I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

January Blues

Half way through and I am a bit over January. It just seems to go on forever and with all the festivities packed away in boxes (or carelessly tossed into the indoor skip billiard room as the case was with a couple of fake Christmas trees and a plastic Holly wreath), it all looks a bit depressing and there is nothing to hide the dust behind. Having started the year a few minutes behind the rest of the country (I cocked up the countdown. My bad.), it has been a bit of a struggle to get back into the swing of things.

In your face, Jane Asher

In your face, Jane Asher

I did manage to muster excitement for our eldest’s 5th birthday and invited her entire class back for pizza and cake after school. The four of them had a wonderful time and my grown-up girl didn’t seem to mind that her Scooby Doo cake wasn’t the three tier effort, expertly iced with fondant figures of the whole cast that my sister-in-law had helpfully shown her on Pinterest a few days previously*. She appeared to be delighted with the £2.99 Scooby Doo cake topper hurriedly purchased from eBay which arrived in the nick of time and was rapidly stuck on top of some ready-rolled fondant. At least the sponge was homemade.

Me walking the dog

Me walking the dog

The weather isn’t helping my January blues as we are being treated to a Proper Winter this year. We’ve had lightening storms, no phone for a fortnight, gales, no TV for two rounds of over a week (I.e. no Peppa Pig. Every cloud…) and now we have snow. And ice. And more gales. I’m not really a softie when it comes to the elements, especially now we have a dog – I’ll happily don my fleecy onsie, duck-down jacket and novelty bear hat to take her out at 6.30am, rain or hail – but when weekend plans are disrupted and I have to tell two excited children that we won’t be going to the biggest soft play centre in the world Glasgow (once again, every cloud…), it’s a tad frustrating. I’m feeling our remoteness for the first time and the distance from old friends and my family seems bigger somehow. Still, it’s not all awful. Springtime is round the corner (and down the road a few miles) and all the snow makes everything look even more amazing. Also, with the lawn now carpeted in a delicate layer of crunchy white frost, it’s much easier to see the dog poo on my daily round of turd spotting. Silver linings all round.

*we had words.

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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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You Can’t Hurry Love

Today is polling day and in the early hours of tomorrow we will know Scotland’s fate. My turmoil continued long after posting my ‘no’ vote two weeks ago but now I feel at peace and ready to accept either outcome. My biggest fear is that nothing changes if it’s a ‘No’ and everything changes if it’s a ‘Yes’. That and the prospect of back to back re-runs of Take the High Road*.

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The worlds biggest Wendy house.

Luckily there has been a big distraction to take my mind of the ‘Neverendum’ which involved another kind of union. We hosted a family wedding at the weekend which was a fabulous culmination of two years of planning, preparation and silent prayers for September sunshine. Having met 47 years ago, and been romantically involved for a fair few decades of that, the bride and groom had waited a long time for their perfect day, and by all accounts it was.

It was the kids’ first wedding since they missed their uncle’s big day due to vomiting and diarrhoea. There was no such luck this time as over-excitement predictably turned to extreme boredom three minutes into the church service, after I’d ran out of wine gums. They passed the next 57 minutes with a competitive game of ‘pew hurdles’ in a race to see who could get to Granny, two rows in front then back to uncle Kenny, three rows behind. The whispered apologies were a useful ice-breaker for the hundreds of relatives I was meeting for the first time.

It was very moving to witness this lovely couple exchange their vows and felt very poignant considering the length of their partnership. The mood was lightened considerably though during the singing of the register. The groom’s sense of humour tickled everyone as the dulcet tones of Elvis Presley sang out the lyrics, “Wise men say, only fools rush in…”. Laughter rippled around the little church and truly set the tone for the rest of the day – love and joy and celebration.

The sun shone all day and the marquee looked fabulous with its castle backdrop. It took a bit of getting used to as it was erected a week before the big day and was considerably larger than we anticipated, however it quickly became a giant play pen for puppy and children and I quite miss it now it’s gone. Things are slowing returning to normal although our house does resemble Elton John’s mansion due to the volume of leftover flowers we are happily fostering.

