Virtual Birthday and Clip Show

Happy 1st birthday, Secrets of the Sandpit

Happy 1st birthday, Secrets of the Sandpit

I realised today that I missed my blog’s first birthday. It was a few days ago I think. Although I am a little late, I didn’t want to let this milestone gone by unmarked, and so I present you with the dreaded “clip show” episode. You know the one: you sit down with a mug of tea and some biscuits/chocolate/crisps/cake to enjoy your favourite show, and instead of a proper story you get little snippets of episodes gone by to remind you of what has gone before. Annoying, right? Well, buckle up because this is a ‘greatest hits’, if you will – the best, most relevant, most ignored or most read of Secrets of the Sandpit. Celebrate its birthday with me by taking a look around and reminiscing on the first year of my blog’s life. May there be many more!

Sandpit. Best thing ever.

Sandpit. Best thing ever.

So, to start at the very beginning, you can read my very first post here, in which I explain what the “sandpit” is all about. A year ago when I started this blog, the Boy would express his extreme excitement about The Best Things Ever by exclaiming “sandpit!”. In fact, if you look in the side bar you can see my running log of things that elicited this response over the past year. Faithful readers will have noticed that the list stopped growing about six months ago. He has sadly grown out of “sandpit!” and now just tells us “love-a guinea pigs” or “That’s a fun filled fest!” for special occasions. He has grown up so much over the past year, and his language has developed massively. I marvel every day at how long his sentences are getting and how complex, at his awareness of his own bilingual-ness and his ability to express his emotions in words. My Boy is three and is becoming a whole grown up little person.

My blog has changed over the past year as well. Like most people, I started writing with only a vague idea of what the ‘flavour’ would be. It began as a more durable log of funny things the Boy had said and done, not wanting all his best material to get swallowed up by Facebook. In fact, sometimes my posts were actually no more than a slightly longer status update.

Soon themes began to emerge, though:

* The Girl, who is only a month older than Secrets of the Sandpit, inspired me to  share the reality of breastfeeding in the hope of helping other Mums who were having a very tough start but nevertheless wanted to carry on, as well as pregnant women who wanted to be properly prepared.

* I started using my blog to follow my Boy’s language development, especially how he was coping with growing up bilingual.

* I also began a monthly children’s book review, as a way of sharing my love for children’s literature. The first one is here but you can read the others by clicking on ‘Children’s books‘ in the menu at the top. Keep an eye out for the next instalment this coming Monday!

* Then I went a little bit crazy and decided to reinvent education, which I got so excited about that I started a whole separate blog about it called Clean Slate. As The Caterpillar says in Alice in Wonderland, you should start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop.

* Thursday became poetry day courtesy of Prose for Thought. It has become one of the highlights of my week, turning my thoughts on family, sleeplessness, changes, identity, God and Weetabix into poetry, experimenting with form, verse and imagery.

* Other voices turned up and wanted to put their two cents in, like the Boy on play, the cats on the rules of the house and the Girl, updating us on the l33t skills she is learning in Life Game.

A year in, how is Secrets of the Sandpit doing in the playground? Well, like her author, she is not the most popular kid in school, but she has a group of faithful, close friends she hangs out with on play dates and sleepovers, that she can turn to for advice and pass notes to in class when the teacher isn’t looking. She also had one amazing day of fame when my Guide to Cbeebies was picked as Mumsnet blog of the day and a gazillion people dropped by to read it.

So happy birthday, Secrets of the Sandpit! I look forward to what the next year will bring.

Thanks for the cake, it was deeeeeeeelicious.

Thanks for the cake, it was deeeeeeeelicious.

Meet all my blog-friends over at Vic Welton’s place for her weekly Post Comment Love.


Where are the cuddles of yesteryear?

Hello Interworld,

I’m not usually much of a talker. Human 2 jokes it is because I feel embarrassed about my effeminate meow, but really it’s because I’m such a hard-ass that I don’t need to talk. I just glare, and that says enough. Yeah.


I find myself here, in the Wendy house in the garden on a Saturday, thinking.

The humans are gone and have employed a minion to put out food for us. Like that is all we are to them. Supplicants in need of food. Let me tell you something, Humans. I can catch my own food. You know that severed pigeon wing by the french windows? Yeah, that was me. I ate the rest of the bird. Thought I’d leave you the crunchy bit as a treat. Not my fault if you don’t appreciate the delicacy. And you know all those tiny mice by the back door? Yep, me again. I can catch bigger ones, but thought I’d start you on the small ones to see if you like them, like a taster. Why did you shudder and chuck them in the bin? Ingrates.

