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Dear Readers,

I am writing to inform you that I am not going to write a post today. You see I’ve come down with a bad case of blog-fatigue. I was going to get my mum to write me a note to excuse me from today’s post, but then I thought I should probably do it myself. You know, what with me (supposedly) being a writer and all. 

So yes, there’s no post today. But before you start your bitchin’, Regular Readers should remember that you’ve been served five home-baked beauties this week. Remember “An Assembly To Remember“? Yep, one of mine. Remember “It’s All In Who You Tell It To“? Nope, didn’t think you would. Not many of you read it and, if you did, you certainly didn’t comment. Except MM, of course, but then he’s pathological when it comes to commenting (thank the lord). 

As for you Weekend Readers, we all know that you’re just here today to catch up on what you missed during the week. And don’t think I didn’t notice you weren’t reading during the week. Because I did and it hurt me real bad. Many a night I sobbed myself to sleep wondering where you’d got to. No, don’t say a word. Not. A. Word. I’m not interested in hearing your excuses, especially if it involves you having some kind of life. In any case, my lack of post today will have you thanking me for having one less NDM rant to catch up with now. See I’m nice like that. 

And then there are my Accidental Readers to whom I say Welcome! Grab a pew and feel free to stay a while, even if your hostess is nowhere to be seen. Why, there’s 77 other posts on the menu for you to choose from. But if you’ve come here looking for “lactating asian babes”, then I heartily apologise for wasting your time with my irresponsible tagging and offer you this link. And yes, they are quite the mama-jugs aren’t they. 

So, after 13 straight weeks of writing six days a week, it’s official: I’m downshifting. It’s just sooooo the Hip Thing To Do – just look at Joaquin Phoenix and the Global Economy! (They’re two separate examples, by the way. I’m not by any means suggesting JP’s “Bye! Good” to acting had anything to do with the world’s financial downturn. At least not directly.)

Here’s the deal: I’m cutting my blogging to five days a week and then, when the Festival of Consumerism starts to get on top of me (say, this time next week?), I might just start writing whenever the muse touches me. But hey, if that muse looks anything like Daniel Craig in the latest Bond film, that muse can touch me as much as he wants, whenever he wants, wherever he wants. No, really.

Thanks for reading. See you on Monday. You know you want to… 

Best wishes, etc

The NDM

Perhaps, like ET, he meant "Be Good"? Drew Barrymore, take note.

Perhaps, like ET, he meant "Be Good"? Drew Barrymore, take note.

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First a little bit of preamble: When it came to writing this guide, I had to turn to my learned-in-these-matters friend Madame Lush, who is married to a lovely fellow who happens to be in the US Foreign Service (I shall call him “The Quiet American”). Over the years, Madame Lush and The Quiet American have lived in a number of extremely exotic places: Vietnam, India, Sydney and, of course, that most exotic place of all: Washington DC. And during that time, Madame Lush has calculated that her older child (now 8 years old) has been on 93 separate flights – only two of them without Madame Lush in tow. Their younger child (now 6) has been on 58 flights and again, only two of them without Madame Lush. So I think anyone who has ever traveled on a plane trip of any duration with a small child will totally understand that I have decided to instantly upgrade Madame Lush’s “nom de guerre” to Saint Lush before I’ve even finished the first paragraph of this post. 

So here are a few pointers, with a little help from Saint Lush, on the art of air travel with “little ones”.

Boarding the plane
If the flight has pre-assigned seating, do not under any circumstances go on the plane any earlier than you absolutely have to. I once made the mistake of boarding early with a very young Mister Justice and found that all Good Will (both his and mine and the people sitting within a five row radius) had evaporated long before we’d even left the runway. My eardrums still bear the scars from that flight. The screams… the screams…

If it’s one of those flights with bitch-fighting over seats, by all means take full advantage of the early boarding offered to people traveling with small children. If you’re traveling with a child under two who has no paid-for seat other than your lap (and even then you’re waiting for the cheque in the mail) – make sure you pinch them really really hard just as everyone else starts boarding. Unless the flight is full, the ensuing wailing will absolutely guarantee the seat next to you will remain unoccupied and upon which you may offload that under-2 child at your earliest convenience.

During the journey
For the parent traveling with under twos, prepare to work that aisle like it was a catwalk at Fashion Week, complete with the little swivel at the end. You will be going up and down and up down and up and down. For hours. Sometimes in a new outfit if someone has vomited or thrown orange juice on your crotch. And either with the ultimate fashion accessory: a babe in arms (my advice: bring a sling) or perpetually hunched over, holding a small hand. Just work it, baby. Work it. 

For those traveling with older children: the great thing about being in the air on a long-haul flight is that you’re crossing so many different time zones that those two precious hours of “permissable” screen time per day get stretched into 14, just like that! So you can let them rack up as many hours of TV as their little square eyes can handle, and it’s all guilt-free. 

Saint Lush says those buttons on the arm-rests also provide good value entertainment to small children – although Saint Lush is quick to add that she always stresses that the “Lady Button” is strictly off limits. With the number of times The Pixie has had her hand down her undies recently (see “The Dangers of Taking the Piss“), I’m thinking of making that a permanent rule for any public place, whether in the air or on the ground. In any case, the pushing of the call button is purely left to people like my husband, who can work an inflight service like no other man I know. Which is why it is terribly good practice for children to amuse themselves with the Emergency Procedures card for as long as possible, as they are 100% guaranteed to be far sober than you in the case of an actual emergency.

