Category Archives: movies

For The Birds

The sun came out and the snow melted and the hour went on, and suddenly children were playing together after school and I was chatting with my neighbours and we all remembered that this is what it’s like, life, when we emerge from our carapace of winter and interact with each other again like human beings.

Carapace is a good word. Everyone should use it.

Onwards. I have a story for you.

Mabel is currently in a phase. This particular phase is quite annoying. (I believe all phases are annoying. The ones that aren’t, we call maturity and/or good parenting, and are delighted about; until they disappear, and then we call the disappearance a phase.) She won’t go to the bathroom alone, she screams blue murder if you try to leave while she’s in there, and she won’t stay upstairs or downstairs alone either. She blames her father. (So do I. Why wouldn’t I? Her genes are 50% his, so it’s a good bet.) Specifically, she blames him for encouraging her to watch North By Northwest with him a few weeks ago. She seemed to like it at the time, but apparently some scenes were a little too tension-filled for her liking, and suddenly she’s scared of people bursting through walls while she poos, or something.

I suspect that if she hadn’t happened to watch North By Northwest there’d be something else she’d be pinning this new fear on. I think it’s just something that has come over her and it’ll go away in a few weeks. But that’s no comfort at 4am when she’s just noticed that I’m not in her bed any more and she can’t go back to sleep without me. (Did I mention that part? The part where she won’t sleep without me either. She won’t sleep without me, or at least not as soon as she rolls over and finds me missing.)

However! Silver lining! Today there they were watching Word Girl in their post-school veg-out TV time (and it’s educational! PBS for the win!) when suddenly I heard her laugh and exclaim, “It’s just like Daddy’s film. They’re climbing up Mount Rushmore!”

So obviously, having a pint-size movie critic who can already recognize an homage (say it in French: ohm-ahj, like the Americans do) to Hitchcock at 6 years of age is clearly worth all that time spent standing as directed in the corner of the bathroom beside the vent while she pees. I’ll just send the husband in next time, since it’s all his fault.

50 Shades of Judgement

I’m going to do something risky here. I’m going to have opinions on a book I haven’t read and a film I’m not going to see, which is primarily concerned with stuff I’m not into. But bear with me because there’s a point I really want to make.

I honestly will not judge anyone for reading 50 Shades of Grey. Just for curiosity value, for titillation, for fun, whatever. It’s nice to read good writing, but if you’re enjoying whatever it is, hey, it’s just words on a page. I’m not going to claim it’s all Nabokov and Joyce on my bookshelf.

Same goes for seeing the movie. I don’t care if you go to see it. I like seeing attractive people doing sexy stuff as much as the next girl. Or boy.

But here’s the thing. It’s such a mass event now that a lot of people are going to be reading about or seeing things that they haven’t really ever considered before. Suddenly everyone’s talking about BDSM without even knowing, quite possibly, exactly what that stands for. Did you know that it’s an amalgam standing for all of “bondage and dominance, sado-masochism, and dominance and submission”? I didn’t know that either, till about two days ago.

There’s another reason why people in Ireland may suddenly have become more familiar than they ever wanted to be with these terms, and I want to tell my American readers about it because the timing is ironic. While teddybears with handcuffs are being advertised all over my Facebook page, there’s a court case going on in Dublin involving the murder of a vulnerable woman (allegedly!) by a man who (seemingly!) has admitted (in text messages that have not, I suppose, yet been proven categorically to come from him) that his major turn-on would be stabbing a woman during sex. Whatever the exact details, and I don’t want to be sued and I’m not a lawyer, it’s pretty clear that this woman was looking for love in all the wrong places.

Here’s the thing, though. We’ve known for a long time that Ana’s relationship with Christian is not healthy. But the flip side is that the real BDSM community is going to suffer from all this ignorance. Now, people who didn’t even know what it was before are under the impression that BDSM is all about cruelty, exploitation, intimidation, and unhealthy relationships. Again, not something I know a lot about from personal experience, but from what I’ve read this is exactly what BDSM is not supposed to be. It’s about ultimate trust and respect, on both sides. It’s about being comfortable with your sexuality, whatever that may be. It’s about give and take.

