Friday, 28 May 2010

Stress monster

There are many times when I am glad to be a freelance writer. The days when I can sneak out of my office for a swift cuddle with the twins, the mornings I can spend wandering up to school and discussing, life, the universe and Star Wars with my boy, the odd occasion when I can play hooky and have coffee with my boys after school, but then there are days like today when I wish that I was either a proper mummy or a proper employee.

Trouble is Bank Holidays don't really register when you are self employed so when I got a commission late yesterday to write something for Tuesday I said yes without a second thought, not realising that the rest of the world was already in holiday mode and getting anyone to comment would be like finding a stiff whisky in a temperance meeting.

Though perhaps this is better than those people who vaguely say they will call when they can, for which read the phone will ring when you are up to your ears in changing a nappy, burning the pizza, refereeing a screaming match or saving a child from almost certain death.

There have been many times when I have answered the phone to a very important interviewee or editor whist dangling a baby coated in poo from his ankles, then there have been the times when the Xbox has had to step in swiftly to play the role of nanny to keep the boys quiet while I rush upstairs to my office and put on my professional voice. there was the awful time when my firstborn rolled off the bed in seconds when I'd turned my back to listen to a phone call from a PR. Oh the shame.

You see us freelancers are like a hybrid between working and stay at home mums. The perks can be good, but when the going gets tough and you have to combine being a mum with some semblance of professionalism, the cracks soon begin to yawn. Today I find myself standing on a rumbling San Andreas fault line, anxiously waiting for that emminent professor to call when I am in the middle of wiping a particularly ripe bottom.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Following a question put to me by Plan B I decided that I ought to get back to what this blog is all about. Namely, revealing the truth of what it's like to raise a family of four. So here's my list of the skills necessary to cling on to shreds of sanity amidst the chaos of children:

Selective hearing
Even when the twins were newborn I had to learn how to tune out their wails as it's simply impossible to meet everyone's needs the moment they arise. It's hard to step over a child whose face is justifiably slick with snot and tears because he has just fallen over, because his baby brother is about to kill himself by toppling head first down a flight of stairs, but it has to be done. It is hard to ignore a tiny baby screaming for a bottle, because you have to wipe his brother's bum before he takes off and leaves an unmentionable trail around the house, but needs must when you are a mum of four.

This is a subset of point one, but to run a family of four you need to be a genius with logistics and learn to prioritise. I can almost see my brain colour-coding the boys in relation to the severity of their needs. Code red is imminent danger of death, while a serene green is whinging because they are hungry/bored/in need of a nap. It's a complex balancing act making sure that just enough of their needs are met to keep them all happyish.

A self sacrificing nature
I sometimes look back on the days pre four children when my husband or I used to get the odd break. Perhaps one of us with push our two boys to the park and leave the other to read the paper, watch a Grand Prix or just some time for his or herself. This doesn't happen any more, neither of us will willingly take all four out alone, as we know that the fine balancing act mentioned above is prone to unravel in the great outdoors. As you struggle to change the nappy of a wriggling twin, his brother will rapidly crawl off to teeter beside the brook that handily runs next to our local playground, while the older brothers will take advantage of your inattention to try to poke each other's eyes out with a stick.

You will need it by the bucketload if you are going to persuade anyone to babysit, let alone take on all four of your children so you can go away for more than a few hours. Grandparents love to dandle a baby, and are happy to manage two or so grandchildren, but once you hit four the offers to take them on dissolve faster than Disprin.

I remember when I used to only have two children I could spend short snatches of the day sitting down, now when I look after all four my bum doesn't see sight of a cushion from morning til night. The moment one is calmly occupied, the next will require your attention, and that's not to mention the mountain of housework left in the wake of four small children. I cannot count the number of times our washing machine goes on in one week, and the trail of toys is never ending. Once you have finished picking up one pile of plastic detritus another has mysteriously accumulated while your back was turned.

A blind eye
For turning on the mess that was once your pristine home, on the screaming children you are avoiding while you attempt to cook tea/empty the washing machine/answer the telephone and on the plaintive looks from your husband who you last seduced circa 2003, which is coincidentally also the year our first son was born.