Do not, under any circumstances, rely on any help or support from any other passengers. As Saint Lush says, it doesn’t matter how well-behaved your children are, other people will look at you with distaste, as if you are bringing small children on board purely for your own amusement, or expressly for their discomfort. Having then failed to meet your eye for the duration of the flight, the minute the plane starts its descent, those same people will suddenly feel a wave of magnanimousness and exclaim thing like “Oh, your children were sooooooooo good” or “I didn’t even know there was a baby on board” because they can afford to with disembarkment only minutes away.

There are, however, ways to rort the system. My friend RW and her husband Mr S recently moved their young family to Switzerland. At their leaving party, a rumour was flying around that Mr S had booked one seat in Business Class for his wife and three seats in economy for him and his kids with no intention of swapping half-way. This had completely divided the party: one half (the women) thought this was the Best Thing they had ever heard and the other half (the men) considered Mr S to be a total traitor to the brotherhood. There was indisputable logic behind Mr S’s decision: the kids behaved better with him (we all know how children enjoy mother-baiting) and he had a far better chance of getting some sympathy and help from the crew and passengers if he was on his own with the kids. I know a few happily-married men who work the Weekend-Access Dad angle to their advantage when out with their children in public. Good luck to them, I say. When I personally see a man alone with the kids, it makes my heart all warm and fuzzy because I like to think the mother is off drinking champagne and eating chocolate somewhere. Preferably in business class on board a  flight to the Seychelles. 

After the journey
After a long haul flight with children, health-care professionals recommend that you avoid any further air travel until the children are old enough to no longer be your legal responsibility.  Too bad if you’ve just flown somewhere exotic (like Washington DC)  for a two-week holiday as, let’s face it: once you’ve disembarked, it feels far easier to organise all your belongings to be packed up and transported to the other side of the globe, sort out working visas, find gainful employment and a new place to live (etc etc etc) than it is face another long haul flight with your small children. And that’s a fact. 

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A lot of people say to me “Why do you start a lot of your posts with the words ‘A lot of people say to me’ when clearly a lot of people don’t say much to you except things like ‘Are you planning to wipe your child’s nose any time soon’ and ‘I’ll see you in court'”. To these people, I say – nay, shout – “It’s called a device! A device!!” Sheesh. If those people had to pull six blog posts a week out of their own proverbial, they might think again before giving me a hard time. 

So this week the Desk of the NDM presents a simple Ten Step Guide to blogging, just to show those naysayers exactly how complicated the blog-writing process is. “What’s that, NDM?” the naysayers will say. “Simple and complicated? This is more confusing than the first ten minutes of an episode of The West Wing.” And you know what? Those naysayers would be right for once, except blogging thankfully doesn’t require you to walk’n’talk through the corridors of power while you do it.  But I digress. 

Here goes…

STEP ONE: Choose a topic, any topic – preferably one you know something about, but not knowing a thing about something shouldn’t stop you from writing about it by any means. Just ask Lord Archer. 

STEP TWO: Take the topic and write, goddamit. Write as if your life depended on it. Or, alternatively, write in fits and starts throughout the day with small children dangling off you like christmas decorations.  

STEP THREE: Publish that sucker in the hope that someone might read it.

STEP FOUR: Notice, via the magic of the Blog Stats link, that someone has read it but they haven’t left a comment. Feel terribly insecure. And while you’re noticing things, also notice that there are two Step Threes and feel even more insecure about making such an obvious mistake. Go on. Wallow in it. Nobody likes you. You’re shit. 

STEP FIVE: Also notice there was no Step Four. 

STEP SIX (Part One): See that someone has commented and get very excited, especially if it is a comment from someone who you’ve never met and is commenting of their own free will and not because you know where they live and they feel frightened.

STEP SIX (Part Two): Realise that the comment is way funnier than your original post and feel a bit put-out. After all, you’re the one who does the funnies around here. Heal that hurt by immediately sending the commenter a message along the lines of “If you’re so witty, start your own blog.” And then worry that they really will start their own blog and won’t have time to read yours. Which will pretty much halve your readership in one foul blow. 

STEP SEVEN: Discover that someone else (your other reader) has left a comment saying how hil-ar-ious the post was and how much they look forward to reading future posts. To a blogger of your calibre, there’s only one thing worse than silence and that is praise: now there are expectations to be met. 

STEP EIGHT: Return to step one, choosing a topic, but with the weight of all that expectation, along with that snotty two year old, on your shoulders. Consider joining a cult, homeschooling your children or maybe doing some housework for a change just so you have something to write about. But then realise doing any of those things will mean you won’t have any time for blogging (particularly the housework). Ah the irony, the irony… 

STEP NINE: Give up on the idea of finding fresh material and go all post-modern and meta-textual by writing a post about writing a post. That way no-one will know you couldn’t think of anything better to write about. 

STEP TEN: Has been removed for legal reasons. 

And that swiftly brings us to the end of this week’s NDM Guide. Yes, blogging really is that simple. And that complicated. Look, whatever you do, just don’t try it at home, okay?

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