BDSM is not about abuse. 50 Shades is about abuse. Sometimes people get the wrong idea and then often something terrible happens. Please don’t let the way 50 Shades is suddenly all mainstream lead to spreading the wrong idea even further.

That’s really all I wanted you to take home from this. Thanks for reading.

Generation gap

I got into a conversation on Twitter today, as you do, with a total stranger who mistook The Princess Bride for The Princess Diaries.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

What happened was, there was this high-lair-ious hashtag going on called #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly, so after a little thought I contributed the following:

Well, I thought it was excellent. I sat back and waited for the accolades to roll in.

All I got was some bloke saying “Which film is that?”

I was going to be snarky, but then maybe I thought maybe it wasn’t as clear a reference as it was in my head, so I just told him. He said “Ah, and I’ve seen that.” And then “Have you seen the second one?” And then “I was totally thinking of Princess Diaries.”

“Very different film, Ted”, I replied, scathingly, prepared to close the door on this sorry encounter by puzzling him out of existence, but he actually got the Father Ted reference, so I let him be.

Still, this whole thing demonstrates a serious problem in our society. It’s called the Princess Bride Generation Gap. There are people like us, the sensible people who saw the film when it came out, or a few years later, as teenagers or young adults, and loved it, because to see it is to love it, and quoted it and delighted in it. And there are our children, who are growing up in the soft light of Rob Reiner, because all is right with the world and what child wouldn’t enjoy a film with swashbuckling and a princess and torture and a miracle man and a cast in a million.

But in between there are people who grew up in no-man’s-land, neither fish nor flesh, who have discovered the film neither in its first flush nor as a retro delight; people who are between perhaps 15 and 30 years of age.

It is our responsibility, nay, our duty, to bring this film to these poor benighted individuals, lest they go through their lives unbrightened by it, unable to understand the references and the quotes and the people who talk about land wars in Asia and bwessed awwangements.

But we must do it carefully, surreptitiously, leaving tiny clues for them rather than pushing them into it, so that they think they came to it themselves, all unawares. Because nothing’s worse than the stuff people 15 years older than you think is cool. Those people have terrible taste and no sense of irony.

This is your mission. Gather your holocaust cloaks, friends, and begin.


[Only the vaguest of spoilers here. Read on without fear.]

As I may have mentioned, we saw Frozen over Thanksgiving weekend.

Before that Friday, the fact that there was a new Disney was barely on my radar, since we don’t watch normal TV where such a thing would be being rammed down the throats of my suggestible little sponges in constant ads and trailers and merchandising.

However, since Mabel’s dental appointment was followed by a trip to the princess aisle of Target, it didn’t escape our notice that there were two new dolls on the shelves – and as a result all the old ones were highly discounted, so she got a toddler Ariel for a tenner and that was lovely. But we did, therefore, know that there was a new movie with two princesses.

As a result of this, of course, Dash was reluctant, because he has lately come down hard on the anti-princess side of things. (He has also turned against the Ponies. Mabel is very sad about this, but he is unrepentant.) We basically had to force him out of the house, and even then he sat grumpily for the first forty minutes or so and was only retained in his seat by the addition of an iPod on which to play Angry Birds (silently). It was worth it though, because at the first tense part, instead of being scared like Dash of Old, he was drawn in and started to love it. Boys grow up in the weirdest ways.