Deep pockets
I know that money isn't the key to a happy childhood, although my older boys would surely disagree as they think that if I were to buy them both a DS they'd be ecstatic, but even if you skimp and scrimp four children don't come cheap. When our family expanded from two to four with the birth of the twins we shelled out tens of thousands of pounds on essentials such as a loft extension so there was somewhere for everyone to sleep and a new car that had enough seats for us all to travel together. Since then hidden costs have burst out from their hiding places, for example we have discovered that the only restaurant where it's feasible for us all to go out for a family meal is MacD's, and we have had to think long and hard about which boys we like best in order to decide who gets to do extra activities.

A big heart
For all the negatives of having four children, I couldn't imagine my life without any one of them now. Although I don't think I would ever have chosen to have four, now that they are here I wouldn't change a thing. When I am sitting on the sofa, twins on my knees and big boys draped over me, I am the happiest I have ever been. I love to watch the boys interact with each other, to see the oldest playing gently with his baby brother is adorable in the extreme. I have found my heart has expanded with each new addition to the family as I learn to love them all.

So in answer to the original question, which was whether I would recommend having four children. I would have to say no sane person would even consider it, but then I've always thought sanity was much overrated.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Self indulgent content removed, due to thinking better of it

Today I felt inspired to do something I haven't done since I was a teenager. And no it wasn't get pissed on neat vodka, snog a random spotty youth or wear fishnet tights and too much kohl. Instead I was inspired to that most pretentious of pursuits - poetry.

I let my husband read the fruits of my labour and he was underwhelmed to put it politely. I did put it up here, but on second thoughts he probably had a point, so I have hidden it along with my blushes.

I think I will stick to what I know best, writing about the mayhem of raising four small boys. It's clearly more my forte.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

My Billy Elliot boy

I love my boys, I really do, but I am just not interested in boyish pursuits. I have had boyfriends who required me to shiver beside a football pitch, or attempt to follow the score during interminable cricket games, even my normally quite reasonable husband is a devoted fan of F1, but to me it just sounds like angry wasps caught in a jar and is as interesting to watch. Whenever people stop me and say that I almost have enough boys to field a five-a-side team, I shudder in horror. None of my sons has shown that much interest in spending his time kicking a football about and I thank god for it.

The four-year-old does do a weekly football class, peopled exclusively by small boys and their football mad dads, who kit them out in the full strip of their favourite players, despite the fact that the ball skills taught amount to little more than tripping over the blasted thing as they charge around the hall. But he seems to devote far more time to gossiping with his friends than picking up the finer points of how to score a goal, and I am sure he thinks the main point of the exercise is to collect the sticker they give out at the end of the lesson each week. He has never shown any interest in watching football on TV and I doubt he could tell Arsenal from Manchester United, even if a sweet depended on it.

So my house full of boys isn't the sports dominated den some people seem to assume it will be. In fact the latest craze to hit his ballet. My eldest son asked, of his own free will I hasten to add, if he could try his hand (or should that be feet?) at ballet dancing. I jumped at the chance, here were classes I could identify with having shivered in my own pink tutu trying to master the first position in a draughty village hall.

As we drove to his first class I gave him a stern lecture about how he wasn't to be shy if the class was all girls, and that it is those who are strong enough to be different who thrive in life. He reassured me that he was still as keen as ever to learn how to dance, but inside I was terrified that he would take one look at all those tutus and run away in tears.

The mothers gathered outside were a shock to my system, rather than the rag tag dads who crowd the football and judo classes we normally attend, these were the coiffed yummy mummies I read so much about, dressed in skinny jeans and pretty pumps with their hair French pleated and luxuriously expensive scarfs wound around their willowy necks. Their little girls were floated around their legs like dainty fairies in their pink ballet skirts, hair sleekly pulled back in perfect round buns.

My son took one look at these alien beings and wound himself around my knees like a limpet. As I prised his frozen fingers off my far from skinny jeans, I felt so guilty as those perfect mummies looked aghast that another mother would force her son to do ballet classes. What was I thinking? Was I in the advanced clutches of gender disappointment and so desperate for a girl that I would make my son fill the role of my little girl and dance away to the Sugar Plum Fairy?

I felt the blushes rise hot and unwarranted. I wanted to shout "But he begged me to come", as my son wailed and screeched that he no desire to try ballet and could we just go home. A kindly teacher wrenched him from me and reassured me that all the boys are the same as she shooed me from the classroom.

I hovered by the window, aching to see him joining in, but hearing nothing but his inconsolable sobs. In the end I rushed off to the nearest coffee shop, unable to watch this torture any more. When I returned fortified by a cappuccino I found him skulking at the back of the class, but at least he was standing with them.

