I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

One Year On



Tomorrow (or three weeks ago by the time I get around to hitting ‘publish’) is/was our one year anniversary of moving in to the castle. It has passed in the blink of an eye as life tends to do so I am feeling very pleased with myself for keeping up this blog, all be it sporadically, so I can see how far we’ve come. The achievements have been many. My husband has successfully installed a bio-mass boiler, refurbished two castle apartments, planted an orchard in the walled garden, installed a wood-burning hot tub and sauna for our guests and held down a full-time consultancy job. I have learned to fold fitted sheets and pick up dog poo without gagging. Big pats on backs all round.

It has taken a year, but I am in a good place with the Aga at the moment – as long as I steer clear of toast and roasted aubergines. I have mastered anything that requires slow cooking, bread and scones. My burns are healing nicely and the scars serve as a helpful reminder to don heat protection gear when retrieving cremated items. I’m definitely getting the hang of it.

I have been warmly welcomed into the snug bosom of the village and have made some fabulous friends who I loved dearly immediately and who keep me sane. The nursery run quickly became a highlight as it offers the opportunity for normal conversation in amongst surreal toddler chit-chat and pretending to be professional on the phone to prospective customers. Occasionally it all gets a bit muddled and I find myself screaming down the phone at a random, “no you can’t have another bloody Jaffa cake” whilst calmly informing two year old India that she can of course hire towels for the small cost of £1 each and dogs are more than welcome. One day she will turn around and shriek, “A POUND??? FOR A FUCKING TOWEL??? Get my twatting Jaffa cake.” I’ll only have myself to blame.

Not much to moan about really.

Not much to moan about really.

I’m very relieved, but not surprised, that the children have embraced rural life so positively. It was the perfect age to uproot them from suburban life, being eighteen months and three and a half. Certainly the little one won’t remember anything from civilisation and the older one has never once demanded to go to a soft play centre or questioned the diminutive numbers in nursery and play group. Standards of grooming plummeted fairly quickly with hair-brushing becoming a non-occurrence and bath-time an occasional event if and when I can be bothered. I clean out the hens more often, if I’m honest. They have a pretty wonderful life really (the kids, but actually, also the hens, come to think of it…). They have dogs and grandparents on tap, their own beach a short (and yet, still whiny) walk away, acres of space to run about in and a steady stream of visiting friends and relatives to play with, as well as their own little local gang. It’s not far off being perfect.

With a year under our belts we are starting to plan new goals for the future and top of the list is expanding our wee family. Fortunately not with a baby, although sometimes in moment of exhaustion-induced madness I think, well I’m getting fuck-all sleep anyway I may as well be up with a newborn. These thoughts are swiftly followed by a self-inflicted slap and what we are actually hoping for is a chocolate Labrador puppy. The girls have even named it and more shockingly, I love their choice. I thought I’d made a huge mistake letting them pick a name, assuming the so far, non-existent pooch would have Peppa Pig for a namesake or something ridiculous like Margaret,  but they came up with the adorable moniker, Crumble which is perfect for a boy or girl and goes very well with his or her New York canine cousin, Pudding. We can’t wait to meet the furry little chap and hopefully won’t have to wait too long. I found pregnancy excruciatingly dull (right up until the drama at 33 weeks and an early appearance from my firstborn) so I’m banking on the puppy process taking a lot less than nine months.

Here’s to the next 12 months and the pitter-patter of tiny paws!



Forty and Fabulous-ish

It’s all quiet at the castle again as things return to the normal level of crazy. ‘Auntie Juletti’ and the ‘tousins’ have gone home to New Zealand and Allie, our lovely WWOOFIng lodger, departed for more Scottish adventures before she returns to Canada. As predicted, I am experiencing a crushing anti-climax now that the wedding has happened and our guests have gone or maybe it’s because I’ve also just turned forty.


Couple posed by fondant models

The wedding weekend was amazing but sadly marred by sickness in our camp. Both children came down with diarrhoea and vomiting at exactly the worst possible time and ended up missing the whole thing. I surprised myself by being completely devastated about this and was inconsolable, right up to my first glass of prossecco at the reception. After that the evening became a merry haze of dodgem cars*, fabulous food, extremely funny best man speeches (I may be biased), Lego favours, screeching hen girl reunions and crazy ceilidh dancing. None of that would have been possible without my superstar parents and sister stepping in to save the day by looking after the kids. I prepared myself for their crushing disappointment at missing ‘Unty Tenny’s’ big day but their stoic response was, “Can we get a puppy now then?”. True resilience.


Burning this book was the first thing I did

So I am now in my forties. Hooray. The day itself was a chaotic blur of packing up, fond farewells and recuperating children. Our plans to have a lovely family day out were dashed by the bug so instead we made the sensible decision to take the kids to a shopping centre in Edinburgh. This turned out to be a stroke of genius as everything we could possible need was under one roof – toilets, a chemist, ice cream and best of all, escalators. Being rural kids, they have never experienced the delights of the ‘magic staircase’ and it was like a fairground ride to them. I love this about the ages they’re at – they take delight in the simplest of things and are so easily and cheaply amused. Notwithstanding their recent addiction to Temple Run and other age inappropriate iPad games of course.

A romantic meal out with my best man** rounded the day off nicely and we headed for home the following morning. Older, hungover and certainly not wiser but feeling very lucky and blessed.

When can I start botoxing?

*Amazing. Every wedding should include these. Even the bride squeezed her sizeable dress into one and had a go.
**apologies if that gave you the dry boak

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We have had a whole fortnight of fabulous weather, way down here on our phallic peninsula. The trees are looking wonderfully leafy and the disease-carrying, non-native, invasive rhododendrons* are bursting into bloom all over the place, along with the more politically correct cherry blossom. Winter coats have been tentatively stored away and welly boots have been discarded in favour of pumps and flip-flops and, this being Scotland, also still welly boots.


Allie says it how it is

I seized upon the warmer temperatures to brave the sea for the first time this year. With a gang of sundry relatives, visiting pals and our Canadian WWOOFer, we trooped down to the beach, nicely glowing from an afternoon lounging in the sun and psyching (some of) ourselves up for a dip. It was much breezier by the sea, however, and I quietly hoped any ideas of stripping off and getting in would be swiftly abandoned. I hadn’t banked on our Canadian WWOOFer having a moment of crazy however, and suddenly she was knee deep, then properly submerged. The screams could be hear for miles around and I don’t mind admitting I was having second thoughts. However, with my sister for company (and life-saving skills), I waded in, took several deep breaths and dived under. It was wonderful. Chilly, bracing, so cold it was almost burning, but wonderful. They say it takes years off you, in which case I am turning 35 on Monday. So there.


There has been lots of this sort of thing

The weather has made such a difference to our New Zealand visitors as it’s so much easier to keep five children entertained when the sun is out. Activities have largely included throwing themselves down a grassy embankment, making dens in the bamboo and larking around in our brand new wood-fuelled hot tub. This is the stuff memories are made of and I think even two and a half year old India will always remember this visit. I can’t bear to think about their departure in just over a week but before that is the whole reason for their visit! My brother-in-law’s wedding is now imminent and the excitement is immeasurable. All that’s left to be done is a swift eye-brow pluck and the application of some industrial foundation, preferably with a trowel, in an attempt to disguise four years of no sleep. I also have to work out how to cram nappies, wipes, jelly babies, calpol, tissues and an emergency sick bowl into my elegant purple clutch. Whose idea was it to invite the children?

*apologies for the Daily Mail description but they really are bad news