My point is (it got a bit lost – this is also why I don’t talk/write much) that I don’t hang around here for the food. To be honest – sorry to have to break this to you – your food is a bit crap. Just because it says “with fish” on the box, doesn’t mean those dry pellets taste in any way like the raw, salty, slithery deliciousness that is an actual fish. You’d know if you bothered to taste the things yourself. At least Tiny Human is prepared to try our food and see if it is worthy of such amazingly wonderful creatures (that’s us, me and FatCat). She would let you know, too, except a) you always stop her before she can get to the bowls and b) she can’t speak your language yet.

So why do I stick around here? This is why:

ThinCat asleep

1. Your beds are comfy. Comfier than this plastic house you have put up in the garden (why? it is small, there are no soft furnishings and the tap doesn’t work, have you noticed?)

DSCF43862. At night, when you sleep, we use your laptop to surf the Internetz and charge our iPhones.

IMG_09283. Snuggly duck. Don’t need to say any more, I think.

cat hug4. But really, above all else, this is why. This is why we decided to stay. You made me feel safe again. You gave me a home. Now you are always holding Tiny Human. Why procreate? The world doesn’t need more humans, you are already taking up far too much space and you’re overcooking all the fish.

If you are a human reading this, and you are considering procreation, don’t. Just go home and hug your cat. See picture for the correct technique.

I will press publish now and hope that Human 2 sees this when she gets home and feels VERY GUILTY and put Tiny Human in her tiny cage and gives me lots of cuddles. There, I’ve said it.

hugs & kisses,


Letter to the New Lodger




We were already acquainted, Medium-sized Human, but it seems from the number of objects in the house that carry your scent that you are here to stay now. First of all, respect to you. We are impressed. You have managed what we have consistently failed to achieve over the past ten months and turfed Tiny Human out of our favourite room and claimed it for your own. How did you do that? Was it a particular pitch of meow? Did you rub yourself against Human 1 and 2’s legs a lot? Or did you just poo in the corner of the room? We must swap tips some time.

So, it occurs to us that this is our opportunity to start afresh with a new, unspoiled human. Human 1 and Human 2 are beyond hope and have gone completely off the rails (is there a Supernanny for training your humans?), but for you there is still hope. These are your instructions, please follow them closely.

1. Food
We will let you know when it is meal time. Our meal time, that is. Don’t worry, we realise you’re only a beginner, so we will make it very clear: when we want food, we’ll bite your hand. This is your sign to put food in the bowl. And please go and find us those cat biscuits in the yellow bag. The food in the purple bag is disgusting. It is also perfectly acceptable to leave out a saucer of milk – where ever you like really, we don’t mind jumping up on the table.

Wrong and vile.

Wrong and vile

1a. BBQs

You humans go on and on about being kind and sharing, but you cook meat in the garden and when we gratefully come to sit up at the table you chase us off, like we’re doing something wrong? Seriously, what do we keep you for? Also, Human 1 completely overcooks the meat. Just warm it through and serve it up, thanks.

2. Inside and outside

This situation where we have to get you Humans to open doors for us all the time is utterly ridiculous. You never respond in a timely fashion to our demands and sometimes the door seems to be stuck or something and we end up outside for hours on end, especially around meal times. This has to change. Medium-sized Human, your first mission will be to get rid of all doors. Yes, all of them. The door to Front Land and the door to Back Land, and all those doors inside the house that stop us getting into rooms where we want to snooze, and especially the door to the study because Thin Cat keeps getting trapped inside.

This ought to do it.

This ought to do it.

3. Sleeping

You seem to think you have claimed that room Tiny Human used to sleep in, but of course, you are wrong. A casual sniff around the place will confirm that we have actually left our scent everywhere and, rightfully, we are allowed to sleep there. But we’re nothing if not considerate: you can curl up on one corner of the futon and we’ll have the rest. We can do sharing, even if you can’t.

4. Love

FYI: This is a hint. You must stroke me.

FYI: This is a hint. You must stroke me.

You must give us love. When Fat Cat appears on the sofa next to you, this is your cue to start stroking his fur until he decides he has had enough. This is very important. You should always let the cat signal when enough love has been given. You are to continue stroking our fur until that time. Also, all this moaning and whining about our claws in your leg and how it hurts and so on – come on. Pull yourself together. You should feel privileged to have such beautiful creatures choose to jump up onto your lap.

Great. Now that we have got all of this straight, I think we can say: Welcome to your New Home.

NB: Please note that you are here on probation and on sufferance and if at any time we find you are not adhering to these stringent rules-slash-guidelines we reserve the right to evict you by use of claws. Your possessions will be retained for sleeping on.

Locked in

J'accuse, Humans.

J’accuse, Humans.

Dear Emma,

(Is that what you call yourself, or is that just what your owners call you?)

Normally we don’t really care about humans. They are a necessary evil and we make do with what we’ve got. But when we read about you on the Interwebz, Thin Cat and I recognised your plight. We were agreed: we had to contact you somehow and help. We know about being locked in a room.