As I went in to collect him I will admit to heaving a sigh of relief that this was the end of ballet, and we would never again have to run the gauntlet of those delicate dancing mums and their pretty little daughters. That is until he looked up at me with tear streaked eyes, gave a huge grin and said "I love ballet mummy". So there we were next week, my little Billy Elliot and me, and yah boo sucks to all those people who told me all I would ever do was freeze beside a football pitch with my brood of little boys.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Do you ever wish

that you could just pack your children away for a day or two? Not because you don't adore them, but because you could just do with a real rest? I am having one of those days when I long to be without children. They don't happen often, but lately I have just been feeling so tired that I just want to go to bed without the fear that at some point in the night/early morning a small boy will worm his way under the duvet and snuffle and cough into my ear until I awaken, groggy and disoriented.

I was talking to another mum with three small children today, and bemoaning the loss of down time that is the lot of the parent with many children. There is never a time when you shouldn't be doing something other than curling up on the sofa with a good book. This is not to say that I don't regularly skive off and do just that, but there is always a nagging sensation at the back of my mind that really I should be ferreting through the dirty laundry to put on yet another wash, or that I should have made that urgent phone call for work, or that I should sew the elastic onto the eldest's new ballet shoes or that there are a full week's worth of school shirts that need ironing.

It is exhausting just thinking about all the work that goes into keeping the family ticking over, let alone actually doing it. My to do list is a Sisyphean task that will, as you might expect, never been completed. There are always birthday presents to be bought, name labels to be stuck in, odd socks to be paired up again, food to be bought, cooked and managed. Mostly I just get on with it, but sometimes I just want to book the next ticket out to Rio de Janeiro and forget that I am a working mum of four.

I want to toss away my responsibilites like so many Dickensian chains around my neck, and lie, guilt free on a sandy beach, with nothing to worry about beyond where my next cocktail is coming from. It's bizarre really as when I was footloose and fancy free, I always felt there was more to life and that all the hedonistic pleasures of life were somewhat superficial. To a point I was right as my children bring meaning to my life, and I wouldn't really be without them, it's just that on occassion I want to skip off to that parallel universe where there isn't always something else I should be doing.

Perhaps I am just a bit tired and run down, but to have a few days when exhaustion wasn't my constant companion would be such a delight. To stay up late and sleep in in the morning until I wanted to wake up, and to spend my day doing exactly what I wanted to do, not what I ought to do, to have a weekend dominated by adult pursuits rather than driving to a myriad of classes and hanging around in crowded playgrounds, that would be very heaven in this time of parenthood.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Ordinary life

"When I look back on my ordinary life I see so much magic though I missed it at the time", Jamie Cullum, Photograph.

This lyric never fails but to bring a tear to my eye, and I have already told my husband this is the song I want to play me out when I go feet first. Why do I love it so much? Because it encapsulates just what it is that makes each human experience so unique. Most of us aren't that outstanding on the outside, only a few can be rock stars, actors, presidents and prime ministers, but for each of us life is filled with everyday magic that we are too busy to notice.

I thought I would do my own personal little meme and list some random magically ordinary moments from my life:

Staring into the bottomless pit of my newborn babies black, almond eyes. Knowing that this would be the most profound love affair I would ever have and feeling unbounded excitement at getting to know these brand new people.

The gummy first smile of my firstborn baby. The moment I understood a line from a long forgotten film, when a mother tells her child "You will never know how much I love you".

Looking out at the seasons changing from my bedroom window. Remembering the long days when I lay, beached by my twin pregnancy, the branches stark and black against a sky bleached white with imminent snowfall. Or the acid green shoots of new leaves heralding the arrival of spring, or the foaming white blossom on the chestnut trees that never fails to lift my spirits and make me think of wedding days.

Swimming in the shiny blue swimming pool of the hotel where I got married. Thrilled by the baby growing inside me and my impending wedding. Rushing through the corridors of the hotel on the way to the chapel, dress and veil billowing behind me, silver heels clicking on the marble floor. For once I was living the glamour I only usually see in the pages of magazines.

The thud of one of my sons landing on me, throwing his tiny arms around me for a rumbustious cuddle.

Standing in the garden, hair unwashed, jeans baggy, T-shirt grubby and hearing my four-year-old say: "Mummy you are so beautiful".

Walking to school with the blare of traffic all around us, caught in my own bubble with my six-year-old, discussing what we will explore next in the fantasy worlds we construct together, hearing how he is doing, about spats with his friends and lessons he has learned.