I dunno, maybe it’s been an awfully long time since I saw an animated movie in the cinema, but I was totally blown away. I mean, I’ve watched Tangled plenty of times, and in earlier years The Little Mermaid and Cars were pretty much on constant repeat in our house from time to time, and we’ve had a lot of The Emperor’s New Groove (unsung BRILLIANT movie, by the way), but the big screen just does something the little one can’t. I’d forgotten, or maybe I’d never discovered before, what a full-body experience it is when you sit there and let the whole thing wash over you, even as you cringe because it’s too loud for tragically old you and the five-year-old beside you. And we didn’t even see it in 3-D. (To be honest, I’m pretty sure I can’t handle 3-D.)

In traditional Disney/Pixar style (I’m thinking mostly of the beginning of Up, here) the start of the movie tugged at my heartstrings almost unbearably, as the backstory was laid out and we were shown how and why things panned out the way they did when the real action got going. Maybe I was premenstrual/menstrual/postmenstrual/female/human, but I admit I was already swallowing hard and needing a tissue. I talked to Mabel about that part today and she said she didn’t find it emotional at all, but I think she just likes to contradict me. Heartless wench.

We didn’t think the songs were as good as the ones from Tangled, but ever since, we’ve been humming them and finding them on YouTube and now they’re all stuck fast in all our heads; and probably if and when that one song wins the Oscar, even though had I not seen the film I’d be thinking it was just another obvious sappy Disney number, I’ll be delighted because damn it’s just so huge and swirling and wonderful and in my head it’s totally swept up with the images and emotions in that part of the movie and it’s downright cathartic, so it is.

 Oh dear, that was all one sentence.

Yes, the princesses are still Disney princesses, and along with their lovely hair and their impossibly big eyes, they have waists that are about 50% tinier than necessary and, you know, Disney, you could have not bought into the Barbification of imaginary women, but apparently you decided to, which irks me. And because it’s conveniently set in some Nordic-type land, there are no people of colour and the princesses are blonde and strawberry blonde respectively; but I suppose it has to be set somewhere, and Hans Christian Anderson does set a precedent.

In summation, though, you should go to Frozen because it’s really great. It’s funny and exciting and happy and sad and thrilling and it even has a good message about not hiding your true self, and the true love’s kiss is not what you expected.

Your kids will probably like it too, but bring an iPod just in case.

Big enough

One thing I’ve noticed about parenting – and hang onto your hats here, because as epiphanies go, this one’s a doozy – is that it takes a long time.

I know; rocket science is a breeze for me, right?

It’s just, you start a family and you dream about all the things you’ll do with your kids: take them to the movies, play board games together, go out to eat and have a happy family occasion… and you know it’ll be a while, because a little baby can’t do those things, but you think soon… some day soon, surely… maybe now they’re old enough…

And you try far too soon and find that your two-year-old is terrified by the noise of the big screen, or is ready to jump up and run around just when the ads are done and the feature is starting because that’s enough sitting still for one afternoon; or that your four-year-old really doesn’t want to eat anything on the kids menu and once his chocolate milk is all gone, that’s it for the restaurant outing; or that the only board games they want to play are the ones that you have to be able to read for, which they can’t do yet, and then they eat the pieces and you fish them out of their hamster cheeks and put the whole thing back on the high shelf for another year or three…

So here we are with a five and a seven and we went to the movies last week (to see Frozen) and everyone liked it and nobody wet themselves (except me, because someone had apparently just dumped a giant coke all over the seat I chose) and we stayed for the whole thing, even though it was very loud and Dash was grumpy about watching princesses. And we loved it, dammit.

And today we took out the Risk and played a short game with three players (and one play-with-the-spare-soldiers-off-the-board-er) and it was almost, dare I say it, fun for all of us, and nobody threw a fit when I won, fair and square, because I’m better at rolling dice than anyone else. (That’s probably because of the rocket-science, isn’t it?)

And the restaurant thing, well, we’re still working on that, but at least they can both play tic-tac-toe on the menu while we wait, and they can both eat some damn french fries and we usually don’t actually have to evacuate the whole show mid-mouthful any more.

