English language books are hard to come by in Tuzla. English language books that I want to read are even harder. So when Virgin Books sent me a book to read in return for a post about what I thought of it, there was no way I was going to say no. Some weeks later, the Bosnian postal system taking its time on delivering the parcel, the book arrived: Instructions not included by Charlotte Moerman, tales from the frontline of bringing up three boys.
It took me a while to start the book, primarily because Adam fell in love with the cover, a cartoon depiction of life with three boys in which the eldest is shooting a water pistol at one of his brothers. 'Look Mummy' said Adam with delight, 'that's me!' and promptly took the book to bed with him gazing in awe at his new water pistol toting hero. So, Ms. Moerman, I hold you directly responsible for the drenching of my kitchen the next day.
Once I had finally wrested the book away from his sticky little hands, I stuck them all into bed, barricaded the bathroom door and ran a very deep very hot bath. Interrupted only to be given a glass of chilled white wine by Dave, and then again slightly later to have the glass replenished, I started the book.
Oh my goodness, I laughed. I knew that I was going to enjoy it as soon as I read the lines 'hell after all hath no fury than a mummy whose laboriously made fish pie has been rejected'. This, I thought, is a woman who feels the pain. I have been there. I have lost the plot over some untasted macaroni cheese. This Charlotte Moerman she knows what she is talking about.
Charlotte writes The Buggy Blogs and I'm not sure if the book was a tying together of her best and favourite posts or written from scratch. Sometimes it is a bit jumpy, moving between different times in a way that occasionally I found difficult to follow. She is also writing for other Mummies. If you didn't have children and weren't in the zone of reading Julia Donaldson books ad nauseam, then some of her writing would be pretty difficult to follow. But if you are, you will recognise it immediately and it will bring a wry smile to your face.
I did enjoy it though. Very easy to dip in and out of, it is still living in the bathroom and I find myself going back to reread bits of it that made me laugh. I had been thinking about giving my copy away, but changed my mind. It's too good and too worth a reread in the future.