Watching my beautiful blonde twin shove grapes into his mouth as if they were the last food on earth. Seeing him gleefully dribble their juice down his clean on top and hold out a sticky hand for more and more and more.

Watching my sleek, dark twin cling to his daddy, while gently patting his shoulder as if to say "You are my own precious daddy".

Hearing my four-year-old explode into giggles over a joke or tickles or just the absurdity of life.

Watching twin one clamber upright using his biggest brother's pyjama leg to hoist him up, his big brother smiling down at him throughout.

Finding all four boys perched in the twins' two cots, the big boys entertaining their little brothers with songs, games and peek-a-boo.

Discovering the twins, heads bent together at the slats that separate their two cots, trying to help one another figure out a way to post a plastic fish onto the floor below.

Listening to Jamie Cullum in concert last night and reaching down to hold my husband's hand. Marvelling that we are still as much in love today as we were all those years ago when I rushed to marry him in my billowing dress.

There has been much magic in my ordinary life and I try hard not to miss it as I am going along, but I am grateful to this song for reminding me how important it is to catch that stardust as it floats on by.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The male of the species

Living, as I do, in a house full of men in the making, I think I can count myself as somewhat of an expert on the male of the species and of late my field of study seems to be popping up with surprising regularity.

First there was a bantering thread on a forum I use all about how useless one of the regulars' other half was. She was bemoaning his inability to do any task without high level input from her, right down to asking if the washing up liquid had 'gone off' when he was doing the dishes. This prompted much merriment on the generally pathetic nature of men when it comes to domestic tasks, with tales of men given colour-coded rotas to help them keep on top of their chores, to those who sound as if they would have difficulty breathing for themselves if they didn't have a woman to tell them how to do it.

I chimed into this frothing feminine tirade to say how different my own husband is from this stereotypical man. He is a wonder around the house. Admittedly neither of us cleans as we pay someone else to do that for us, but as to the rest of the hard work that goes into running a house and a brood of boys, well he does more than his fair share. He did the lion's share of night feeds when they were babies, has changed countless nappies, he cooks, tidies and entertains children without any prompting. We really are a team and he more than pulls his weight on the domestic front.

The next time this matter arose was during a discussion on LBC 97.3 about the lack of women in the Cameron Clegg cabinet. So far the leopard skin shoe wearing Theresa May is the token girly in a sea of grey suited men. This didn't really perturb me, after all I think the best person for the job should get it, rather than parachuting in women to even things up. However, when the commentator from the Fawcett Society asked how we would feel if the situation were reversed and the country was being run by women, it did give me pause for thought. I suspect that we would be up in arms if the ladies were left in charge, so why are we so complacent when it's the other way round?

Then my fellow blogger and friend Nappy Valley Girl posted a homage to her own husband, who is at least as much of an asset to the household as my own man, being handy with both a screwdriver and a model train track - essential skills in a house full of boys.

I suppose this makes me wonder what it will be like for my own boys when they are grown up. Will they pull their weight like their father? Or will they find a woman to wait on them? I doubt it somehow, but I wonder if the world will have changed to such a point that an all female cabinet wouldn't cause the raise of an eyebrow?

Power walking

After a few days hiatus following the excitement of the General Election and its aftermath, I have finally managed to peel myself away from BBC News 24 in order to concentrate on more important things, like updating FDMTG. I must admit the momentous happenings of the last few days have had little impact on my boys despite their vital role in upholding democracy last Thursday. Although they are most excited by a coalition government between the trees and the birds. When you think about it like that it makes some sense that the Conservatives and Lib Dems should team up, their party logos work so well together.

Despite the thrills and spills on Downing Street yesterday, it was a bit of a bad day, as I found myself locked away working on various projects and have been rather suffering from cabin fever as a result. I worked out that I hadn't been out of the house apart from one school run for three days. This had the effect of making me feel rather gloomy. My remedy was to go downstairs and cuddle the twins.

At 15 months they are just so gorgeous. Still round and squidgy as babies, but with the animation and personality of the toddlers they will surely become one day soon. That said they are still firmly boycotting any move towards upright perambulation. Twin one can cruise with ease around the furniture, but try taking him out of his comfort zone and you are met with the stormy frown that presages a downpour of tears. Twin two is still working out the mechanics of standing, so I think walking is still a step too far for him.

