Just a quick note before I head off on my hols about this blow-up cube thing that you can take on a plane to fill the gap between a child’s seat and the backrest in front. I haven’t tried this so cannot personally vouch for it – but it looks like a pretty genius solution for a long flight. Or even a short one frankly.
Anyone got one? Or use something similar?
Happy holidays!! I’m off to Devon for a to pretend to be a pirate. Do pirates drink Cloudy Bay? Please say yes.
I was going to say “hacks” but then I’d have to shoot myself. But anyway here are my cleverest ideas for travelling with small children this summer.
1 If you are potty training or just need a few spare nappies and/or pants for kiddo, make up a few Nappy grab-bags. I’ve written about these before but it has occurred to me that it’s buried many years-worth of posts back and the casual reader may have missed it.
This is probably one of the best ideas I’ve ever had regarding any area of parenting. If you can’t be bothered to go back to read the post, the idea is that you make up a small Ziploc containing a few wipes, (sealed into a separate bag to maintain moisture), 1 nappy, 1 pair of latex gloves – these are lifesavers, truly – 1 pair clean child’s pants if you’re at that stage, and a nappy bag.
You press the air out of the plastic bag as you seal it making a kind of pleasing, slithery vacuum-packed emergency pack that can be slipped, weightless, into a handbag or carry-on. You can make up multiples of these and stash them in your large luggage, too, for when you are venturing out and about when at your destination.
2 I always head off to the airport with extra bags: the first is a cotton/folding bag to fill with snacks from Pret on our way to the boarding gate. The Pret bags are NEVER big enough and the handles are annoying. Bring a giant sack to shove it all in and you’ll be so happy.
3 The other extra bags are a small roll of those flimsy green compost-liner bags. I use them to fill with the crap that my kids generate during the flight, I can’t stand being surrounded my rubbish (even though the air stewards are really good about coming round collecting it) and like to square away packets and empties the second they are handed to me. Always nonchalantly handed to me, as if I were simply a walking bin.
4 I no longer need to travel with wipes but I do take with me two wet J-Cloths in a Ziploc bag for wiping scummy fingers, which can then be rinsed out and re-sealed when you reach CIVILISATION and can find a sink and a tap.
5 We are only a family of four but I have labelled all our passports with our names on the outside, written on a snippet of neon post-it note, then sealed over with clear tape so you can see whose is whose.
How about you? Come on, tick tock, time’s running out. What are your best and most brilliant innovations when it comes to travelling with small children?
We think we grow. We think we grow and change. And in some ways we do and in others, not.
For example, I will never really have my paperwork under control. Yes, it’s a lot better than it used to be – mostly thanks to my husband who believes rightly that a freelancer’s career stands or falls based on whether he or she is able to send a fucking invoice.
Okay, quite a lot of my invoices come back with a note saying “Please check the amount and re-send” because I have added it all up wrong, but I sent the invoice at least. Eh? Eh?Anyone?
And my drinking will always follow a pattern of drinking far, far too much and then putting a stop to it. I will never, as I thought I might once do, learn how to drink in moderation, permanently, for ever. It will always – probably – build gently up to a terrible crescendo and then have to be stripped back.
Not because I have done something awful, but more because one day realise 3/4 of a bottle of wine doesn’t really touch the sides, I am necking whisky like it’s just been invented and in the morning I really kinda can’t remember what happened last night.
Like I said, it’s rarely because it means I do something bad. Well, not irreversibly bad. But it can’t possibly lead anywhere good and it makes me paunchy and forgetful.
I don’t want to have to not drink. I understand why a person might have to not, but isn’t it better just to try to cultivate an okay relationship with booze?
When I went back to see a shrink in around January I was drinking an absurd amount. I laughed about it back then. I told my therapist and sniggered as the colour drained from her face. “You drink all that… in one evening?” she said tentatively.
I laughed about it because everything was getting done. All the boxes ticked. The children fed and in clean pyjamas, never late to school, never miss a deadline, never drunk during the day, never drunk behind the wheel.