It was a such a privilege to make this amazing day possible (although admittedly Niall did most of the hard work while I de-thorned some roses and shovelled up some dog poo from the lawn) and there is a decidedly Boxing Day feel about the place now. The bride and groom departed today and the remaining guests leave tomorrow. There are no more distractions from the referendum results which are now just hours away so I’m going to neck the remaining wedding Chablis, cuddle the sleeping puppy and pray that we will all still be friends in the morning. See you on the other side.

*think Acorn Antiques meets Eldorado set in Auchtermuchty

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Yes No Maybe

Fur baby

Fur baby

We are adjusting well to being a family of five. Crumble has settled in well and as predicted, has the run of the castle. No chesterfield remains unchewed and no antique rug has escaped piddle-free. Any flimsy rules we made about no dogs on the sofas or beds were broken by day two and there are nightly battles over who gets to cuddle the warm puppy whilst watching crap telly (or indeed twatting about with (anti) social media whilst eschewing actual conversation with significant other…). She is fabulous.

Carnage

Carnage

There have been numerous inevitable toy casualties. I was quite traumatised by the grim discovery of a severed hand on the playroom floor and the naked, mangled corpse of eagle-eyes action man close by. Fake Barbie (£3.50 – you get what you pay for) suffered a similar fate but I managed to reassemble her disembowelled body, although she may have lost the use of her left arm.

Shit just got real

Shit just got real

The puppy’s arrival has coincided with an unexpected and most unwelcome period of insomnia for me. I must stress it has nothing to do with our gorgeous baby fur-ball but I keep waking at silly hours (usually aided by the cries of a small child) and just can’t fall back to sleep. Aside from the obvious drawbacks (psychotic mood swings, looking like a bag of shite…), on the plus side it’s giving me ample extra time to mull over The Big Question that is being asked of Scotland. Not ‘Should Susan Boyle be banished for her opening ceremony performance?’* but the much more serious and potentially life/society/everything changing, ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?’. We opted for a postal vote (just in case hell froze over and we weren’t in the country on the 18th of September) so my ballot paper is sitting in the kitchen, waiting for me to make my bloody mind up and tick a box.

This.

This.

I so envy my friends and family who are emphatic about their choice, which ever side they take. I have ricocheted between Yes and No like a hyperactive toddler and have no idea how I’ll feel either way on the 19th. I do know I have made some very bad decisions lately (jeggings. I don’t want to talk about it.) so will attempt to inform myself properly and not be swayed by Facebook propaganda or what Peter Capaldi thinks. (No idea.). I have dipped in and out of The White Paper which is all very jolly but doesn’t real answer the big questions (currency, economic growth, exiling John Barrowman) but then this patronising pile of guff from the Better Together campaign sent me fleeing to the Yes side.

I am sitting very uncomfortably on the fence but for the time being I’m clinging on tightly. I need a lot more sleep before I decide. Night, night.

(Oh balls. It’s 9am and I’ve promised them a trip to soft play. Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhh.)

*obvs. She forgot the words to Mull of Kintyre. Unforgivable.

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All Change

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Lots and lots of this

“It turns colder, that’s where it ends…”*

Summer, you did us proud again. We’ve loved every minute and have banked some fabulous memories to see us through the winter months. Thank you for the sun tans, the wild swims, for being too hot for the evil midges, for allowing us to be outside much more than inside and for showing all our (paying and non-paying) guests just how amazing our little edge of nowhere can be. Same again next year please.

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Plenty of this

I realise it might be little premature to close the door on summer but this is Scotland and there has been a distinct drop in temperature this last week and a definite yellow tinge to a few of the trees. I’m not packing away the ambre solaire just yet but I’m squeezing myself into ill-fitting jeans rather than too-tight shorts and have even required a raincoat a couple of times this week.

There is also a Big Milestone approaching which brings the holidays to a natural end – our oldest daughter is starting school this week. At four and half, she is six months younger than her two classmates so we had the choice of keeping her at nursery for another year. It was a tough decision but in such an intimate environment, where she already knows the names of the entire school (12 pupils!), it seemed to be the sensible option. Time will tell and any issues will no doubt be flung in my face when she’s a stroppy teenager – “I WASN’T READY!!!” *door slams*. I can just picture the scene…

It feels like a new era is beginning. We will no longer have the flexibility of popping “up the road” on a Friday morning, for a long weekend and as the school day starts half and hour earlier than nursery did, I’ll have to seriously adjust my morning ‘fannying about’ time and Get My Shit Together. School seems to be a whole different ball game from nursery. There is a compulsory uniform for instance. They were encouraged to wear it at nursery and the other five pupils willingly did, but not so our little rebellious madam who frequently pitched up sporting a ghastly Disney princess frock and one occasion, her leopard print onsie. I’m not looking forward to that daily battle but must admit to being secretly chuffed that she’s showing early signs of non-conformity. (I would be more chuffed if she chose to non-conform in something other than Disney though).