Twins are subject to developmental delays, although I am not sure this is the root cause of their rooted state, as my eldest didn't crawl until he was 14 months and failed to walk until he was 18 months. At least this means that the twins stationary state doesn't cause any anxiety. To be honest I am not sure if it will be better or worse when they walk. Of course it will give our arms a break not to have to carry them hither and thither, but having witnessed two older twins dash off in opposite directions at top speed in a soft play area, I can see the benefits of my crawlers.

I do feel a tinge of fear at the idea of two little boys shooting off on their own distinct paths of destruction. The other day I had all four boys at the park. I felt sorry for my oldest who desperately wanted mummy to watch his acrobatic feats, but was ignored as I tried in vain to stop the twins from eating stones from the playground floor/climbing up the slide as another child hurtled down it/streaking through an impromptu game of football/crawling into the brook beside the playground/being crushed under the fast spinning roundabout. And this is while they are both still confined to their hands and knees.

This compounded the worries that had been planted the week before when we met up with a friend who has a delightful daughter who is just three months older than the twins. She is an adventurous soul and as we tried to sit and chat was intent on disappearing to explore the four corners of the (large) park, via patches of stinging nettles and lethal brambles, picking up tin cans and cigarette butts along the way. Her mum is training for a charity run this autumn, but I should imagine keeping up her little girl is exercise enough to have her match fit in time for the starters' whistle.

So while Gordon Brown takes his last steps out of Number 10, and David Cameron takes his first steps in as our new PM, we remain on tenterhooks for any sign of movement in our own hotbed of infant intrigue.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Casting our votes

So much for teaching the children about democracy. I wheeled into our local polling station with three out of four of the boys in tow, two of whom were howling and the third of whom wanted the whole process explained to him before and then started to sulk when we revealed you can't actually vote until you are 18. He was itching to get his hands on the pencil and get down to spoiling a few ballot papers.

Though after hearing his reasoning vis a vis casting votes I think it is perhaps sensible not to allow preschoolers the vote. He was adamant that he wanted to vote for "The ones with the roses". To which I replied "Do you know who they are?". "No, but I think it looks pretty". I hope that by the time he comes of age he will have a more considered approach to casting his vote.

The eldest missed out on the voting jamboree as when offered the chance to come along sneered "No that's boooring". The apathy of youth. But he does at least have a better grip on politics than his little brother. Yesterday he asked who Gordon Brown is. "He's the Prime Minister, he's in charge of the government and they run the country", I reply. "What does he look like?", was the next question so up popped Google images and soon my screen was filled with his gurning mug. "Errrgh. He's ugly", screeched my son.

So I pull up a picture of arch rival David Cameron. "He looks nicer, but what about the other one?", says my boy. Clearly he has enough of a grip on the election to know there are three parties in the running. I am so proud. So I find some photos of Nick Clegg. "Oh he's lovely," coos my little boy. "I would vote for him". It just goes to show how far a pretty face can get you, at least with the primary school crowd.

As a helicopter trailing a banner promoting Channel 4's election coverage hovers above my house and the after work crowd begin to trail into the polling station across the road I, unlike my offspring, am feeling very excited. I would dearly love to stay up all night and watch the swing-o-meter tell of epic victory and defeat. But if there is one sure bet this evening, it is that I will be snoring into my pillow by 11pm whether red, blue or yellow is in the lead.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


I think I could teach Clegg, Cameron and Brown a thing or two about canvassing for votes after the huge success of my trawl for new followers. I am thrilled to announce that I am not only back up to 50, but have gained an extra one for luck. Clearly the cornerstone of my strategy was pathetic begging, but then again some of our would be leaders seem to have that technique down pat already, and it remains to be seen how effective it will turn out to be tomorrow. Either way I would like to welcome my two new followers to the exclusive FDMTG fold and thank them for joining up.

It occurred to me the other day that while I started my blog to record the life and times of my four boys after the birth of the twins, there has been much silence of late regarding the development of the youngest of my brood. I think it's because after those dark days of sleepless nights and six feeds a day, each, things have calmed down immeasurably. The twins have slotted into the family and it's as if they have always been with us.

That said I am still waiting for the moment when our family coalesces into a single unit, because it still seems as if we have two separate sets of children. The older boys form a rowdy, destructive and in equal parts discordant and amiable unit, while the twins are a cuddly, pre-toddler shaped gang of two. Their big brothers take a benign interest in the little ones, but I await the day when all four play together with anticipation and trepidation.

