. The food was gross. Everywhere we turned someone was trying to sell us something. They weren’t trying to sell to me, either, they were going full-throttle for pester power. It was so manipulative and sickening, thank goodness Katie was too young to be vulnerable. We went on It’s a Small World a dozen times in succession. This is not something I choose to do once let alone TWELVE. It was the only ride we could stay on to get out of the driving rain. Oh how we laughed. Well, Katie did enjoy it. It seems to be the only lasting memory she has of our trip. That and the sparkly lights of the Eiffel Tower, which I also quite liked.

It wasn’t just Disney that was awful, but the whole trip kind of sucked. I didn’t remember Paris being quite so smelly. I couldn’t remember the food being so weird tasting. About now those of you who are good at maths (or know me and are familiar with this story) will start counting forward seven months and thinking of a certain bundle we like to call Buffy. Well, you would be right, but I had no idea at the time I was hosting a parasite. You could blame it all on morning sickness and hormones. You could blame it on the weather or poor planning. Me, I blame the mouse.

Legoland here we come!