I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

Taking the Plunge

wild-swimming-bubble

2017 is going well, despite the shakey start. My year began with some impressive stealth puking as I tried to hide my hideous hogmanay hangover from the family. I nearly got away with it but was overheard on FaceTime to my sister gloating about the skill involved in silent vomiting.

Fortunately the day wasn’t wasted as I was forced to get my shit together for a New Year’s Day loony dook in the sea with some pals. Knowing it would be kill or cure, I hugged the dog extra tightly and scribbled a brief “I love you there’s bread in the freezer the freezer is down stairs tell the girls not to ever waste their time watching Lost, Love Actually or the second Sex and the City movie.” note, as a precautionary, posthumous measure.

Fortunately, diving head first into the sea when the air temperature is barely above freezing, did actually cure me and I immediately felt human again and ready for anything. But mostly steak pie and mash.

I should fess up that this wasn’t an isolated incident (as in the loony dooking, it should come as no surprise that I’m renowned for spewing after 3 or 4 proseccos) and I’ve actually been regularly swimming in the sea since early December. Lunacy being the only required qualification, I got involved in this bonkers activity after offering to join a pal who was wild swimming for charity.

I looked forward to the first time less than my Caesarean sections but was pleasantly surprised when I came out alive and positively high on life. (Not dissimilar to my c-sects although I suspect that was the tramadol).”I’VE BEEN IN THE SEA”, I manically shrieked at random pensioners in Tesco. “YOU MUST TRY THIS”, I yelled millimetres from the terrified faces of my poor friends. “I STILL CAN’T FEEL MY FEET”, I confessed to my husband later that day. But I was desperate to do it again and even managed to persuade a few others to take the plunge.

Like-minded loonies

Like-minded loonies

We are now a proper group who meet at least twice a week to strip off and splash about with the seals at sunrise. I have become one of those people who wax lyrical about the health benefits of cold-water swimming and wear Birkenstocks (not yet, but it’s a slippery slope). There is just something utterly fabulous about gliding along the bay, watching the sun come up and the seals coming closer. According to research, it’s a great stress-buster, boosts your immune system, improves longevity and burns lots of calories. There’s also a lot to be said for screaming “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK”, in harmony, whilst submerging oneself in the sea in Scotland in January. Best of all it’s free, gets me away from the squabbling kids for half and hour and puts me in such a good mood I am nice to everyone for at least an hour afterwards.

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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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Life’s a Beach

so THIS is what happy children look like

so THIS is what happy children look like

We had our first taste of summer 2015 last week. It was glorious – expansive blue skies, temperatures in the late teens and daylight til 8pm (which causes it’s own bedtime problems but that’s another blog post entirely). Me and the girls, and the dog, have been spending a lot of time at the beach which is so much more enjoyable now they’re a bit older and can be trusted not to toddle into the sea and drown or eat seaweed, stones and/or dead things.  I even managed a solitary stroll along the beach whilst they played happily together* on the rocks. Lost in my favourite pastime of searching for sea glass and pottery, it was only when I reached the end of the beach that I became aware of the panicked shrieks from base camp. “I NEED A POO MUMMY” echoed accross the Kilbrannan sound, alarming several seals and an elderly couple from Skipton** who’d pulled up to enjoy the view.  Turning swiftly on my heel I legged it back to the rocks, stopping only very briefly to pick up the odd gem of pottery (I really can’t help myself) and desperately hoping that I had baby wipes and a plastic bag to hand. Who was I kidding – I stopped all that ‘being prepared’ shit months ago, becoming arrogantly complacent when the youngest mastered toilet-training. Luckily I am as resourceful as I am unprepared and achieved a successful clean-up job with a used tissue and an empty crisp packet. Mummy 1, poo nil.

Another blissful afternoon was spent on a different local beach with nursery friends, whilst the eldest languished in school. It was bordering on perfect – picnic food,  crab nets, paddling, no poos, no “SANDY HANDS!!” hysteria and pockets full of beach treasure. Knee deep in the water, gazing out at the best view in the world, lunacy took hold and I decided the only thing that could make the moment more perfect would be a swim. Stripped to vest and pants (luckily only my poor friend bore witness to this sight), I waded back in and shrieked like a stuck piglet as I got deeper and deeper. There was no going back and with an audible scream of “FUCKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT” ringing out across the bay, (I can only hope the kids thought I was saying “bucket”), I submerged my shoulders and took some strokes. The shock of this not killing me nearly killed me but I was under and swimming and loving it. I assumed it would be a quick in-and-out job but it really was delightful and I even managed to get my head under. The first swim of 2015 – done!  It wasn’t even a one off – after a very, very moving funeral last week, I decided the only thing thing for it was to Carpe the very warm diem and have a swim in the sea.  It was incredibly life-affirming and therapeutic, marred only by the three year old falling off a rock and landing on her head. She was fine, although it might be quite hard to tell for a while….

