I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

Damp

Fuck off January

I hate you January

January was rubbish. It rained so much I thought I might have to bring the animals in two-by-two, before I remembered  all the chickens died (natural causes, honest*) so there’s really just the dog. Oh, and the feral kids. At least there are two of those.

You know its a bad month when the most uplifting occasion is a funeral. My aunt passed away peacefully and surrounded by love, on New Year’s Day after a tragic battle with dementia. Her funeral was beautiful, life affirming and inspiring. My cousin’s husband summed her up wonderfully in a poem entitled, “Quietly Remarkable” and left me wondering if I might have time to learn new skills like Aunty Judy constantly did. I think silversmithing, stained glass, stone carving, needle point and building schools in impoverished African countries (seriously, this woman was amazing) are perhaps a bit beyond me but I might at least learn a new crochet stitch.

Three solid weeks of relentless downpours nearly broke me.  A significant low point was being woken in the small hours to a gentle pitter-patter sound, not of feet (which is common) but of bloody raindrops. Inside. Our bedroom.

 

My new pyjamas

We fixed the situation temporarily with towels and have now grown quite accustomed to the sound, much the same as one does with traffic sounds in a city. Its almost soothing.

 

Proud

There were some high points. Weirdly, I thoroughly enjoyed my six-year old’s birthday party especially as I learned from previous disasters and outsourced the cake. That afforded me more time to magically transform a bog-standard piñata into a fire-breathing dragon to fit the ‘Knights and Princesses’ theme that was demanded at the last minute.  I could barely watch as the kids took turns at bashing the bejeezus out of my work of art but it held fast and refused to break. Things were about to get ugly as frustrations grew but the day was saved by my mate’s husband who is also our friendly local policeman. He whipped out his retractable baton, wielded it like Zorro and severed the beast cleanly in two. I wept silent tears over my artistry while the wee shites scrambled around for the chocolate coins** that spilled from it’s cardboard belly.

PrincessCastleCake

Outsourcing. Where have you been all my life?

Luckily I had the foresight not to even entertain the idea of Dry January*** (I couldn’t deal with the irony) and was able to numb the pain of indoor puddles, wet dogs, David Bowie, damp logs and dear old Terry Wogan with plenty sauv blanc, cheap cider and malt whisky.

Sláinte.

 

*Their days had been numbered since the wee bastards had stopped laying but fortunately mother nature stepped and kindly dealt with Steve, Daphne, Velma and Scooby.  The fireworks on bonfire night finished off poor old Bunty.

**50p a bag, post-Christmas. Winning.

***a ridiculous fad in which participants avoid any kind of alcohol for 31 whole days.

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Hebridean Hideaway

I am back in my happy place (i.e. away from my ironing pile). We are on our annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Tiree for a whole week of spending lots of time together in close quarters. So far so almost relaxing.

The journey to get here borders on the off-putting as it involves a 3.30am wake-up, a two hour twisty drive and a four hour ferry trip. Our hopes that the kids will sleep in the car on the way are always dashed and the little darlings manage to summon vast amounts of energy from hell-knows-where as soon as they are trapped on the ferry with limited entertainment.  I caught myself staring enviously at the parents of two pre-teen girls nearby whose sullen daughters totally ignored their mum and dad for the whole four hour sail.

Having not taken a long-haul flight since the Blair Administration, when we finally arrived I experienced the closest thing to jet lag in nearly ten years and crashed out halfway through a Good Housekeeping* article (How To Look Good in Selfies. Noted.).  The kids continued to bounce around like lunatics as they explored our (different from the previous three years) holiday house, culminating in a monstrous meltdown from the youngest who declared, “THIS HOUSE IS NOT TIREEEEEEEE”. Quite.

Appeased by giant Jenga, Nutella on white bread and 10pm bedtimes, they have settled in admirably. It also helps that my parents are also holidaying here in what must be their 33rd consecutive year (bar one**). We are on the other side of the island (5 miles away) this year but still see them everyday as mum needs her WiFi and Wimbledon fix (their cottage has remained largely untouched by modern technology in the 33 years)  while poor dad gets cajoled into playing My Little Ponies with the girls.