So, while it was only yesterday that I had a baby, and then I had another, and I swear I don’t feel as old as I must be by now; on the other hand I feel as if I’ve been doing this for ever and shouting at these short people for a long time, and it’s about time we got to do some of this stuff because we’ve all been waiting a while now. You know?

Children looking over a low wall at the sea

The Internet: not so scary after all

D’you remember the movie The Net? Sandra Bullock, presumably alongside some forgettable male, played someone who was so plugged in to technology that she never left her house, ordered pizza on the Internet, had no friends and no outside-world contact. Your classic movie introvert geek – the it-could-never-happen-in-real-life twist, I suppose, being that she was a pretty young woman instead of a Comic-Book-Guy-esque bloke. She got mixed up in something, she made magic with her fingertips on the keyboard, the computers fizzed and popped, and lo, everything was all right in the end. She was probably even enticed out of her apartment and into the real world.*

The future looked pretty bleak though, and it was a cautionary tale for those people who might end up like Sandy. Don’t get too attached to the Internet, they told us, or you’ll lose yourself down a rabbit hole of online dating (DANGER, WILL ROBINSON) and endless cheesy pepperoni. You may even forget how to communicate with the guy who brings the pizza, and then he won’t get a tip. And then he might murder you. (Different film. Probably.)

But then there’s this.

Last week a friend of mine was having a bit of a hard time. Some other friends got together, had a quick whip-round, and bought her a present to cheer her up. She was touched and delighted. All these friends were geographically spread across three countries at the time, and most of them had never even met her, or each other, and still haven’t.

Elsewhere, a woman who has helped many parents over the past several years by providing invaluable support and information had a family crisis. There was an outpouring of love and prayers and good vibes for her situation, as a whole passel of people who have been helped by what she has done saw a chance to give back, if only with thoughts and words, a fraction of the good she has done for us.

Once upon a time there was a girl whose not-so-secret desire was to be a real writer. She still hasn’t quite got around to writing that book, but thanks to the Internet, she got to write regularly and get encouraging feedback from an array of friends and strangers, and it meant oh so much to her. Because the Internet means she is a real writer.

People on the Internet make a difference for others, without necessarily leaving their houses. They build communities, they make friends, they have real relationships and provide true, unjudgemental empathy. They also have fun dates and meet nice people and, hey, order pizza without going outside, and that works pretty well.

The Internet is not such a scary place, is what I’m trying to say. It’s growing up and turning out not so badly, I think.

* I purposely did not look up the movie (on the Internet; oh, the delicious irony) to find out more about what actually happened, lest I touch the delicate bloom of my ignorance and discover that I was completely wrong and my whole carefully constructed (ahem) argument falls apart at the seams. If necessary, you may understand that this is my imagining, from this later point, of what The Net was about. I’m positive it was Sandra B, though. That much I know.


(Format shamelessly stolen from the children’s book of the same name.)

Unfortunately, Mabel decided she didn’t want to go to school today.

Fortunately, my husband’s job is delightfully flexible, so he was able to stay with her while I set out for the run I had planned for after I dropped her off.

Unfortunately, I only got as far as the end of the road before I ran out of steam, decided fighting with Mabel had sapped the energy from my very bones, and went home again. (There probably wasn’t much energy there to begin with.)

Fortunately, this gave me plenty of time for a nice long shower with the new shower gel and to shave my legs for the first time in about a month.

Unfortunately (for Mabel), you don’t get to watch TV if you stay home for no good reason.

Fortunately, she just got a belated birthday present of some new Lego, so she was able to entertain herself pretty well all morning.

Unfortunately, I still didn’t feel like carting her to the supermarket, so I didn’t do the shopping.

Fortunately, I can probably cobble something together for dinner from what we already have, even if it’s just (not from a box) mac ‘n cheese and roasted broccoli.

Unfortunately, our babysitter can’t come this weekend so we’re not going to get to see the new Bond film as I was hoping.

Fortunately, her mom sent me the number of a friend who has three daughters who would love to babysit.

