I love Paris in the springtime…! No, wait, that’s not quite true. I love it in the very late fall, early winter. February is fantastic, lovely and quiet and grey and you can duck into those normally busy cafes in your stylish coat and have café and not be crowded. Springtime is just okay. And I don’t love it in the summer, which is the time we will be visiting, later this year.*

That’s fine. We will sweat through the markets, grouch along the queue for the Louvre, drag the kids to the plage – it’s all in good fun, and we do have a lovely flat in the south to escape to after La Grand Cité, and friends to visit, and it will be fabulous.  But before we get there, we do need to find a place to stay in the city of light, and that is my job. What is also my job is to manage the expectations of the man of the house.

(HA!)

So, I am faffing about on VRBO.com (as I do many evenings, regardless of upcoming trips), and I spy a very few places that might fit a snug budget for four people; and I mention them to K, and suggest that they may fit the bill, but point out that they mean we may have to sleep in the same large, unforgiving room as our kids.

“Well, forget that,” he says. “No way. We’ve got to have a separate room.” I return to VRBO, not unhappily. There are artists’ lofts! There are designer pads! There are Chic, Stunning Abodes in the 4th! Oh wait, he doesn’t want to spend our next three months’ mortgage payment on three nights in Paris, the bastard.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume that, because he is a man of a certain age (ie, 36), and of a certain salary and responsibility level, that because the state of Colorado  has actually entrusted him with a driver’s licence (no, really), that he must be a man of a certain amount of intelligence, of let’s-face-it a certain amount of NOUS, and he gets that there is about a drippy snowball’s chance in hell of us finding a nice roomy affordable place to stay in Paris in July.

Then, let’s chuck that out the window, as he tells me: “Don’t worry about finding a place with an extra bedroom, because that would cost more. Just get a place with a balcony! That’s how we can get extra space without paying for it, in a Paris holiday rental in high season. No one else will figure out this clever trick, where you rent a Paris flat in July that has a balcony and they don’t realise that a balcony is a good selling point that they could charge extra for. What a genius I am.”

And then weep for me, because I bloody well had kids with this man.

* And we’ll be in London July 13-16th, ish, with kids. Anyone fancy a drink? A snack? A nice long supper with excellent conversation and fascinating guests? (Okay, yes, that was unrealistic.) How about a PLUS GRANDE BLINKS DU MONDE, in London? I want to. My husband wants to. You know you want to.

My husband travels a fair amount, and so I often find myself at home alone with the children (and, as often as possible, without the children). For the most part, this is fine – it’s a quiet neighbourhood, but not exactly suburban; I feel neither isolated, nor trapped in some sort of urban jungle. I can sleep peacefully and I don’t worry.

Every so often, though, I read something dodgy before bedtime; usually Stephen King, JP Lovecraft or occasionally something from The Weird. This would be perfectly fine if husband was home – men deal with strange noises in the night, so if the worst happens after dark I reason that he can act as a human shield while the children and I escape. No good when he’s in Brazil though. So on those rare nights I’m alone and nervous, I make myself feel better by taking the telephone upstairs with me, and my pepper spray as well; depending on how jumpy I am, I have also brought a golf club to put beside my bed, and even once, a large carving knife (not my finest hour, I’ll admit). It’s all a bit silly in the cold light of day, but it makes me feel better knowing I am prepared. I visualise myself hearing someone breaking into the house, and me grabbing my phone and weapon of choice, and defending myself and my children, Kill Bill-style.

So on Wednesday early morning, with husband thousands of miles away, I was awakened by the sound of my front door opening downstairs, and some heavy feet clumping down the hallway.

As you can imagine, I sprang into action! I grabbed the phone, called 911, readied my pepper spray and confronted the intruder…well, no, actually, I didn’t do any of that. Despite being prepared – despite planning for this very scenario – despite having my vulnerable babies in the rooms next to me – what I actually did was this: I stumbled downstairs in my underwear, confused, and called out to the vicious intruder: “Um…hello?” 

(Now we all know: THIS is why they have scenes like this in stupid horror films, where the hapless victim walks straight into the path of her attacker. It’s because it’s TRUE TO LIFE.)

Anyway, if you’re thinking there will be some horrifying Saw-like ending to this tale, you will be disappointed, as it turns out my intruder was only the teenager from across the street I’d asked to feed the cats while we were away – he just got the day wrong. I now have proof that I will be entirely useless in an emergency situation, but on the bright side at least the experience left me nowhere near as traumatised as poor 14-year-old Liam, who I suspect will be in therapy for some time.

Twice in the past few days, I have been out with my children and another mother has seen fit to tell them off. AIBU? Wait for the dripfeed before you answer.

The thing is, both times they were not around any other kids. They were in kid-places, but by themselves. Both times, they were arguing, and both times they were whacking each other.