Hailstones in May in Scotland

Summer in Scotland. #funnynotfunny

After digging out my summer wardrobe (2 pairs of shorts and a scabby vest top), predictably the weather turned and for nearly four days it was the bleak midwinter again. Sleet, hail, wind and rain battered our ancient windows and we were back to lying in bed listening to the cacophony of drips landing in buckets in the attic.  I even had to turn back from a shopping trip into town as three cars were stuck on our hill because of the ball-bearing-esque hail stones. Conversation at the school gate simply consisted of all the mums huddling in the tiny covered entrance shrieking “WHATTHEACTUALFUCK??” as we reminisced fondly about the previous weeks beach activities.

That’s Scotland for you, which I light-heartedly said to our paying guests from Germany, half-way through their unseasonably cold and miserable week. The lady smiled sympathetically as if to say, at least we are leaving this Godforsaken land in a few days. The man just glared, silently. Fortunately the sun did reappear for their last two days and they left, all smiles and vowing to return.

I’ve packed away my shorts again and we’re all back in winter woollies with the fires on. The sea looks about as inviting as a bath of cold baked beans but I’m clinging to the memories of those two wonderful swims and wishing hard for the warm weather to return. I may even shave my legs next time.

 

 

*clearly hell was freezing over at this moment in time

**yes I do talk to everyone, yes I am turning into my mother

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Road Rage

I have been lured back to civilisation twice in as many weeks recently, to celebrate  several decades worth of birthdays. It’s as good a reason as any to make the 4(ish, on a good day when the Gods are smiling and the children aren’t doing convincing impressions of Damien from the Omen) hour journey back to my parents’ house, which becomes base camp for my various shenanigans.

There was only ever going to be one winner

There was only ever going to be one winner

This time last year my lovely friend organised a fabulous girly weekend away which was largely spent in a hot tub, drunk on Prosecco. This year, by marked contrast, we were subjected to what I can only describe as My Worst Nightmare – a three hour badminton tournament. I shit you not.  I tried everything to get out of it, even a note from my mum, but somehow I found myself on court, lumbering around like a hippo with less coordination than a drunk toddler. I like to think I provided the entertainment value. At a generous estimate I hit the twatting shuttlething four times (in three games) and ended up on my arse twice. Never again.

The second celebration that weekend involved a whole day and a night away from the kids which was sheer BLISS. Unencumbered by bored, whinging and occasionally just downright rude children, I was able to enjoy a fabulous day in Edinburgh, catching up with old friends, new babies and the all-important solo shopping trip to real, actual shops. It’s not that our local Factory Shop or Nickel and Dime don’t offer a wide range of interesting goods to peruse, (where else can you buy a colander, a bra and years supply of Persil?) or that I’m not becoming an expert in online shopping (apart from the jeggings which I still can’t talk about…)  but I do miss the thrill of big wide aisles, rails and rails of choice and knowing that you’re never more than a few yards away from a latte, a toilet or a cashpoint.

zombie-woman-costume

Her hair colour is frighteningly accurate

My goal was simple –  a go-with-anything, uber-flattering, smart/casual black top to wear to that evenings engagement. Naturally the novelty wore off after half an hour and I found myself wandering aimlessly, in a zombie-like stupor through the soulless concourses of the out-of-town retail park I’d chosen for it’s convenience. After three hours of fruitless searching, including a meltdown in M&S, I decided to cut my losses and flee the commercial hell-hole, empty handed save for a prawn sandwich and panic-purchased new jacket as I stupidly didn’t pack one. (Wait WHAT??? Clearly 40 years in Scotland has taught me nothing).

Fortunately my sister had a go-with-anything, uber-flattering smart/casual black top which she kindly lent me and we had a fabulous time at our friend’s 50th birthday party. The highlight of the night was an intimate living room performance by Yvonne Lyon and her husband who are a fantastic Scottish folk duo, well known in that scene but a wonderful new discovery for me. I bought their album for the journey home, thinking, what better accompaniment to a long drive through the scenic Scottish highlands.

