London calling

I have made a resolution. Over the next few months, while I have a small, portable baby who requires nothing more than my breasts and a clean nappy for a day out (well, and wipes, nappy sacks, barrier cream, a change of clothes, a spare blanket and some muslins, but you get the gist) I am going to visit somewhere different in London every week. And the places I choose are going to be places want to go to, for me, and not because they are particularly interesting to children.

In six months time Sophia will be eating proper food, and crawling, and desperate to interact with the new world she’s discovering, We’ll still go places, and it will still be fun, but in addition to the kit mentioned above we’ll also have snacks, beakers, toys and books to contend with, as well as (hopefully) a slightly more fixed routine regarding nap times, which can be somewhat limiting. And I’ll go places for her benefit – play groups, toy library, rhyme time, soft play. I enjoyed taking Anna to museums, and am sure I’ll do the same with Sophia, but it is only very recently that I’ve actually managed to look at any of the exhibits myself rather than being incarcerated in the (brilliant and stimulating) under-fives areas.

So far my list of must-dos includes the Imperial War Museum, the V&A, walking on Hampstead Heath, the South Bank, the National Portrait Gallery, Borough Market, the Geffrye Museum, Brick Lane and a meander through some of central London’s beautiful parks. But it’s my mission to discover more.

The problem with having a new baby is that they fill your world and your mind entirely. And any space I have spare is dedicated to Anna – her social life, phonics, reading books, maths homework, healthy food, reply slips for school trips etc. That’s all good, and I do love immersing myself in baby world, but as I am hopefully retaining enough self-awareness to realise that not everyone finds my baby as intricately fascinating as I do, it doesn’t leave me much to blog about. Or, indeed, talk about when I chance upon another adult. I’m excepting my husband from this. He seems just as happy to spend hours cooing over Sophia’s eyelashes/toes/ears as I do.

So there we go. I will get out into the big wide world, see interesting things and blog about them. Do let me know what would be on your list.

Sell or Swap

My name is Helen, and I am an addict. Thankfully not to alcohol or drugs. And clearly the chocolate addiction goes without saying, and is pretty much integral to my personality. But my new addiction is to a Facebook group: Walthamstow Sell or Swap. The clue’s in the name, really. You post unwanted items for sale, or to swap for something life enhancing like, umm, chocolate. I believe some people might ask for fruit. You can also try ISO (in search of) posts, where you hope that someone local has the very thing you need languishing in their loft.

The advantages are clear. You can make some money (or, did I mention, some chocolate) by getting rid of your unwanted things. You can snap up a second hand bargain. It’s far better for the planet that we all reuse or recycle more rather than throwing away and getting new all the time. And it fosters a nice sense of community.

However. Since Sophia was born and I have been spending several hours a day on the sofa breastfeeding I have started to realise that the old saying “a good servant but a bad master”could have been coined for my relationship with Sell or Swap. You see, in the olden days (before Christmas) I would post an occasional ISO – that’s how Anna got her Peppa Pig camper van and I got a very nice Gap maternity dress – and I had sold one or two things myself as well. Now, though, I find myself spending far too many hours a day ‘checking’. What am I checking for? Well, that’s just the point. I have no idea. A couple of weeks ago I noticed someone was giving away some dolls’ house furniture for free. FREE, I tell you. Anna and I have been doing up a second hand dolls’ house, so I leapt at it. It turns out to be completely out of scale, although she is using it to create a shoe box home for another slightly bigger doll, but it was FREE. What else could I be missing if I let five minutes an hour go past without ‘checking’? It’s practically a nervous twitch. As soon as I sit down my hand reaches for my laptop. “What are you doing?” my husband or daughter will ask. “Oh, just…checking” I reply.

There’s the selling as well. I see something posted for sale with maybe ten or twelve people all expressing an interest, and I find myself thinking, ooh, we’ve got one of those. I could sell it. Well, yes, I could sell it for £5, or swap it for some chocolate buttons, but actually it’s something we use every day, so why the hell would I? Husband and daughter would be wise to heed my oft-repeated requests not to leave their stuff lying around, though.

The madness became very apparent this week when someone posted that they had seen a lovely table and chairs outside a local block of flats, obviously being thrown out. They looked stunning in the photo – a 1960s drop leaf linoleum covered table in baby blue, with four matching chairs. Yummy. Now I do not need a table or chairs in the least. But the idea that these were going free, just two streets away from me was torture. I was consumed by near-unmanageable table lust. They were being thrown away. Arrgghh. I sat here, seriously considering if there was any way a 7-weeks-post-caeserian-mum could transport four chairs and a dining table on a Bugaboo Bee. Thankfully sanity prevailed, and I decided there wasn’t. That particular Sell or Swap had a happy ending as well, as a friend with strong muscles managed to get the furniture back to her very local house, and then passed it on to a friend of hers who is furnishing his new home from scratch on a shoestring budget.

But I have realised that something needs to change. I should use my time (and energy and money) in a more fulfilling , constructive and life-enhancing way. And I absolutely will. I will start learning Italian, or re-reading Tolstoy or take up crossword puzzles. Just as soon as I’ve checked if there’s anything interesting on Sell or Swap.