Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


I Love You More than Cheese

Ten years ago yesterday, I became a parent for the first time. My tiny baby girl is now a big, beautiful ten-year-old person, who comes up to my nose and will be taller than me before she’s thirteen. I can’t believe how much I love her, and what a journey the last decade has been.

When she was born, I had no clue, only hope. Her first night home was awful – she screamed for 12 hours while I kept trying to feed her and failed because her mouth was so tiny and I had no idea what to do. She now tells me she remembers that night – how? – and that she was trying to tell me what she needed, but that I didn’t understand her baby words.

Now I understand her words, thank God, and she mine.

Recently she sent me this:

Dear Mummy,

I have no important reason to write to you.
I just love you with my heart.
You are kind and sweet.
And I love you more than cheese

I’m looking forward to lifetime of letters and love with you, my darling L.

And lots and lots of cheese.


F is for Fifteen


Married fifteen years on 1 October 2009

Tomorrow we celebrate 15 years of marriage and to celebrate, I’m breaking with the memoir theme to give you Fifteen Things I Love About My Husband.


1. Makes me laugh, and finds me funny.

2. Buys cleaning products, and uses them.

3. Is co-dependent in the book habit.

4. Not scared of the gory jobs – anything to do with toilets, vomit, dead animals, he’s the one.

5. Let me win at Scrabble twice this week.

6. Cherishes our family life.

7. Loves and keeps up with his friends.

8. Found me at least eight of my best girlfriends.

9. Enjoys answering questions like “What makes an aeroplane fly?” and “How many seconds are there in a week?”

10. Makes a salad with as much flair as he cooks a steak.

11. Does all the crafting so that I don’t have to.

12. Is a wonderful mixture of dreamy and practical.

13. Recovered our dining-room chairs in three hours last weekend.

14. Has to leave the room during key scenes of The Office.

15. Is more hot and handsome than he was when we got married.

I love you my darling. Thanks for all the years. You are my one and only.


Single and Soulful

I’m here today to introduce you to someone.

This person is a nice man. I mean a seriously nice man, who loves animals, children, plants, sunsets, beaches, fishing, walking, nature, good meals, the occasional drink, dessert, reading, music, philosophising, dreaming, conversations that go on for hours, Scrabble, card games and laughing at the absurdity of life. This is a man who cares not a jot for brands, fast cars or anything flashy. I mean he cares not a jot; I don’t mean he pretends not to care while secretly lusting after them.

He is solvent, self-employed and in his mid-thirties. He’s been in therapy and faced his demons. He has no baggage in the form of children or past marriages. He doesn’t gamble, or smoke.

This is a man who would never check his email on his Blackberry while “listening” to you, in fact, he probably doesn’t even know what a Blackberry is. He isn’t on Facebook and he hasn’t heard of Twitter. He does own a cellphone and has been known to send an email, but his job is outdoors and that is where he loves to be. Until recently, he had never left southern Africa, but is now developing a penchant for travel.

What else can I tell you?

His family are sane. (His sister, particularly, is delightful.) He is a compassionate and respectful employer. He has ideas. He gets excited about things. He finds alternative ways of living and being inspiring. People love him. Dogs and children flock to him. He has a way of listening that you makes you feel better than you really are.

Also, he is not in a relationship, and he would love to be. He would love to have a family and be a father. He hasn’t found love yet because he has dedicated the last decade to his passion – trees – and because the women in his home town like men who wear brands, drive fast cars and flash cash.

Want to see him?

Here he is:


Now with slight smile:


I think he’s gorgeous. But then I would. He’s my brother. (And if you’d like an introduction, let me know …)


Getting to Know Germany’s Top Husband

My husband is a star. He has been known to wipe vomit off my favourite pink satin shoes, he will happily take the children off for a skiing weekend and leave me alone to pick my hangnails and eat popcorn for breakfast, and he has a great sense of humour. First über-blogger Dooce did this meme, and then my good friend the very Noble Savage tagged me, so here’s a small tribute to Germany’s Top Husband.

