I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

Festive Cheer

It’s taken a while for me to get into the festive spirit this year,  even though we are well into advent and for weeks Facebook has been awash with Christmas trees and pissed-off babies in elf suits. There is also another phenomenon that has crept into the nation’s consciousness which I believe has contributed to my festive malaise. ‘Elf on the Shelf’ is the latest costly Christmas extra I intend to ignore. (Last year it was Christmas Eve boxes which involves buying EVEN MORE PRESENTS. Wtf???).  I believe it was based on a book but you can now fork out £25 for an entire kit, complete with creepy elf doll that looks like the love child of the Child Catcher and Bride of Chucky. Already stressed-out parents must think of nightly tomfuckery for the sinister little chap to indulge in then photograph the result to splash all over social media. No thanks. I’m far to busy trying to finish off shoddily made homemade gifts.

Elf on the twatting shelf

Not in my name

In an attempt to get myself in the mood (and also out of the nightmarish bathtime/bedtime routine) I volunteered to help decorate the village hall with some of the committee members. Following a stern lecture from caretaker Philip, about the potential damage caused by sellotape and staple guns, we set to work with baubles, tinsel and fairy lights. An hour later, after some impressive precarious ladder maneuvers by an elderly member of the team,  it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and very nearly an episode of Casualty.

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Derek was heavily influenced by Edith’s exceptionally large baubles

The castle remained a tinsel free zone for a few more weeks but I ramped up the festive blackmail and wielded my power over the kids like a crazed despot, emphatically cancelling Santa for the smallest misdemeanor. I love this temporary influence and have succeeded in correcting all manner of irritating behavior.  They now wear socks willingly, without the daily tantrums, that have been known to culminate in me throwing their shoes at the portrait of great, great granny on the stairs. They also now go to the toilet unaccompanied once again, following a couple of bat incidents in the downstairs loo, which for some reason put them off going alone. Obviously it will all go to shit again in January when I have nothing left to bargain with but I am enjoying the extra minutes in my day now I’m not trudging to the toilet one hundred times. Great, great granny looks quite relieved too.

At last feeling a bit more festive (helped by the obligatory Christmas pud session) I cajoled the kids, and miraculously, my husband, into joining me for the Christingle service at our little church.  This was a big hit last year and I’m determined that it becomes a family tradition. The kids were surprisingly well behaved and sat patiently with their oranges, sweets and cocktail sticks, waiting for the prompt from Rev. Steve.  Our youngest treated everyone to a tuneful rendition of Jingle Bells during a prayer but no one seemed to mind. Even my husband lasted the 45 minutes without getting too restless. He’s still recovering from the 90 minute ecumenical marathon that was my sisters wedding so I was particularly proud of him, although he did scoff his dolly mixtures before the service even started.

Merry Christmas

I decided to go for an ironic strapline this year

At last, with less than a week to go, I am fully on board with the festivities and the tree is up, looking splendidly camp in the hall.  All our cards have all been delivered and raised a wee chuckle – apart from my mother who didn’t recognise her own grandchildren. It’s always an epic task and every year I vow never to attempt it again but we have quite a collection now and it would be a shame to stop exploiting the kids. Writing 175 of them was a marathon which I accompanied with a bottle of rioja and several episodes of Homeland. I shudder to think about the gibberish I must have written and am half expecting some concerned phone-calls regarding my mental health.

The end is in sight and I’m limbering up to violate my turkey with whatever comes to hand before praying to the God that is Mary Berry that it will emerge from the Aga in an edible format.

Merry Christmas one and all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flu and Teen Angst

The January Blues were chased away by the February flu which gave me something really ghastly to be pissed off about, instead of just moaning about the weather. It has been doing the rounds. The school roll plummeted to an all-time low after Christmas as pupils started dropping like flies, stricken with the lurgy. It was all we talked about at the school gates (the two of us left) – so-and-so had to be helicoptered out with a temperature of 105, her from up the glen has had it for 3 weeks, wee Jack was coughing so hard his ears were bleeding. You get the gist.

Me doing the school run

Me doing the school run

I tried to carry on as normal but with the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, it was hard not back slowly away from flemmy toddlers and visibly shield myself from hacking adults. It was almost a relief when the youngest started sneezing.

Mercifully the children got off fairly lightly and were able carry on behaving like hyperactive lunatics, addicted to Scooby Doo and Tesco Value Jaffa cakes (I challenge anyone to taste the difference). The little one even refused a morning off nursery. I’m having her DNA tested as I fear I may have picked up the wrong child three years ago in hospital. I am the queen of sickies. Or was – when I had a real job to skive from. I’ve learnt that it’s impossible to malinger in your sick bed when you are a stay-at-home parent with a minor, under-appreciated role in the family business. Bottoms still need wiped, bed linen still needs ironed, dinner still needs to be retrieved in the nick of time from the Aga.