For now though the twins are going through an adorable stage. There are still no signs of walking, but twin one is cruising around quite happily, one minute reaching for the TV remote control or an iPhone, the next disappearing off upstairs through a carelessly open stair gate. He has grown the sweetest curl of dark brown hair which pokes out behind one ear, and has developed an undying adoration for daddy after they bonded over a shared love for gadgetry.

On the down side he has copied his brother's less than appealing habit of requesting something by pointing at it and screaming. I guess he thought 'Well if it worked for him.....".

Twin two still sports his crazy halo of fluffy blonde hair as I am incapable of getting it cut. I keep steeling myself to take him to the hairdresser as I am no fan of long haired boys (sorry to all those who are, but each to their own), but I just can't do it. I think in some way it will make him less of a baby to me, and I am in no hurry to see my youngest two grow up into little boys.

Although he is firmly sticking to crawling and none of this standing up nonsense his brother indulges in, he is ahead of him in terms of communication. While he still resorts to screaming requests if they are not answered within a nanosecond of him making them, he now starts any conversation with a pointing finger and a gurgly "Gah". I am not sure what this catch all phrase is meant to imply, but it is unbearably cute.

I carried him home from the school run the other day, and he kept swivelling around in my arms, pointing at everything, slapping on a toothy grin and exclaiming "Gah. Gah, gah, gah". What a conversationalist, I can see we are going to be up into the small hours as we unravel knotty philosophical conundrums together.

Tomorrow I think I will take them along for their first taste of democracy and wheel them to the polling booth. I am assuming that it will be pushchair friendly, at least until the cuts under the new government come in and all ramps are taken away and sold off to help pay off the national debt. I am not sure what they will make of it, but I am sure that the Gah party would get their vote should they be allowed to gum the ballot paper.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

You just can't get (away from) the staff

I read with interest about Victoria Beckham's army of staff, but rather than feel scorn for poor Posh Spice, I actually feel sorry for her. You see I also employ staff to help me run my busy life. OK, rather less than 10 people and I have no need for security, but I still employ a part time nanny, a cleaner and a gardener. Does that make me a spoilt madam? Or just a busy working mum who hasn't the time or, I will admit it, the inclination, to spend my down time scrubbing the loo or mowing the lawn.

My nanny is a necessity as anyone who has ever tried to work from home without one will tell you. There is no way I could do my job without someone to care for the boys while I do it. We could argue the pros and cons of working mums, but if you do work you need childcare, and if you have twins, plus two older boys, a nanny is actually the most cost effective care you can get.

So now that I have got my chippy justifications out of the way, I will move onto the crux of my post, which is the fact that feel sorry for VB as her house must be constantly teeming with staff. If she is anything like me, while she may rely on their help to allow her to care for her children and pursue a career, but she may also resent their constant presence in her home. My nanny is lovely, but she is also always in my house. I will disappear upstairs to eat a sandwich at my desk, rather than invade her space. She has the run of my house, while I am locked up in my study.

The reason I tolerate this is because it is better for my boys this way. If I were to constantly be around and yet unavailable, they would become disturbed and upset. But if I am out of sight, out of mind, they are happier and bond better with their nanny. I have learned this over many years of working from home with children.

My cleaner comes twice a week and turns the house upside down. If by some miracle all the boys and the nanny are out, then you can guarantee that the cleaner will be in. She has a special skill of managing to be in every room of the house at once. I can't sit in peace in my living room, as she will soon bustle in with a hoover and start lifting up the furniture. Of course I would far rather this than have to do the cleaning myself, but I do feel displaced by her presence and once again find myself ensconced in my little office with all escape routes barred.

The only day I have alone with my children is Friday, when I don't work. I tend to find that I spend much of it catching up on those household chores that I don't pay someone else to do, but I cannot tell you how much I savour the hour or so during the twins' nap when the house is silent, and effectively empty, and I am on my own, alone, with no one else in my space.

So this is why I pity poor Posh, for she must never have that solitary moment of silence, when her home is her castle, when there is no PA or florist bustling around her, when her kitchen is free from its chefs and bottlewashers. I am sure that just like me she wouldn't prefer to do all her dirty work herself, after all why would she when she can afford to get someone else to do it for her? But sometimes I suspect that she too might long for a few moments of precious alone time and that is why I can find a shred of sympathy in my heart for the privileged Posh.