But, but, but, but it’s not how much you drink or what you drink, it’s why. And I don’t know the answer to the why. That’s where the shrink comes in, I suppose. And maybe there doesn’t have to be a why. Maybe I can afford delicious wine and drinking is pretty addictive, even if you are a zen master, and that’s just the way it is?
Anyway I’m not drinking so much now. A glass a night, rather than 7. And I’m enjoying it! It won’t last – of course.
Why am I telling you all this? Oh yes! Milk Thistle. It really does work. It’s a supplement that improves liver function and it 100% makes you feel less shit in the morning. A few weeks ago when I was off my face for about 6 evenings in a row I took one twice a day – once before drinking and once before bed, and felt really very okay in the morning.
Drink responsibly, obviously. But if that’s not an option, make sure you’ve had your Milk Thistle.
“The main problem with having kids,” next-eldest sister once said to me when Kitty was about 6 weeks old, “is childcare.”
Once upon a time I would have disagreed. I would have said “no the amount they get ill is the main problem with having kids”. But childcare came in a close second.
And by “childcare” I don’t mean anything specific. I don’t mean “staff”, I just mean childcare. Because you sure as hell are going to struggle if you don’t have any at all. Some people don’t have a choice but to look after their own kids, on their own, 24/7. Others choose to. I know some people who do it – not even half an hour of paid childcare – and it’s hard.
The one are of childcare I couldn’t compromise on has always been evening babysitting. My husband’s job means we have always had to go out for dinner at least once a week. Sure, I could not go with him but that makes him sad and likely to drink and fall to chatting to PR girls.
So to say I am a veteran of babysitting options is an understatement. I have tried family, friends and local teenagers. I liked Sitters.co.uk for a while but they had some absurd text-booking arrangement and were never available on the weekend if you suddenly needed to cancel your sitter.
And then along came Bubble, on the App Store as Bubble Babysitting and on IG as @bubblebabysittingapp – you can find them on the good ol’ internet at https://joinbubble.com. As soon as I downloaded the app that fateful day, I knew this was going to change my life – and it has.
Every local sitter has a profile, a rating (supplied by other users) and little icons showing you how far they are from you, whether they have newborn experience, have a car, have a First Aid certificate and so on.
I post a job and an alert thingy goes out to all local sitters who have said they are available at that time. They all go on to a list and you just pick the one you want and book them. You can message them through the app with any specific details and it’s all cashless, like Uber.
I have used Bubble for about a year, now, with no complaints – most notably they saved my ass one Sunday afternoon when my husband was away and I was in bed with a fever. This wonderful girl showed up, (forewarned that I was ill in bed and she just needed to keep the kids from killing each other/themselves), until teatime.
And now if Giles comes into my room at 2pm and says “I forgot to tell you we’re going to an Asian/Welsh fusion restaurant in Peckham tonight,” I no longer give him a death stare and say “Well, have fun on your own,” I just reach for my phone.
Bubble is not a budget option – most of the sitters work with children in their day jobs and are well-qualified – it tends to be £9ph minimum. But then childcare is an area where you can rarely afford to economise.
I refer to you my sister’s initial statement.
**This is a sponsored post, which frankly is the least Bubble can do, the amount of money I spend on there AND ALSO the amount of free word-of-mouth marketing I do to all my friends (all 3 of them).**
I adore Dinah. She is a fashion editor, art director, stylist AND she’s just had a baby. She recently did a spread on 21 ways to wear a breton top, which I thought was both a genius idea and sort of like an hilarious visual gag at the same time. I asked her if she would go on The Spike and she said yes! So here she is.
Please note! that the links I have provided are approximate only, they are not the exact things that Dinah is talking about.