I tried warding off the lurgy with whiskey and lemsip cocktails but it got me in the end and made itself quite at home for three whole weeks. I’m only just beginning to not sound like Kathleen Turner. It was fairly hideous but luckily coincided perfectly with a visit from my parents and the discovery of all six series of Dawson’s Creek* available for free on Amazon Prime. While my fabulous parents took over bottom-wiping and Aga duty (I let them off the ironing), I recuperated in peace with angst-ridden, overly-articulate American teenagers for company. I almost enjoyed myself.

It's not that I'm ungrateful but.....

It’s not that I’m ungrateful but…..

Things are returning to a version of normal now. We are nearing the end of the last of the THREE banana cakes my mum heroically baked and I’ve returned all the teaspoons and utensils to their rightful place. I’m feeling much better and sound more like my old self, rather than Bonnie Tyler on testosterone. Fortunately though, as it’s lashing down outside and barely two degrees, I can malinger a bit longer and cosy-in for series three of Dawson’s Creek, which from memory depicts exactly the same anxieties and insecurities of the first two series, but with more facial hair. I’ve never been happier to be in my forties.

*For the unfortunate uninitiated, this was an American series in the late nineties which followed the complex, overly analysed and frequently tortured love lives of a group of teenagers in a small East Coast town. I was a few years the wrong side of the demographic the first time round and now I’m the same age as their parents. Bite me.

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Puddings and Panto

When shall we three meet again? Next week for wreath making of course!

When shall we three meet again? Next week for wreath making of course!

The Christmas Countdown is ON and I can already tick Christmas puddings off my festive to-do list. A lovely morning was spent with two pals, pooling our ingredients, weighing, measuring and blatantly guessing before chucking it all in a giant toy tub (sterilised) before taking turns at stirring. I stayed faithful to Delia as she’s never let me down before but we doubled the recipe as we were aiming for four puddings. Stirring help was drafted in from the Inlaws downstairs and auntie and uncle from across the way and everyone had a wish or two. It was very special and reminiscent of the times I used to make the puddings with my granny. We’d always have a stir, then a wish then a wee kiss and a hug.

They smell a lot nicer than they look

They smell a lot nicer than they look

We made four puds altogether which were cooked in two batches in the Aga and the kitchen smelled Christmassy for days. The cooked puds have now been parcelled up in foil and distributed accordingly. I’ve stashed our own one in a cool cupboard in the dining room where it will no doubt sit, forgotten all about for decades until my grandchildren unearth it in a clear out in 2045. A wee reminder nearer the time would be appreciated.

Nothing says Christmas like upcycled blankets and crochet balls.

Nothing says Christmas like upcycled blankets and crochet balls.

Homemade decorations have also been achieved along with several hand crafted presents for some unlucky recipients (I can almost hear the audible mutterings of “why can’t she just go to Lush?”). The reason for this crafty flurry is that our youngest now goes to nursery five mornings a week allowing me three whole hours of festive-fannying-around-time. It’s sheer bliss and I intend to enjoy every second until I am forced back in to work by my husband who keeps subtly hinting that whilst my woolly stars are very nice and everything, they won’t mend the leaking roof or load the boiler.

This. Sort of.

This. Sort of.

As if I didn’t have enough to do with unfinished, mediocre crafts, I only went and got myself involved with the local pantomime which is being directed by Martin Scorsese my mother-in-law. Due to my almost global (3-mile radius) reputation as a kid’s face painter, she asked very nicely if I’d do the make up for the production of Dick Whittington. Of course I jumped at the chance – chiefly because it gets me out of the kids’ gruelling bedtime routine (which is, in itself, a pantomime) for three nights.

Curtain up was last night and the smell of the grease paint and roar of the crowds* will stay with me forever (well, give it a couple of days). I am watching the matinee today with the kids and am hoping the littlest one won’t have an epic freak-out when she sees Grandpa prancing around the stage dressed as a giant rat. As a precaution, I have volunteers on hand to escort her off the premises because as we thespians say, the show must go on.

*this is a small village. It’s all relative.

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Muddy Puddles

It’s my favourite time of year again already – the clocks have changed, the days are shorter, everything is a little bit soggy (and that’s just inside) and my ironing pile is dwindling by the day as bookings finally start to slow down.

4  years with no sleep is starting to take it's toll

4 years with no sleep is starting to take it’s toll

On the social front, however, this time of year seems to have the most going on of all the seasons as numerous events provide excellent excuses for a party. Halloween kicks it all off and great fun was had (by me) carving pumpkins, face-painting witches and vampires and baking sundry ghoulish items for the playgroup party. We even managed some guising this year as the kids are a wee bit older – downstairs to granny and grandpa and across the lawn to Aunty Carol’s. Zoe’s well rehearsed joke* earned her yet more sweets to add to the enormous haul she’d brought home from school, blatantly undermining the patronising A4 leaflet we’d been handed recently about healthy snacks.

Sugar levels were still fairly catastrophic for the next big event a few days later – our youngest’s third birthday party.  Learning from previous experiences, I did things slightly differently this year and served alcohol. Not to the kids obviously, but as the grown-ups considerably out-numbered the little ones, I thought it was only right. It certainly took the edge off it. When pass-the-parcel descended into the usual hysterical chaos (and that was just the winner) we just knocked back some more prossecco and topped up our glasses.