Totally eclipsing First Day At School excitement is of course, puppy excitement. Our third child substitute (it’s time to call a spade a spade) arrives TONIGHT! Ideally when both the children are asleep so they will wake up to the pitter patter of tiny paws. It’s not great timing in terms of trying to bundle Zoë off to school for her second day but it does mean that India will have a playmate in her absence.

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Home improvements

So it’s all change again at the castle but all for the better – notwithstanding the inevitable chewing of antique furniture and piddling on ancient rugs. Each generation has left a legacy of doggie damage somewhere in the house (a ripped portrait here, a gnawed table leg there) and I’m sure Crumble will also leave her mark. The children certainly have. Their chosen victim was the 150 year old rocking horse that graces our playroom. I stupidly left them unattended with poster paint for a few minutes and returned to find poor Dobbin had been given a makeover. I was fleetingly livid but calmed down quickly when I realised they were merely adding to Dobbin’s legend. These include stories of losing her mane and tail in mock battle and most famously of all, great grandpa’s brother posting marbles through the hole in her bottom, which still rattle to this day at a fast gallop.

 

*yep, Grease. Can’t remember my Shakespeare.

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Puppy Love

PUPPIES!!!

PUPPIES!!!

We are expecting! A puppy! In less than two weeks. I am beside myself. The baby, I mean puppy, was born six weeks ago and is part of a record-breaking litter. The amazing mummy dog, Annie, gave birth to a staggering FIFTEEN puppies and all are healthy and thriving. They quickly became a media sensation and have been all over the national press. The best thing is that they are local so we were able to meet the baby puppy for the first time last week. Having had my heart set on a chocolate pup to match my canine nephew, Pudding, I had to alter my expectations when we learned that the only brown girl had been chosen already. It wasn’t dissimilar to the feelings we had at a gender scan for our second daughter. There was split second disappointment that she wasn’t a boy followed by unbounded joy and euphoria that she was a healthy baby. (And also secret delight that we would save a fortune in baby clothes).

We had two puppies to choose from which seemed inconceivable – how do you pick one impossibly cute thing over another? They were both sleeping initially, nestling in the arms of their owner, like little black velvet bean bags. One woke up before her sister and was handed to me for a cuddle. She nibbled and wriggled and snuggled and we knew we’d found our Crumble. I felt a surge of something I hadn’t experienced since my littlest was bundled up and thrust upon me on that operating table two and half years ago. It was love at first sniff of her tiny, furry head. And that’s exactly how if felt when I held the puppy.

Crumble!

Crumble!

The countdown is on and we are doing our best to prepare the children for the new arrival. Hopefully they are old enough to understand that Crumble isn’t a toy and mustn’t be hauled around or prodded or fed Jaffa cakes. Likewise, I’ll have to be careful not to show favouritism to our fur-baby and will try to treat them all equally. I’m prepared for a few nights of disturbed sleep as Crumble gets used to being away from her mummy but will try to be firm and not pander to her pleading whimpers. My track record at this isn’t great though and we still have a nearly three year old who doesn’t sleep through and a four and a half year old who won’t go to bed. Sometimes I feel like I’m failing all over the place.

We have been using the puppy as an emotional blackmail tool to try and change behaviour for a few weeks now and have successfully manipulated the youngest into doing ‘number twos’ in the toilet (it’s been a messy summer…) as well as coaxing her back into the bath after a three month sabbatical following the development of an irrational fear of being sucked down the plug hole. Over the next two weeks the bribery stakes will be upped and we’ll attempt to crack the nighttime situation – no sleep, no puppy will be our mantra and hopefully they are still young enough not to smell the bullshit. There is NO WAY we are not getting that puppy.

Eleven more (broken) sleeps!

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One Year On

Happy.

Happy.

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!

 

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