The first time, I was sitting about 20 feet away on a bench reading Shirley Jackson’s first novel, The Road Through The Wall*, and I looked up bemusedly to see a woman my own age rebuking E for whacking her brother for some real or imagined slight. (Brother was holding up his own end nicely, I thought, but he is a little smaller.) I was so surprised by the whole business that I failed to march over there shouting “OI!” and threatening to punch her for questioning my child. After a few seconds of feeling affronted but not enough to find my bookmark and get up, I decided that it probably takes a village (even if some people in the village are a bit soft), and went back to my chapter. (I think E mostly stopped after this, though frankly her little brother is an adorable and astonishing little fecker and usually deserves a thumping, which sadly I don’t feel able to give him.)

The second time was today, and oddly I can’t even remember the specific occasion but the two of them were fighting quite equally and getting on with things nicely and some woman told them to stop and I was a little ways away, but hardly off in the distance. I was again surprised but didn’t really engage with the weirdo.

Is it really so odd that a brother and sister (honestly, you wouldn’t need a degree course in my family to know this, they look like bloody twins) will thump each other from time to time? And that really, unless they are so unevenly matched that blood has been drawn, you should just leave them to it? Am I the only person who grew up with a sibling, or is it truly awful to see kids giving each other a bit of a whack? We weren’t in church or Waitrose or anything.

More to the point, what would you give me to post this on AIBU on Mumsnet so you could watch the resulting bunfight?

* So far it’s not bad, but I’ll need to be further along before I can recommend it or not

I’m trying to write a piece aimed at the US market and it has a gun joke in it, and it occurred to me that the gun joke wouldn’t go over very well right now, so soon after the Trayvon Martin verdict. So I will have to hold onto it for a couple of weeks before submitting.

(Yes, I know I could take the gun joke out, but it kind of needs to be there.)

And then I starting thinking that, given the events of the past year, with the Aurora shooting and Sandy Hook and so on, there may be another gun incident during that time, and then I’d have to hold on submitting it even longer. So then I started hoping that there wouldn’t be another mass shooting or senseless gun death in the next couple of weeks in the US so that I could submit my piece.

Sadly, I think this is normal behaviour in this country.

Was a bit of a disappointment, on my part.

I was all set to do it. I was all set to Say My Piece, Call A Spade A Spade, and Drag the Elephant in the Room Out Into the Open to Clear the Air. I was ready to ask the unanswerable – namely, why do people let their dogs bark all the fecking time? But alas it was not meant to be, and I blame that on the Jell-O Vodka Shots made by B (owner of a teeny, tiny doggie named something like Fluffy-or-other), the brandy slushies made by C (owner of a nice big hairy retriever) and various other neighbours, many of whom do not own dogs (barking or otherwise) but all of whom are my new bestest friendsh forever following our five-hour marathon Memorial Day get-together and I really – er – sorry, what were we talking about, again?

Everyone here is so nice. Really, properly, nice in a good and decent way, even our nice new neighbour friend around the corner who the good vipers of Mumsnet would swear up and down was trying to get something fruity going with my husband, but who probably isn’t. (You don’t get something fruity going using choc chip cookies and longlonglonglong stories about your school run commute, not unless there is something sadly wrong with you.)

And, let’s face it, no real confrontation was ever going to happen anyway, was it? Anyone who remembers Class Repgate from last year knows exactly what a cowardly turncoat I am, and that I would have chickened out in the end. I even went to Class Rep’s pool party yesterday and shamelessly complimented her on the cake. All mouth and no trousers, that’s me. Woof woof.

* actually, I’m not sure what happened to the mint juleps. Maybe the kids drank them all. Maybe the dogs did?

* My neighbours, J and J across the street, have tiki torches. I want these torches. To be more precise, I am insanely, ferociously, horrendously jealous of these tiki torches. I don’t just covet them. I don’t just hate my neighbours for having them, even though I could go out and buy them any time I like. I want to sneak over after they go to bed and steal them. I want to risk my good relationship with J and J, my reputation, my entire STANDING IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, to have the tiki torches.

* To be fair, I don’t have any standing in the neighbourhood. My neighbourhood reputation – if there is one greater than “woman whose car leaves oil stains on the road” – is probably that of the person who is Not Very Indulgent of Barking Dogs. I am not very indulgent at all of barking dogs, so much so that I am willing to call the City on people who seem to think that barking dogs are okay to hear approximately 1,000 times per half hour. I HATE barking dogs. Why are so many people tolerant of them? I do not know, but will endeavour to find out after several Mint Juleps at this weekend’s Neighbourhood Get-Together on Monday, when many owners of Repeatedly Barking Dogs will be in attendance. And I will ask them: WHY??? And they will shuffle away, slowly.

* I am reading a book on garden design, and I have ordered plantation shutters for the house, and I have a very pretty new road bike. I am just about the most completely suburban middle-class woman you are ever going to find in your entire life and I should be put in a museum to preserve me, if only so that future generations can avoid making the same mistakes. How on earth did this happen? And, did it happen to Graham Norton at the same time, because he seems to be a lot like a middle-aged woman these days? I’m so sorry, Graham – I thought you were destined for better things. If you like, I’ll give you my contact at Hunter Douglas.