What are your middle names?

Mine is Elise, after my maternal grandmother, and his is Witham, after family tradition. I can imagine a novel, set in the mid-nineteenth century where, after meeting at a dance, Elise and Witham fall in love, are separated for many years, then meet again, realise they have always been in love, move to Germany and have a vast brood of children.

How long have you been together?

Wow, a Maths question. We have known each other 22 years, have been officially together 17 years (there were forays, folks, during the wilderness years, but we needn’t go there) and married for 14.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?

The first time we met we were 17 and there were, oh, about 22 minutes between meeting and kissing. We dated for two weeks, I dumped him, then there was the wilderness. When we met again, I chased him mercilessly until he gave in. Elise was a shameless hussy.

Who asked who out?

Well, on the second time around, he asked me out, though he swears it was just platonic. He had just moved to Cape Town and thought he would look me up so that I could introduce him to some of my friends. Hah! I took one look and bagged him for myself. Elise was not going to let Witham slip out of her rapidly-aging fingers again – there would be no shelf for our bold heroine.

How old are you?

Both 40. He is six weeks older.

Whose siblings do you see the most?

Gawd. We both see our brothers (he has one; I have four) about once every three years. However, we are going to South Africa this year and to Greece for a family wedding, so 2009 will be Year of the Brother. Elise and Witham were devoted to their families, but sadly did enjoy the felicity of their company quite often enough.

Which situation is hardest on you as a couple?

Finding time to be alone together. Living far away from family, with no support, we have very, very few opportunities to do the kinds of things we enjoy doing together, like having long breakfasts in cafes and meandering in bookshops. We have a great babysitter for when we need nights out, but we very seldom have DAYS together. Elise missed the days when she would embroider while Witham read to her in front of a roaring fire.

Did you go to the same school?

No. I went to an institution for young ladies and he went to an institution for young barbarians.

Are you from the same home town?

Technically, no. His wandering parents lived in many, many places, and eventually landed in the South African version of the Burg, where my family had lived for generations. It was inevitable that one day, under the right circumstances, young Elise and Witham would meet.

Who is smarter?

Ooh, dangerous ground here. He beats me at Scrabble; I correct his spelling. Can we leave it there?

Who is the most sensitive?

If that means the one most likely to tear up while watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics, then me. Elise was the type to weep at the sight of a withered bloom; it was this that made Witham love her all the more.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?

Various restaurants in Heidelberg, but our special date restaurant is in the Burg. And very lovely it is too.

Where is the furthest you have travelled together as a couple?

Is the southern tip of Africa to Germany far enough? Or London to Atlanta, Georgia?

Who has the craziest exes?

I win! Bat shit is not adequate enough to describe.

Who has the worst temper?

We both tend to grumpiness and muttering and a bit of inanimate object kicking, but I think he controls his better than I control mine.

Who does the most cooking?

At the moment, me. But there have been phases in the relationship when he’s done it all.

Who is the most stubborn?


Who hogs the bed most?

Oh, that would be me. Je suis the duvet thief.

Who does the laundry?

Mostly me, but with very staunch back-up.

Who’s better with the computer?

He is.

Who drives when you are together?

He drives there, I drive back. Elise and Witham enjoyed a very even marriage, sharing responsibilities, and taking care of each other’s needs. Whenever they had dined out, Elise would happily drive the trap home, her darling snoring gently at her side.


Help My PhD Student (And Me)

I live with a PhD student. He is also a full-time worker and father of three,  so he is a fairly busy guy. With his dissertation and my novel to finish this year, 2009 is going to be interesting for us. One of the ways you could help us avoid marital strife – if you work in software – would be to fill out his survey. Please forward it to any software types you know.

The survey is to be found here.

His latest blog post about the dissertation is here.

My grateful thanks are here:



39 Things I Have Learnt

Next week, I will be 39. I am thrilled about 39. Really, I am. I’m convinced that my fortieth year is going to be the most exciting year of my life. I feel it in my bones. I sense adventure, success and happiness and I’m embracing it all with joy.