Chuffed with this effort

I’m improving

I wasn’t really planning on a theme and my heart sank slightly when India demanded a Peppa Pig cake but a quick search on Pinterest (at 3am, thank you insommnia) revealed some less challenging options. Basically a round chocolate cake with some plastic figures stuck on it, surrounded by chocolate fingers. Easy peasy. I decided to continue the theme with some of the games and laboured for hours on a papiér mache Peppa Pig piñata. It was a work of art but then I decided I couldn’t bear to watch the little ones bash the crap out of it so I turned it into a treasure hunt instead. We also had musical muddy puddles and pin the glasses on daddy pig, but to be honest by then we’d all drunk far too much and forgot to actually play them. The kids went home happy and the mums were driven home tipsy so all in all it was a huge success. By the time her actual birthday came around two days later, even India herself was a bit over it and squawked, “why am I STILL getting presents???”. Quite.

"Isn't that Bubba's favourite chair???"

“Isn’t that Bubba’s favourite chair???”

An estate bonfire party concluded the celebrations and was a lovely occasion to gather everyone together for the first time in ages. And more importantly a chance to rid the castle of some lingering items belonging to the in-laws. Luckily it was dark when they arrived so my dear old father-in-law was blissfully unaware that his eBay rug which had seen many, many better days had been cremated along with other broken pieces of furniture and empty gadget boxes that had long outlived their original contents. I just have to pray that he doesn’t come looking for the box that once contained the analogue portable telly that was scrapped years ago or the three legged chair that succumbed to woodworm in 1986.

Now we are almost midway through November and I think it’s safe to start mentioning the C-word. (Not THAT one, although since my mother used it in a surprise outburst on a family holiday in ’98, it has definitely lost some of its potency). I’m loving the Christmas Countdown twitter feed and my excitement is building by the day. Next week I have a whole day of Christmas pudding making with my ‘Good Life’ chum, Tracey. We’re doubling Delia’s usual recipe so should end up with two large puddings each. Last year it took a team of five just to stir it but was such a wonderful activity to mark the start of festive loveliness and there’s nothing quite like a homemade plum pud on the day.

It’s probably a tad too soon to start hassling Niall about Christmas trees but I’m looking out my festive playlist and will have no qualms about blasting out a bit of Mariah Carey whilst mixing up the pudding. 44 more sleeps!

*”Why was the sand wet? Because the sea weed.” You’re welcome.

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Lucky Duck

It’s now over a week since the referendum and although I’m relieved there won’t be a messy separation, it really didn’t feel like a victory. Not least because the Dish-faced Twat in charge PM seems to be reneging on his last minute desperate promises to give Scotland more power. Quelle surprise shriek the Yes-ers smugly as the rest of us look like gullible idiots. I’m so cross I might even make an effort to find out who my local MP is and write to her about this.

 

Dish-faced twat

Lying dish-faced twat

Up until now I’ve been a typical slack-tivist – furiously ‘liking’ and sharing Facebook posts which highlight issues that get my goat and signing e-petitions left, right and centre (but mostly left) before I’ve even had breakfast – but now there is a serious local issue that will effect our whole community which I am gearing up to protest about.

The local health board has just outlined their ‘vision for the future’ which basically involves slashing rural GP services so that people in remote communities need to take it turns to be ill on their given days. Ours will be Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. Out with these times, we’ll have to make a 25 mile round trip, for many, using the reliable but very limited bus service which takes 30 minutes on a good day.

It would be devastating for this community and we will not go down without a fight. I am setting up an e-petition as soon as I’ve had breakfast.

In other village news, the main event of the year took place this weekend and was a joyous occasion. For the past 18 years, a duck race has been held in the village to raise money for church funds. I should point out that the ducks are of the plastic variety, not the feathered ones. My visiting chums were a touch disappointed when they discovered their tenner was sponsoring a bath toy.

Just to clarify

Just to clarify

After a couple of hours of BBQd scallops and burgers, home-baking, coconut shy, sumo wrestling and face-painting (by ME!), everyone heads to the river, accompanied by the farmer’s daughter on the bagpipes, to watch the several-hundred little yellow ducks battle it out for first place. The prizes are significant with the lucky winner scooping £150 and runner up, £100. With over 300 ducks being sponsored, the odds of a prize are fairly remote so you can imagine my elation when it was announced that the first duck over the line belonged to my eldest daughter. Scooby-dooby Duck did her proud and although she has no idea about the value of £150 she was very, very chuffed to be first.

My initial plans for the cash were to split it between the two kids and sensibly stash it in their respective (diminutive) bank accounts. This was swiftly vetoed during a brief family conference during Frozen and we decided to blow the lot on a dolls house. I’m They’re very excited. It’s taller than the youngest child and has a working elevator. I They can’t wait to play with it and it should keep me them quiet for hours.

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