For any cats reading this who don’t already know, Emma is a human (but an okay one, I bet she wouldn’t be too strict about mealtimes/-frequency) who got ill, had to have some horrible pill that makes you glow in the dark, and now they’ve tricked her into a room and locked the door (sound familiar? Yeah, thought so) and left her there for days. You can picture the scene: lack of familiar smelling comfies, no access to grass if you need to puke up a fur ball, poor litter facilities and worst of all: scheduled meal times with no opportunity to supplement. Also, she has to stay away from her kittens for ages, or they’d start to glow in the dark too. I’m sure that is terrible, although I wouldn’t know as I used to be a tomcat before I misplaced my genitalia.

So, Emma, here comes the important bit.

How to escape

Read these instructions very carefully, this is all the acquired wisdom of two wily cats from a house with some very tricksy humans.

1. Meow mournfully and scratch at the door. If you’re very lucky, the human on duty will be Very Dumb and just think “Oh poor kitty” and open the door. Then make a run for it.

2. Watch the humans carefully when they bring you food. Where does the food come through? There must be a door or a hatch. Next time they come with some horrible mush, bite the hand that feeds you and crawl through the flap to freedom.

3. Leave a really smelly poo in an inconvenient corner. With any luck, the human who has to come and clean it up will be so busy berating you for being so disgusting he’ll forget to close the door. Hey presto, you’re out.

4. Where does the air come in through? This is the ninja option. There is probably a small opening that lets in air. Make yourself very flat and push your way through. Then it’s just a simple matter of walking along window ledges, scrambling up to the rooftops and from there it’s plain sailing from rooftop to rooftop to the nearest fishmonger.

5. Hide under the bed. The human on duty will get suspicious when they can’t see you, open the door to investigate and you can run out between their legs.

6. Last one is probably the most obvious, you’ll have thought of this yourself but we’ll just mention it for completeness: chew through the cables that connect to the TV, sick up on the exposed wires, cause a short circuit that knocks out the lights and the automatic locking mechanisms, when the doors click open push your way through, run down the stairs (not the lift as it will be out of order of course silly) and out through the front door.

Great. Hope that helps. As I said, we make a point of never getting too friendly with humans as a rule (for what happens if you do, see my earlier reference to my missing bits), but you sound alright so when you get out, feel free to come and visit us in our garden. But no weeing, only we’re allowed to do that on our turf. I’m sure you understand.

Love and kisses,

Fat Cat and Thin Cat

PS The Intertubes are crazy. You write someone a personal letter and suddenly the entire world wants to add little messages of their own. If you really must, click on the links below to read things that will hopefully help keep your spirits up in captivity. Just don’t forget to escape.

PPS If anyone out there is reading this and you too are locked in and need to get in touch for more ideas, we’re on Twitter as @fatcatthincat.

PPPS News has reached us that our letter has been retroactively effective! Emma has escaped! On day 3 of isolation, after excessive drinking, peeing, washing and other perfectly normal activities humans feel squeamish discussing for some reason, Emma’s radiation emission levels dropped unexpectedly to 700, meaning she was safe to be let out. [That’s the official version, we believe she went for option 5 and her captors were so embarrassed they hushed it up]. She still cannot come within 1-2 metres of any cat (or human) but has gone home and been given estimated dates for cuddles with her husband on 5th June, 6yr old Bunny on 11th June and 1yr old twins on 16th of June! This is 6 days early and for any bloggers going to Britmums Live or the BiB awards ceremony… She will see you there.

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Pecking Order

Back in the days when we didn’t have children, we talked about our cats. Friends would come for dinner and tell us cute stories about their kids, which we would counter with: “Oh yes, Fat Cat does the exact same thing!” I’d like to say we were making some ironic comment on parents not being able to talk about anything other than their progeny, but really it was just that we were crazy about our cats and viewed them rather like children. We didn’t think our friends were boring – we thought we were joining in the conversation by sharing cat-anecdotes. Yes, we were those people.

Anyway, soon after getting our cats we observed that there was a very definite hierarchy in the house, evident from the cats’ perception of who the food belonged to. We had been warned before they came to live with us that our new cats should see us eat first, so that they knew who was boss. This was sound advice, I’m sure, but could not be combined with all the other instructions we got from the Cattery about keeping them locked in one room on their own to begin with so they could acclimatise. It was thus that the pecking order was established.