To celebrate my birthday, here are 39 Things I Have Learnt:

1. If you don’t have the time or inclination to polish your boots with polish and a brush, a baby wipe will do just as well.

2. Cooking, if you have time and sufficient inclination, is not drudgery. It is relaxing, calming, recuperative, creative and feeds people.

3. We all breathe too shallowly.

4. Walking is better for our bodies than jogging, but swimming is best.

5. The only way to keep weight in check is to balance input and output. Eating fewer carbs helps too.

6. We can’t all be famous, but if we blog, we can pretend we are.

7. Writing every day leads to writing every day.

8. There is no such thing as “finding your other half” or “being completed” by someone else – the only way to have a successful relationship is to be a whole person already.

9. Living for your family, while satisfying at the time, can be pointless if you carry on doing it after they have left home.

10. Even very old people want to have sex.

11. Empathy is more useful to another person than sympathy.

12. No one person can be “everything” to another person. We get what we need piecemeal from all the people around us.

13. Love is all around, actually.

14. Children need time and laughter from their parents far more than they need expensive stuff and trips to fun-fairs.

15. Women should stop judging each other’s choices and stand up for each other – if someone’s anti-fashion or obsessed with her looks or works or stays home with her kids or breast-feeds or bottle-feeds or eats local or eats vegetables from Kenya, you don’t have to be her friend but don’t judge her.

16. We can’t protect our children from every little hurt or wound, but we can provide a safe place for them to come home to and talk about it.

17. I am scared of global warning and the aftermath of AIDS, but I am angry about patriarchy.

18. I don’t think any woman anywhere will be truly free until no woman is raped, abused, forced to wear clothing to hide her body from the gaze of men, prevented from getting educated or expected to carry out all the home and child-care in exchange for men’s benevolence.

19. Getting out of bed to care for the children when you’d rather lounge there, eating chocolates, filing your nails and watching Friends reruns hurts, but is also rewarding.

20. Speaking your truth is brave.

21. When you do speak your truth – without the intention to wound or hurt – you are not responsible for the reaction of others.

22. Fear is a bad philosophy of life.

23. Children get far more joy out of paper, glue, scissors and paint than they do out of big shiny plastic things from the toy-shop.

24. Being passive-aggressive is abusing the truth.

25. Whether you’re a man or a woman, earning a salary is only a small part of your responsibilities.

26. Whoever earns the most money does not own the remote control.

27. Partners who ask “What can I do to help you?” are very, very sexy.

28. What goes around, comes around.

29. A half-finished household task makes a job for someone else. Always complete.

30. We don’t have “one chance to accept God into our lives”. God, or the divine, is already there – whether we like it or not and whether we believe or not. And if you don’t believe me, climb a mountain, listen to music or hear a baby’s gurgling laughter.

31. Gossip hurts both the gossiper and the gossipee.

32. Using children as a weapon is low.

31. Having good friends, even if it’s just one or two, is essential to a happy life.

32. People who use others as audience, or mirrors in which to view their own reflections, are bores and best avoided.

33. It’s better to have a warm and friendly home than a perfect one.

34. Money, while great to have, is not the be-all and end-all. Love is.

35. Shopping destroys, in more ways than one. It’s soulless, bad for the planet, addictive, pointless and far too much fun for its own good.

36. Those who abuse apostrophes should apologise.

37. People who have benefitted from an iniquitous system – Apartheid, patriarchy, national socialism – should find a way to give back.

38. There is no such thing as too many books.

39. The only way forward is with love, and a sense of humour.

(I pinched this idea from the lovely Sognatrice of Bleeding Espresso, who recently turned 31.)


December Planning

Much as I like to subscribe to a spontaneous, seat-of-the-pants style of operating that would allow me to take up an invitation to go trekking in Patagonia with five hours’ notice, I actually have to be fairly organised. I’m divided. The real me is a dreamy, peripatetic traveller armed with a notebook and some chocolate, but the current me is a busy mother of three, with a job, lots of friends, a husband who would occasionally like my attention and three lunches to pack. Reality is that I vacillate between the two poles, being either relatively organised or utterly forgetful.