2 What do you always have a fresh, updated version of in your wardrobe.
I live in basics, and don’t update them nearly often enough but I’ll snap up a good white t-shirt when I see one. A nice one is not as easy to find as you might think. Used to love J Crew’s linen v-necks but they lose their shape so quickly. My new favourite is a supersoft round-neck one I picked up at Nigel Hall – small mens is the perfect cut.
3 What are your favourite stores/brands at the moment
I love Frame jeans, they’re not cheap but they are worth the money. And Equipment shirts. The Box in Hackney runs some great sample sales. I don’t buy much so when I do I’m willing to spend a little more. High street stores like Zara are incredible for trend led pieces but the throw away nature of fast fashion bothers me more and more.
4 Is the Front Row really, really super scary
It looks pretty cool from my seat in the Gods. Sigh
5 Has having a baby changed how you dress?
It hasn’t changed what I wear but it’s certainly changed how I get dressed. I got rid of everything in my wardrobe that I should wear, could wear, used to wear, want to wear and now only own things that I actually do wear. It felt awesome taking it all to charity and now it takes me 30 seconds to get ready in the morning (I don’t have much left to choose from!)
6 What have you bought recently that you are most excited about?
I treated myself to a new handbag for my return to work. It felt VERY extravagant, especially since I hadn’t earned any money for 12 months. It’s the YSL cross body bag with canvas strap. Need to be hands free with the buggy and baby so it was a practical and sensible investment (I keep telling myself). Mainly I think it makes me look like a grown-up with my sh*t together when, in reality, I’m anything but.
7 Can you do any trend forecasting for us?
Yes! Get yourself some animal print, ideally some interesting animal print in a bold colour or with a bit of detailing. Wear it with something boring. If you don’t own a fabulous blazer now’s the time to get one. Ideally a checked one a la Erdem (which you’ll find in Whistles). [Esther here – I have just bought this Rag & Bone one, on sale now.] And if you were savvy enough to keep the cowboy boots you wore back in the noughties it’s time to get them out of retirement. A frightening prospect, I know.
8 What are you having for dinner tonight?
Ribeye Steak. Rare. With broccoli and rice. And a Mini Magnum.
Take womenswear. We now have a proliferation of technical fabrics, which provide stretch, swing, lift, wick, heft and can all still be chucked in the washing machine.
Then we have a whole load of women designers, like Phoebe Philo and Jane Shepherdson, who go “We’re all wearing trousers and trainers now, okay? And also maybe some loose, floor-length all-you-can-eat maxi dresses. ”
SORRY WHAT DID YOU SAY?
I CAN PUT AWAY THESE STILETTOS? AND THE BODYCON DRESS?
And then there’s the internet, which cuts out the middleman of shops and overheads, allowing us access to design and quality that would otherwise be unaffordable; allowing us to shop quietly and calmly at 9pm, after we have spent a day just doing shit for other people.
It’s all a bit of a perfect storm at the moment and two of the whirlwinds are ME + EM and the new line from Samantha Cameron, Cefinn.
I can’t think of better friends to the working woman than these young brands, both run by hard-working, multi-tasking women.*
When I look at their clothes, with their perfect fit, modernist style and elegant colours I find myself almost wanting to be a slightly harassed female executive, who nevertheless does the school run and goes for drinks after work, so that I could justify filling my wardrobe with this.
I am often asked about good workwear, so in the name of journalism I went to see some of the current Cefinn stock, including their now slightly culty Dipped Hem Midi Dress and fell in love with one or two other things, which I post for you below to have a look at.
None of this is cheap but the thing is, to design and manufacture clothes responsibly in quality fabric isn’t cheap. No new, independent brand wants to price themselves out of the market, it costs what it costs.
The good news is that this is all worth the cash. This is not an ad, by the way, and I was not gifted a dress.
I did pre-order a dress for SS19 and chose one in a mad turquoise animal print, which is so not the sort of thing I normally wear that I feel I bit sick, but also excited and quite modern.
That’s progress for you.
And also in a very jaunty, zesty lemon.
