I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

Inglorious Mud

I am getting close to being over winter. There have been precious few crisp, frosty days which make everything look magical, and far too many dreich and windy ones which have kept us house-bound and fractious. The kids are tough, I don’t doubt they’d be out rain or hail, “jumping up and down in muddy puddles”* but I’m still adjusting to country life (I like to tell myself) and schlepping about in mud and leaves, in the pissing rain isn’t my thing yet. Or ever. Mud is the enemy. I’ve managed to get the car stuck in it three times this winter, in various locations around the estate. I was humiliated enough the first time as I made the call of shame to my husband who, after much piss-taking, got me out with the help of a couple of strong blokes he’d commandeered for added mortification.

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Picture posed by superior model

The second time was marginally worse, compounded by the added obstacle of a large rock which was effectively pivoting the car. I really don’t think you could plan a manoeuvre like that. If I hadn’t been crying with shame, I’d have been rather pleased. Needless to say Niall and the same two strong blokes were crying with laughter.

After the third incident I briefly contemplated fleeing the country(side) and changing identity rather than admit I’d got myself into another muddy mess. I really don’t know how it happened. One minute I was driving merrily up a dirt track, en route to deliver a Christmas card, the girls fighting happily in the back, then the next minute the car is aquaplaning across a river of mud, leaving us stranded in a squelchy field. Again.

My husband hinted that there might be something in my Christmas stocking which would prevent future muddy mishaps so naturally I started daydreaming about a brand new 4×4 purple range rover with a sound-proof seat divider** and built-in rear-seat automatic snack dispenser**. Picture my feigned delight when I unwrapped a fetching pair of bright orange wheel grip traction mats.

Is that Spring I can sniff or have I misjudged the Ariel™ again?

*©the worst kids programme ever commissioned
**seriously though, can this be invented NOW please?

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Hot Gossip

One of the loveliest things about living in a small, rural setting, is the strong sense of community that is prevalent. For such a small place, there is a lot going on, which has been a great help in making us feel settled. Two events of the past week have cemented this warm, fuzzy feeling of belonging and I almost feel like a local.

erin The first was an invitation to join the Village Hall Committee as a representative of the playgroup, which meets there twice a week. Never having been much of a ‘joiner’, I reluctantly accepted on the premise that I would be sharing the tedium with my friend, who already attends the bi-monthly meetings. Relations are slightly strained between the playgroup and the rest of the committee as there seems to be a mandatory section in the minutes for bollocking us for various petty misdemeanours. Recent gripes have included:

  • The toys encroaching on the next shelf along, belonging to the badminton group who haven’t met since Miss Dunwoody’s* hip replacement in 2004.
  • The store cupboard door being left open which allegedly lets the cold air out into the hall. Which is generally arctic as they conveniently keep forgetting to put the heating on for us.
  • The toilets being left in an unsatisfactory condition. We have photographic evidence that implicates the knitting group who utilise the smaller meeting room on Fridays.

Perhaps with two of us in attendance we can kick some serious ass and show them who they’re messing with. The Vicar of Dibley meets Erin Brockovitch, if you will. Watch this space.

My second initiation test was similarly bitter-sweet. Whilst enjoying a Saturday morning in town with the girls, I received a text from my husband informing me that I was the subject of some intriguing village gossip. Initially I was beside myself with excitement and the feeling that I must truly belong if people are bothering to spread rumours about me. This was short-lived as I digested the content of the rumour which was this: someone in the village asked Gladys* who checked with Agnes* who in turn asked for confirmation from Morwenna*, if I was PREGNANT! I’m not proud of the string of expletives that erupted from my mouth in front of the children, in the busy play park, but I was incensed. I haven’t touched carbohydrate since January 2nd** and have actually managed to shift about 4lb. I’m really hoping it was my unflattering puffy winter jacket that fuelled this idle speculation. Apart from anything else, there is no WAY I would jeopardise the opportunity to drown my sorrows in Sauvignon Blanc on my fortieth birthday in May.

Still, it could have been a lot worse. Helen* from up the glen was the victim of mistaken identity and was wrongly outed as passing away on Christmas Day. Peggy* in the shop got a dreadful shock when Helen innocently popped in for a pint of milk a few days later.

I do love rural living.

*all names have been changed to prevent my 10 readers identifying any individuals.
**notwithstanding wine, baileys, left-over crimbo chocolates and the odd fish finger.