Sadly no amount of stirring, soulful music could have ever have mollified what turned out to be the ultimate journey from hell. It all went wrong when I pulled up a forest track to have a wee which had become significantly non-negotiable about 5 miles previously. Suddenly there was a ghastly crunching sound and it was pretty clear I’d done something fairly catastrophic to my underside (of the car, just to clarify). I decided to soldier on for the remaining two hours as really there was no other option, it being a Sunday night in the arse-end of nowhere. Denial worked wonders and I managed to ignore the ghastly sounds coming from below (again, the car).  We were back on track when the youngest suddenly threw up a journey’s worth of healthy snacks (crisps and chocolate) all over the back seat and then decided to be fussy about emergency clothing because it wasn’t pink. I would like to report that I remained calm throughout but sadly we weren’t alone in that  remote lay-by and an elderly couple witnessed my tirade of expletives that culminated in two screaming children and a sobbing mother. Have a meltdown and carry on is my motto (get that on  a twatting tea towel NOW please) so off we set once again with a broken, stinking car and another hour to go.

The end was in sight when we turned off the main road onto the long and winding, single-track B842 which leads to our door but sadly fate was pissing itself once again. After two miles, cruising along merrily(ish), we got stuck behind a selfish twat of a 30-mile-an-hour driver who refused to let us past, despite my persistent horn-blasting, light-flashing and fruitless cursing of his soul. We had no choice but to sit tight (admittedly right up his arse) for the next twenty miles. I was an empty husk by the time we got home and vowed I would never, ever make that journey again.

Me after THAT journey

Me after THAT journey

Like childbirth (although I did get off lightly with two C-sections), one quickly forgets the hideous trauma of a nightmare journey and a mere two weeks later, I found myself heading back up the B842 for a 5th birthday party in our former home town. It nearly went to shit before we’d even left when I realised the DVD players weren’t working but there was nothing for it but to risk the trip without entertainment. I took a deep breath, swore heavily under my breath and blasted out Disney’s Greatest Hits from my iPod. Clearly I’d paid my dues and was blessed with text-book journeys, both ways. The children were angelic (or asleep), I remained calm throughout and the car stayed intact and vomit free. Hakuna Matata.

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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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Farewell 2014

Me on Christmas Day

Me on Christmas Day

Christmas was wonderful although already it’s a distant memory of over-indulgence, Downton Abbey’s tortuous Christmas special and an epic two-hour Playmobil assembly session (hungover) that began at 5.30am.

We are now back home and preparing for the next Big Event of over-indulgence (but thankfully NOT Downton or Playmobil) – Hogmanay. We are hosting again this year as its easier with the kids and is a great excuse to use the posh room*. Also, there is the welcome bonus of being inundated with kind offerings of booze which kept us going until spring time last year.

As I fret over smoked salmon blinis (I think that plan will be shelved as I’m not entirely sure what they are) and Parmesan biscuits, I’m trying to steal some moments to reflect back on the past year.

Thank heavens then for Facebook’s clever ‘Year in Review’ feature as my memory seems to stop at two weeks ago. My vague recollections were duly confirmed: it was a bloody great year. The pictures, randomly selected by the algorithm, perfectly displayed a year of precious moments with friends, family, the kids, the puppy and an enormous catfish (WTF Facebook?). I couldn’t help thinking that something was missing though, that it was all a bit rose-tinted, and frankly, vomit-inducing so I turned instead to my status updates which gave a much more honest view of 2014.

Here are some of my favourites:

fb7fbfebturdfb3fb2fbjulyfb4fbdec2

I’m not going to bother with resolutions for 2015 as I failed miserably at last years  (dust regularily?? Was I on drugs??) but I can only wish for more of the same happy, special moments, although I can live without the gigantic catfish, if I’m honest. See you next year!

*i.e. the only one that hasn’t been trashed by the kids. Yet.

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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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Sin City

It’s autumn proper at last and the ground is a swirling mass of orange, yellow and brown as the trees are gradually stripped of their dignity. The unseasonably warm Indian summer outstayed its welcome by a few weeks, and I am relieved to be back in cosy layers which conceal lumpy bumps and summer indulgences.

Autumn Crumble

Autumn Crumble

My favourite thing just now is walking the dog with my fresh-air denying almost-3-year-old. Crumble is a wonderful companion and her enthusiasm for the outdoors is gradually rubbing off on the youngest child who can now manage a gentle stroll round the estate with only minor meltdowns. We ditched the pram a while ago which felt like a huge milestone but it makes walking so much more interactive (if excruciatingly slow) as we stop frequently to poke around in ditches and undergrowth, searching for treasures.