Unfortunately, Mabel won’t countenance the idea of any other babysitter.

[…Maud bursts into tears at the idea of Daniel Craig carrying on without her…]

Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture I wish to endorse here, because his magnetism does not work for me in stills. When I first saw him (in Munich, with bad hair) I couldn’t figure out why I found him so attractive, but every time he was on screen my eyes just wouldn’t look anywhere else.

Daniel Craig all sexy and dishevelled

If the picture’s not working, you can go here and feast your eyes on whichever one you like best.

Fortunately (for you), I got over it and found this one anyway. You’re welcome.

Green Card (and other movies)

Sometimes I think that blogging is exactly what’s wrong with the economy.

Okay, maybe that’s not quite it, but it seems that the free time needed to read about the minutae of other people’s lives, and maybe even write about your own, could be better used doing other things. Especially when many people who read blogs read them at work, when they are actually being paid to do other things, or should be, except that maybe they haven’t any other things to do.

Let me clarify. If you’re reading this at work, I don’t mean you, and please don’t go away. You are a boon to the economy, I’m sure. But I first started to read blogs when I was chronically bored at work, and I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason I ever read through all the archives of Amy, Kristen*, and Julia, to name a few. There I was at a desk with a computer and literally nothing to do, so my self-assigned project for the next few days became to read through someone else’s backstory. If I did have something to do, I needed to string it out, so I’d read blogs in between short bursts of work.

I’m not the only overeducated underused employee that ever existed, so I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who ever did this. I’m not the only person with a degree in English to find herself sitting behind the receptionist’s desk or waiting for someone else to schedule a meeting so that she could update a handbook that nobody would read anyway. On a global-economy scale, that’s a lot of unharnessed energy.

It occurred to me today that if I had been driven enough, lucky enough, and interested enough in something, I could perhaps be somewhere very different today, with a big fancy career and a big fancy life. (I’m very lucky and interested in various things, but I’m the first to admit that I’m not very driven.) But then, I thought, would I be any happier than I am right now?

Nope. I’m pretty much as happy as whoever Larry was. There are niggly things that I’d like to have more money to spend on – outsourcing housework, getting my hair professionally coloured, buying all my clothes from J Crew – but in the big picture, this is where I want to be. There’s the tiny issue of that hypothetical third baby, but I think in order for that to happen I’d have to go back in time and have got married a few years earlier.

Which would have required me to win the visa lottery the first year I applied instead of the third, let’s say. (You note that marrying someone else is not an option. He’s my lobster.) And maybe B and I needed those years apart to make it work now, anyway.

And then I thought, what if I’d never got the visa? The Diversity Visa Lottery is something many Americans have never heard of: the government offers a number of resident alien visas every year to countries whose emigrants have been under a certain number for the previous five years. If you’re lucky enough to be picked, once you can show that you’re reasonably employable and enough money to not be on the streets straight away (and not a communist), you get your very own green card. My chances of winning the year I did were about 1 in 100, and you’re no more likely to get picked the tenth year you enter than the first. I was lucky.

If I hadn’t got my green card when I did, I don’t know what we’d have done. B could have come home after his PhD, but to no job. I could have gone over illegally, but it’s very unlikely I would have. We could have got married straight away and I would have been legal but not eligible to work (I think), which would have made me feel that we began things on an uneven keel and under some level of duress.

It’s all very Sliding Doors-y to peer down the wrong end of the telescope at what you might have done if your life had turned a different way. And while Gwynneth Paltrow’s haircut was cute and John Hannah’s accent was dead sexy, it wasn’t a very good film, and the ending left us all feeling pretty frustrated.

It’s probably better to just work with what you’ve got and move forward as you are. As I am, damn lucky. For one thing, if anything had been even a tiny bit different, I probably wouldn’t have this to entertain you with:

*Not there; at her old, and sadly currently defunct, blogs, “Debaucherous and Dishevelled” and “Better Now”.