Which brings me to talk about colours; I occasionally get emails from other redheads saying that they’ve never worn certain colours because they’ve been led to believe that they shouldn’t, to which I say what utter utter utter crazy bullshit.
And why is it only ever redheads who are given rules about what colours to wear?
You know, it feels faintly racist, like what you’re saying is that we should all just be locked up in a Scottish castle somewhere playing a harp in a green velvet tunic. I know we only make up 2% of the population, but it doesn’t mean we’re dangerous mutants. (I fucking wish. KABOOOOOM!!!)
Everyone ought to wear the colours they fancy – go and get your colours done if you must – but it can also be trial and error. No, not all colours will suit you, but the idea that someone ought to unilaterally decide for you like some creepy style ubermensch isn’t okay.
I will often get emails saying things like “I have short arms and long legs with sloping shoulders and I am also a pear shape with olive skin. I find buying clothes a nightmare! Can you please recommend some shapes and colours that would suit me?”
And I have to go “…..” because although it kills me – KILLS ME – not to be able to have an answer to something because I am such a terrible awful smartarse, the fact is that I don’t know.
I know what suits me and I am good at finding outfit solutions to various event/lifestyle problems, but I’m not a stylist and anything I suggested would be a massive, terrified, guess.
So I am always on the lookout for brilliant personal shoppers or stylists services to write about, as I really do believe a trip out with a good one can be life-changing. It’s my way of answering the question without having to answer the question.
I was delighted, then, to read in The Times about a service called Body Mapping, where a woman called Anna Berkeley literally maps your body by drawing your outline on a piece of paper and tells you exactly what shapes, sizes and lengths you ought to go for.
It’s £250 for 2 hours – I would go if I didn’t already spend my entire waking life thinking about what suits me and what doesn’t and trying on clothes and going “hmmmmm”.
Another brilliant thing from the online tech shop (not just for women but yes for women) Soda, which is dangerous because you will go on there and want. Literally. Everything. (e.g. the Gaucho Tech Roll the Phone Lanyard and this lamp projector).
But they sent me this clothes steamer and I was a bit circumspect about it until Kat Farmer (from Does My Bum Look 40) raved to me that she never goes on holiday without hers.
It works! You have to get the hang of moving the wand in confident ironing strokes over the material rather than sort of rubbing at creases; not as brutally efficient as an ironing board and a table but sometimes those things are not available.
This is £100 which I know is rather steep but it definitely works and feels lovely and sturdy – can cheaper models be as good? Please feel free to leave a comment in the handy box below.
As many of you know my friend Becky B moved to LA a few years ago and at the moments when I can bring myself to talk to her despite my rage at what I perceive to be the MASSIVE BETRAYAL OF EVERYTHING of her emigrating, she is kind of handy. Like when she mailed me my Christy Dawn dress letting me off about £200 of shipping fees.
She also occasionally sends me (on request) a rundown of what is hot in LA right now. She successfully predicted turmeric lattes, DIY nut butter and Anine Bing, so she speaks the truth.
Here are are top LA trends for right now.
Lots of protein powder in smoothies
Spicy Margueritas [at least I *think* she means the cocktail…]
Bone broth served hot in cups (like buying soup from Pret but there are no Prets)
Bulletproof coffee… [you may have heard of this, but if you don’t know what bulletproof coffee is, read about it here. I never know whether to take these sorts of culty things with a pinch of salt, or to be frightened… any Spikers into it??]
Tons of people like Jen Meyer, [beautiful but the prices are LOL]
The biggest craze is CBD oil which is a chemical found in cannabis, which soothes and clams but doesn’t make you high. We went to a school gala fundraiser thing (think Big Little Lies) and everyone was sitting at round tables pass round CBD vape pens.
It also comes in juices and smoothies or just oil to rub into painful areas, or to drink for a sore throat. If you Google Med Men you get to a kind of Apple Store for cannabis products. Literally in LA you go in and talk to a guy with an iPad and whittle down what you’re in the mood for.