Bramble season was short but lucrative and provided a great energy boost for a flagging child (5 minutes into the walk) but unfortunately very few made it into puddings and I failed miserably at collecting enough to make jam. Next year I will be more organised (I absolutely know I said that last year).

This is never going to happen

This is never going to happen

Conker season is now upon us and I am obsessed with scrambling around under horse chestnut trees, hunting out their spiky offerings and cracking them open to retrieve the shiny treasure inside. Having pockets stuffed full of conkers is immensely satisfying although I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do with the hundreds I’ve collected. Pinterest offered up a few suggestions which I pinned enthusiastically, but the reality is that they will be chucked in a bowl and forgotten about until they are discovered, desiccated and shrivelled next year when it all begins again. It’s the circle of life.

I had to tear myself away from our autumnal haven recently to spend a glorious child-free 24 hours in Amsterdam with two art college friends. It was fabulous and the perfect place to wander around in the sun, chill out with beers in the park and catch up on our busy lives. I attempted to make ironing duvet covers and folding fitted sheets sound hectic but I’m not really in the same professional league as my two lovely chums. One works in film special effects in London while the other is a talented radio documentary producer in Dublin but we are united in our struggles to balance motherhood with sanity and inevitable guilt, regardless of our circumstances.

Happy ladies

Happy ladies

Having all been to Amsterdam before, we had no agenda other than catching up and drinking cocktails. We eschewed the usual tourist attractions – sex, drugs, Van Gogh – in favour of cosy bars and whiskey sours. Conversation veered between traumatic birth stories, marital gripes and the complex sub-plots on Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom as we nattered into the small hours, eventually stumbling into our plush Air B&B apartment for six hours of blissful uninterrupted sleep.

We managed to squeeze in a token gallery visit and the obligatory flower market the following day before heading back to the airport to go our separate ways. I love those girls and was sad to say goodbye but the excitement of seeing my other favourite girls kept me going on the long drive home.  That, a cheeky McDonalds pit stop and the Desert Island Discs archive on my iPod.

I was reconciled with the fact that the kids would be fast asleep in their cosy wee beds by the time I got home and was looking forward to a good nights sleep before an excitable reunion in the morning. Picture my utter horror unbridled joy when the little darlings launched themselves at me as I stepped through the door because they’d been too excited to go to bed. I really must go away more often.

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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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Summer Loving

LIterally TENS of people on the beach

LIterally TENS of people on the beach

Hello summer! It’s been hot, hot, hot (Low twenties. It’s all relative.) for what feels like ages so we’ve been making good use of our beautiful local beaches. Playgroup has twice abandoned the village hall in favour of the beach which has been fabulous and so much more relaxing for us wrung-out mothers. The kids seem to get along so much better outside and although  there are odd moments of violence and aggression, generally they are all the best of friends which is so vital, being such a wee community.

We recently lost a lovely pal who moved back to civilisation and this had a huge impact on our little group. She was a brilliant person to know and inspired us all to be better parents and also, miraculously, take up exercise! I found the latter easier than the former but I’m really trying to do things differently, be more patient and generally not lose my shit so often. Like right now, for example.  I am trying to steal a few moments to write my blog but my despot two-and-half year old is going bat-shit crazy because giant Paddington Bear is quite clearly too big for Action Man’s tank and she is demanding I rectify this futile situation immediately. The old me (yesterday) might have matched her glass-shattering decibels with a few expletives and thrown said toys dramatically out of the room but I managed to rise above it, create a distraction and restore calm. No shrieking, no swearing. Go me. Hopefully I’ve changed in time to save me a fortune in therapy fees later on. (Theirs, not mine – I want ALL the therapy).

Swims in the sea are also helping my mental health and we have fallen into a lovely routine of popping down to our little beach at around 4pm for a dip and a paddle. It is blissful and wonderful to watch the children gaining confidence in the water. Being non-swimmers just isn’t an option for them, living where we do. They should get plenty practice this week as we are off on our annual holiday to Tiree for more of the same. I can’t wait to be there again, my remote home from (my remote) home. The gruelling journey began at 3.30am this morning but we are now safely aboard the Clansman, happily stuffed with the mandatory CalMac breakfast and succeeding at ignoring the children as they pester random strangers and torment unassuming doggies. I am also ignoring the fact that it is currently pissing down and visibility is pretty much zero. It will be fine once we get there – the sun ALWAYS shines on Tiree.

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