I have friends who are really organised, who get their tax returns back in January, who have colour-coded wardrobes, and who have a place for everything in their homes. I admire them, but try not to compare myself. Some of those friends don’t have children (which opens up many gazillions of free hours), others have live-in help (ditto) and others don’t work. When I’m beating myself up for not being perfectly organised, I have to remind myself that everyone’s situation is unique. My strategy is always people over things, so my children get more attention than the kitchen cupboards, my friends get more attention than the laundry and my husband, when he’s here, gets more attention than, say, the mop.

So, bearing in mind that people come first, and that Christmas is no fun when Mummy’s running around in increasingly small circles emitting a high-pitched shrieking noise, here is my answer to BlogLily’s request to share my planning for December:

1. To hand in my last two pieces of freelance work on 14 December, and to not work again until after New Year.

2. To use some of those free hours to work on my new collection of short stories (one in the writing, another six in the planning).

3. To enjoy and relish the week of 17 to 21 December, during which time I must bake and prepare for Daisy’s home birthday, Daisy’s kindergarten birthday and a joint birthday party I am hosting for myself and two friends (potential guest list 50-100?).

4. To have enough, but not too much food, in the house for the week of 22 to 28 December. We won’t starve, even if we don’t have immediate access to stem ginger, mince pies and rum-dipped dates.

5. To relax and enjoy the company of my darling family, especially that of my lovely brother who is making his first-ever journey to Europe to Christmas with us.

6. To buy less stuff.

It’s all about the fun, the love, about some – but not too much – gorgeous food and, if possible, much less stuff.


Me Got Skillz

I can actually spell my very own, rather long name. I’ve always liked my name’s literary connection, however, I’m not here today to talk about Brontes or pigs. I’ve been tagged by Bine for a meme. Bine says the rules are:

List one fact, word or tidbit that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your first or middle name. You can theme it to your blog or make it general. Then tag one person for each letter of your name.

C: Cake. I am very fond of cake. Making it, eating it, dreaming about making it, reading about it, dreaming about reading about it. Right now, I’m planning my next one – a rosemary loaf cake for my husband’s birthday tomorrow. Cake is good stuff.

H: Heidelberg. Not where I live, but almost. A happy place where I have favourite views, favourite shops, favourite restaurants and favourite bookshops. A place where I like to eat cake in restaurants while reading a book and looking at a view.

A: Angels. I believe in them. See “E”.

R: Reading. My favourite pastime, a little higher on the list than cake. If I had to choose between the two, reading would win, but only just.

L: Love. I’ve got a lot of love in my life, and that makes me very lucky.

O: Otters. I loved them and then I became one. I remember reading Ring of Bright Water and sobbing my heart out. There’s an otter sanctuary in Alsace where I often take visitors, except the regulars have taken to begging me, “Anywhere but the otter park, please.” Becoming an Otter meant that my initials are now CEO, which is a very satisfactory state of affairs. I am the Chief Executive of cake.

T: Thomas. It’s his fault I’m an Otter, and that there is a brood of little Otters. Happy birthday for tomorrow darling. Hope you like your cake.

T: Oh, look, another T. Toni. My darling mother, otherwise known as the Queen. She’s not scared of a good cake.

E: Elise. My maternal grandmother, who was a wise soul and teacher. I take my second name from her. How lucky I am to have had her guidance when I was young so that I don’t have to crash around looking for the answers now. She equipped me with many of the life skills and beliefs I have today. And she loved cake too.

Now, I’ve got nine bloggers to tag. I’m going to focus on the ones doing NaBloPoMo so that they gain an extra day’s content. That would be:








Noble Savage


Ms Magic Hands




Whoops, that’s thirteen. I said I could spell; I didn’t say I could count. Feel free to spell your own name, if you want to …