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In the Bleak Midwinter

Normality has finally been restored after the festive period and it was almost a relief to get back to the daily grind of nursery drop-offs and pick-ups which shape my days. I do love a routine, even if it is a routine that involves bribing, cajoling and more often than not, screaming like a banshee. And that’s just to get them dressed. It always amazes me that, despite the fact my day usually begins at 6am (on a good day), I can achieve a good three hours of pissing about doing not very much, leaving myself 15 minutes to get the girls fed, dressed and into the car. I keep meaning to turn all ‘Captain Von Trapp’ and introduce a militant morning regime which must be adhered to or severe punishment will ensue. But I can’t really be arsed.

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Four years at art college well spent

The First Week Back provided us with a birthday as Zoe turned four on the 8th of January. As I was recovering in hospital after her premature birth, I remember feeling devastated that she would be cursed with a winter birthday, so close to Christmas and almost always in the middle of the first week back at school. This was a few days in, when we knew that whilst she was very tiny, she was also strong and healthy and all would be fine. I was also irrationally upset that she missed out on being born into the Year of Tiger which she would have shared with me, sadly arriving, six weeks early, at the arse end of the Year of the Ox. This crushing disappointment was slightly tempered when I realised she shared a birthday with Elvis.

It’s been a mixed bag, weather-wise this year, but nothing too extreme yet. We’ve been treated to some dramatic storms and freakishly high tides but so far our wee enclave has escaped the numerous power cuts that have affected the nearby village. I don’t feel very well prepared for that eventuality and my repeated requests for a power-cut drill are laughed at by my husband who insists we have enough torches and candles to illuminate the whole castle. It’s not so much the lack of heat and light that worries me though, rather the epic tantrum which will erupt after informing our volatile two year old that she can’t watch Peppa Pig.

It was in March last year that the weather went all apocalyptic, resulting in a five day power cut in the area. This was before we moved but I’ve heard the stories from my new friends and other locals. They range from the positive – “It was the spirit of the blitz!”, to the tear-jerking – “I couldn’t boil water for the baby’s bottles”, to the downright horrific – “We played Scrabble every night”. Perish the thought. As the first occupants of the castle to experience central heating, we have all gone soft and I don’t know how long we’d last without heat, let alone wifi. Hopefully it was rare phenomenon and we will be spared the trauma but as a precautionary measure I am stockpiling tins of food, woolly jumpers and two-letter words.

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Goals

All in all, 2013 was a good year. Aside from two huge losses, one slightly expected, the other a devastating shock, lots of wonderful things happened and it ended it exactly where it started, at a party in the castle, with me trying to avoid kissing 50+ people. It’s just NOT hygienic. The big difference this time was that we were hosts rather than guests, which had the surprise benefit of putting me off drinking too much. It was a strange but welcome sensation to wake up on January 1st with a clear head.
I do love a new year. It’s like a second chance to right the wrongs, to pour all your energy into good intentions and draw a line under the previous year’s fails. Naturally, I fully expect things to go to shit by February 1st, but here is a rough breakdown of my goals and expectations for 2014:

No more of this sort of thing.

No more of this sort of thing.

The Aga

  • I will build upon recent successes and host regular dinner parties for family and friends. I will not poison anyone, including myself.
  • I will not walk away and leave toast unattended then blame the Aga for the subsequent charred mess
  • Similarly, I will not leave my ‘moonblush’ tomatoes longer than the necessary 4 hours, and I will definitely not completely forget about them until I put something else in the oven the following day. Ditto decorative chillies, roast aubergines and bacon

Weight

  • I will put an immediate stop to the slippery slope I seem to be on, back to last year’s size. Having done pretty well at managing to shift a stone, it all went wrong after the summer and I’ve regained 9lbs. This is Not On and I will get back on track immediately. Consequently:
    • I will not eat between meals
    • I will not finish entire chocolate oranges/bags of tablet/ selection boxes, in one sitting
    • I will not mix carbohydrates and proteins. (It’s tragic, but it works)

    Hopefully these monumental small sacrifices will result in a slimmer, healthier, more fabulous me, just in time for my fortieth birthday, whereupon I will be comforting eating donuts and drowning my sorrows in Sauvignon Blanc for the rest of the year.

Family Life

  • I will not swear at the children within earshot. Of my husband.
  • I will nurture their creativity and not get stressed when they add onions to cake mixture or paint the furniture.
  • I will not resort to fish fingers more than twice a week
  • I will listen avidly to my husband’s chat about the biomass boiler and aim to understand the general workings of it which I can then share with interested parties, should I encounter any
  • I will listen graciously to my mother’s parental advice and not regress to my teenage self and slam the phone down on her

General

  • I will not neglect the chickens
  • I will read challenging and stimulating novels at bedtime, as opposed to playing Candy Crush relentlessly
  • I will dust regularly
  • I will memorise the family history so I can stop talking bullshit to visitors

I think that’s enough to be going on with. Now pass the carrot sticks and humous. *wails uncontrollably*

Happy New Year!

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