Summer love

I was watching Dash twirling his light-saber like a pro earlier, admiring his deft wristwork and wondering what sport, or profession, or professional sport, we could get him into to make use of this. I felt like I’d definitely seen the movements before somewhere.

Actually, I think it’s Tom Cruise in Cockail. He has a great future ahead of him as a celebrity bartender.


Mabel’s boyfriend across the road is going to Maine for the summer on Thursday. They will both be heartbroken. She ran over to his house to play this morning, which I thought was a good thing because she and Dash had been up since six, it was raining, I was baking bread, and despite too much TV, the bickering was reaching epic proportions. I saw her over the road and into the house, where she immediately jumped into bed with her BFF.  

Five minutes later, they were back here, where they played happily together until the friend wanted to get something from his house. She went with him, and I watched them toil up the wet grass to his front door in their bare feet (urchins! where are their mothers?) to make sure they were safely at their destination.

Another little while passed, until I heard voices outside. Mabel was parading down the street wearing her friend’s little brother’s lion costume from last Halloween, doing her best roars for the mailman. Her swain was hot on her tail, of course.

Later on, his mum came to retreive him, and he had to be pried bodily from the house. “Take my hand!” he wailed pitifully at Mabel, who of course was happy to comply.

After naptime (for somebody somewhere, perhaps; not for anyone in this story except the little brother who’d had his lion costume purloined – Mabel is like the opposite of a very thoughtful houseguest; she never leaves without taking something with her) and a trip to Target, the star-crossed lovers were playing together once more. They snuck into our house, but his mum came to get him, again. His granny is visiting, and would probably like to see her grandson from a closer angle now and then.

He went home. Mabel followed. I followed Mabel. They crawled under the table and held on for dear life. If they’d had a pair of handcuffs they would have chained themselves together. “See you tomorrow,” I said cheerfully as I extracted her, shrieking, and closed the heavy front door decisively behind me. Ten seconds later he was out again. Mabel jumped on her bike. He took the big plastic car. (Not the best getaway vehicle, perhaps.) Eventually his mother left the house with everything except her elder son, put him into the stroller, and they went on their way, a small head looking back, one arm still extended. “Take my hand!”

It’s all very Last of the Mohicans. “I will find youuuuuuuu.” Daniel Day Lewis eat your heart out, I’d say.


Dash was standing in the middle of the room, moving his hands somewhere near a beam of sunlight streaming through the window. After a while he came back to where I was, a little downcast:

“So far I can only use the Force on dust.”


Today he was desperately in need of some directed activity, passing the time by lifting up one side of the big armchair and even the sofa a few inches off the floor, until we were tired of telling him to put them down before they fell on him or his sister. 

“Come on,” I said. “We’re going to the pool. You need to use some of that energy.”
“I don’t want to go to the pool. I don’t have energy, I’m just getting strong by lifting things.”
“What? We’re members now, we have to go all summer. Why don’t you want to go?”
“I just don’t.”
“Well you can’t stay here and lift things all afternoon. [Lightbulb moment…] Did you know that swimming makes you strong? It’s very good for your muscles.”

Then I Googled some pictures of Johnny Weismuller and Michael Phelps. He was sold.

“Okay, let’s go to the pool.”


Lately he has taken to drawing in bed before he falls asleep. This leaves him with ink stains in odd places, but is otherwise very nice and means our stock of love notes has been replenished. I just got this one:

[Dear Mom, thank you for getting me the markers.]

Last night B went upstairs and pulled this from under a sleeping boy.

That looks to me very much like a Venn diagram, don’t you think? Showing afternoon at the conjunction of morning and ni(gh)t(e)? I was very impressed, even if the concept is a tad flawed.

I asked him what the two lower ovals were.

“That’s a butt.”
“A butt?”
“Yes, you know, the way–“
“Yes, yes, that’s fine. I’ve seen plenty. Lovely.”