It’s very hard to put into words what I love about this place (because I am on holiday and cracking open the Strongbow™ at lunchtime) so here are some of the photos I have been posting on Facebook, just to piss off everyone on the mainland who are experiencing much shitter weather:

Tiree machair

Glorious machair

Ballevullin Beach, Isle of Tiree

Beachy mornings

Crochet blanket

Rainy afternoons

A swing park with a view

Play parking

Stunning Ballevullin beach, Tiree

Despite living very close to the sea, I can’t get enough of the sea.

I love that the Tiree 2015 album is almost identical  to the Tiree 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 albums but with slightly bigger and curlier-haired children in the photos. Old friends I’ve known from childhood are also holidaying here with their kids so it’s lovely to see the next generation relentlessly digging holes on the beach and frolicking in the waves.

We are nearly mid-way through the week, and already I am dreading leaving.  We have been blessed with better-than-predicted weather so have enjoyed happy mornings at the beach before retiring to the cottage for leisurely lunches followed by afternoons of blissful inactivity. Niall watches Wimbledon and deals with near-catastrophic bio-mass boiler issues back home, I crack on with my latest epic crochet project and the girls amuse themselves, twatting about pretending to be dogs or ponies or spies. It’s heavenly. Thoughts of epic laundry piles and monstrous baskets of ironing have been quelled by copious amounts of Strongbow™ and the obligatory Prossecco.  There is also still so much to do: the seals (we never make it), the north end (ditto), the pottery, the gallery, the weird shop that sells everything, run by a family that seemingly hasn’t aged for forty years (Niall thinks they are vampires), boogie boarding,  pony trekking and the annual lawn boule tournament which my mum takes Very Seriously Indeed.  I think we’ll need at least a month next year.

 

 

 

*For years I’ve been persevering with Glamour and occasionally Cosmopolitan, though they leave me feeling utterly inadequate in every way. Recently, however, I had an epiphany in the doctors waiting room whilst leafing through a Good Housekeeping. I loved reading about  Clare Balding’s style secrets,  how to detox my finances (should I ever accumulate any) and coping with empty nest syndrome (one can dream) and I have now fully accepted that I am well within their demographic. Also, I can steal my mum’s copies.

**dad took us to  Australia for six months, on sabbatical.  After much discussion, Tiree was declared too far for a holiday

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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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Desperate Housewife

I’ve been feeling pretty pleased with myself lately as I finally seem to be getting the hang of living in a castle, hundreds of miles from the nearest Primark, with two despot ‘tweenagers’ and a workaholic husband. There is a happy rhythm to our lives at the moment and we seem to be bumbling along quite nicely. It helps that the schools are off so there isn’t the usual frantic last minute rush in the morning, hunting for shoes, stuffed sheep and random items for show and tell – pine cones, shells, dental floss etc. This is despite the day generally starting at 6am so by the time we’re running 10 minutes late for the nursery run, I’ve been up for over three hours.
My time management has definitely improved and I seem to be most productive in the early hours, when sane people with considerate children are still tucked up in bed. On a good day, by 9am, I have often ironed a load of bed linen, made a pot of soup, completed a 20 minute fitness dvd and made a few cushion covers.

You can never have enough.

You can never have enough.

My latest fad is soft furnishings, ever since a talented friend showed me how to work the ancient sewing machine my MiL left behind. There is a ready supply of material all over this house which is begging to be upcycled so It’s a cheap hobby at the moment and I can furnish the holiday cottages with my finished creations, once I’ve filled up the castle.

I’ve also rediscovered crochet recently after a long break due to bad associations. I made a ripple blanket for a family baby whilst watching the box set of Breaking Bad and the whole experience left me traumatised. I loved making the blanket but that overrated, soulless series left me cold and unable to pick up a hook for months. Thank God for Homeland 3 which arrived via a friend last week and which we are binge watching at a rate of three episodes a night. I’ve made 16 granny squares (another cushion, there is still space on the Chesterfield) and am half-way through a hat.

'Nuff said.

Nuff said.

If I was ever worried about morphing into a ghastly Martha Stewart/Bree Van Der Kamp hybrid, there are plenty of days when things don’t go according plan. This week alone I have unwittingly flashed the stonemason from the bedroom, pranged my MiL’s car in Tesco car park and served coffee to an important client of Niall’s in the “I’m a twat” mug.

 

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