Fat Cat – unsurprisingly – established himself as Alpha Cat. He made sure he ate first, and if Thin Cat tried to eat from the same bowl he got nudged out of the way. If Fat Cat finished before Thin Cat, he would nudge him away from the second bowl too and clean that one as well. Was Thin Cat second in command? By no means. Although Fat Cat quite happily jumped up onto the dining table to steal our food, Thin Cat would cower in a corner and watch. Thus we discovered that this was how the cats saw our family hierarchy:

Alpha: Fat Cat
Beta: Husband
Gamma: Me
Delta: Thin Cat

When I got pregnant, we joked that our new arrival would end up being Epsilon Cat, because Fat Cat would not think he was much of a threat.

We were wrong.

Our son went straight to the top of the tree – everyone else’s dinner had to wait while he was fed. There were interesting milky smells, but the cats were not allowed near. The baby’s needs always superseded the cats’ and he monopolised our laps. Our son was Alpha Cat. He ate first. And everyone moved down, demoting poor Thin Cat to Epsilon status.

Now that the Toddler eats like normal people, he has moved down to his proper place at the bottom of the pile. He is the sucker that will fill up the cats’ bowls to overflowing at random times of the day, because he just loves watching them eat. I think the cats nIMG_0928ow see him as their personal slave. Fat Cat does not hesitate to jump up and try to take over his dinner, oblivious to his stern remonstrations of “No, naughty Pike, S food.”

What happened when the Baby was born, you ask? The cats don’t seem to have the same kind of reverence for her that they had for our firstborn. They’ve got babies pegged now: they just turn into big humans and so become your willing food-dispensing slaves. They look at her and wait. One day she will be able to reach the bag of cat biscuits, and when she does, they will be right there.

So the pecking order has gone back to normal, with Fat Cat at the top, the humans in the middle in descending order of height, and Thin Cat dead last, now Zeta Cat.

Or is he? The other day he was up on the table licking the pate off my toast while my back was turned. We’d better keep an eye on him – he may be staging a coup…

In which Thin Cat Suffers

7am. The Toddler is feeding the cats endless handfuls of dry cat food until their bowls are overflowing. The cats are appreciatively nomming away, their tails relaxed on the floor. The Toddler spots them and wants to see what happens when you step on tails. What happens is that Thin Cat runs away as if the hounds of hell are after him and hides under the table in the dining room.

The Toddler is in pursuit.

Toddler: Oh Mummy, quick! Catch Thin Cat! Thin Cat! Eten [food]!

He spots the cat hiding under the table.

Toddler: Cat tafel [table]. Naughty cat. Thin Cat eat. Not hiding table.

He crawls under the table to retrieve the cat, who runs off, back to the kitchen. The Toddler is once again in pursuit.

Toddler: Yes! Cat honger [hungry]!

As soon as Thin Cat sees the Toddler coming, he runs back to the dining room to hide under the table once more.

Toddler: Haha! Fun! Catch you!

Peers under table.

Toddler: Boo! Dinosaur, grrrrr.

Toddler: Oh, gone!

Cats post-baby

I have to admit that my relationship with Fat Cat in particular has become a little more fraught – since my son was born, but certainly since baby number two has appeared on the scene.

My main complaints:
1. He makes a mockery of my authority in front of the Toddler, by refusing to do as he is told. Usually this is: “Get off the table, cat. This is people-food, not cat-food.” The Toddler then gleefully joins in the Cat Reprimanding: “No, Pike. Not tafel. Mensen. Not cat. Tout poes.” [No, Spike. Not table. People. Not cat. Naughty cat.] Fat Cat just continues to sit on the table, staring at our breakfast in the hope that we will eventually share, and as I am usually feeding the baby at the time I don’t have a free hand to follow through on my cat-discipline.

2. TMI, I am sure, but my left nipple is rather badly injured from early breastfeeding issues. To aid with the healing I wear a special wound dressing thing as well as a regular breast pad. While feeding I carefully put this gel pad to one side, away from toddlers. Fat Cat will jump onto the arm of the sofa and put a big old paw on top of it. GRAAAARGH!

3. When the baby is not in it (thank goodness), he jumps into the moses basket and makes it a comfy bed, leaving it coated in cat fur.

4. My feeding pillow is an inflatable travel one. While I am feeding the baby, he will frequently come up to me and lovingly stick a claw into the pillow. It now has a slow puncture.

5. When Fat Cat feels it is dinner time (which is any time after about 3pm), he gets very aggressively affectionate towards anyone who might feed him. The Toddler does not have a finely honed sense of when it is safe to pet Fat Cat and when there might be claws, so this time of day is rather stressful for busy Mummies who are breastfeeding and also trying to keep their toddler safe.

You see a pattern, I am sure: cats and toddlers are just hard to manage while breastfeeding. All in all, I find it so much easier to feed Fat Cat and then encourage (chuck) him out of the house until dinner time. And then perhaps after dinner until bedtime.

Thankfully, my husband sticks up for the poor cat and gives him lots of love and attention in the evenings.