I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

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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Wolf Hall

There has been a big gap in our lives since just before Christmas when all the good telly finished and gripping dramas were neatly wrapped up into satisfying conclusions. With the exception of The Missing which I am still cross about (poor James Nesbit just wanted closure). Oh, and Homeland, which ended so badly I thought I’d dreamt it. (Yes my dreams are that dull. I need to get out more). At least The Fall was satisfactory, unless they pull a fast one and the baddie survives for a third series. Surely Gillian Anderson has run out of silk blouses and lower rank officers to shag? (Interjection: Stella “no fucks given” Gibson is my absolute TV heroine of 2014).

Anyway, when I heard rumblings on Twitter about Wolf Hall, starring Brodie from Homeland as Henry the Eighth, my interest was piqued, so much so that I offered to review it on a national radio show (The Fred Macaulay Show, Radio Scotland, next Wednesday!).

Sorry not sorry

Sorry not sorry

It nearly all went wrong for me during the opening credits when I read the line, “Based on a novel by Hilary Mantel”. My heart sank as I realised this wasn’t going to be all thrusting codpieces, bare-breasted maidens and gluttonous red-headed monarchs beheading wives like Hugh Fearnly Wittingstall preparing ginuea fowl. Instead it was shaping up to be high-brow, historically accurate and downright educational.

In the old days, Before Kids, I would have happily devoured a historical novel or two. I loved Rose Tremaine’s wonderfully lewd, Music and Silence and have read Anna Karenin twice. Now however, I’m lucky if I can finish a Sunday supplement and generally nod off in bed after a round or two of CandyCrush. I have dumbed down significantly.

I stuck at it with Wolf Hall, eagerly awaiting Damian Lewis’s grand entrance, and passing the time by playing, “what’s HE/SHE been in?”. Meanwhile, as I screeched out, “that’s the wee chap from Love, Actually!!” (it was) and “is that him from Queer As Folk??” (It wasn’t), my husband sat with one eye on Wikipedia, helpfully pointing out who was who in terms of the actual plot.

It was very dark, and I mean that literally. There were lots of candlelit scenes in which it was difficult to make out who was talking, all though generally they were all called Thomas. I thought it was just our ancient telly, which is deeper than it is wide but there have been complaints.

I worried for the safety of little Grace, (Thomas) Cromwell’s daughter – twatting about in angel wings is just asking for trouble in a period drama – but was utterly shocked when her poor sister and mother also died of the bizarre sounding ‘sweating sickness’. (I am never exercising again). Poor old Cromwell already looked like life had given him lemons before the invention of lemonade, but he rallied marvellously and did his best to save his chum (Thomas, obvs) Wosley from murderous Henry, who was still notably absent.

Nearing the end, with no executions and no Damian Lewis, suddenly there he was, tucked away at the side in a court scene, no pomp and no ceremony. I was a little disappointed but I have been ruined by inferior productions, deliberately camping things up for telly. (I’m thinking of The Tudors a few years ago. Utter filth. Loved it.)

Clever friends who have read the book say it’s an excellent adaptation and I certainly couldn’t fault the plot (as I know eff all about history). The acting is fabulous and I soon stopped shouting “smile for fucksake” whenever Cromwell appeared (played superbly by that chap who wasn’t in Queer as Folk) as it was clearly just his character and he’d been through a lot.

I will watch next week as we’ll get more of horrid Henry and I think Cromwell cheers up a bit as he plots to severe England’s ties with the Catholic Church just so our Henry can get laid. Seems a bit extreme but who am I to argue with Hilary Mantel or Wikipedia.

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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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Homeland

Winter evenings are cosy, quiet affairs at the castle. There are fewer impromptu social gatherings than in the summer and it takes a monumental effort to leave the log-burning stove to face the elements to get to the car to go somewhere after dark. Then there’s the predictable, you drive, no YOU drive, argument. It never ends well and we’re not usually on speaking terms when we eventually reach our destination. It’s much safer just to stay in with a bottle of wine and a box set.

Keeping us glued to the Chesterfield wingbacks for the past couple of weeks has been series one and two of Homeland, which I thoughtfully gave to my husband for Christmas because I’ve been desperate to watch it for two years. We missed this when the rest of the world was watching it because we were caught in that toddler/newborn sleep-deprived maelstrom and couldn’t cope with watching anything more challenging than Countryfile.

As predicted, Homeland had us gripped from the start and we were soon dealing with a three-episode a night habit. This is a brilliantly executed romantic thriller which follows the ‘will they/won’t they’ relationship highs and lows of the two main characters, one of whom is Carrie Mathison, a bipolar CIA agent and the other Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a former American prisoner of war, held captive in Iraq for 8 years. Thrown into this heady mix is the ‘is he/isn’t he an al Qaeda sympathiser’ sub-plot, Sergeant Brody’s troubled marriage and Carrie’s CIA colleagues, most of whom think she is madder than a box of frogs.

Homeland: the original Rom-Dram

Homeland: the original Rom-Dram

Carrie begins to fall in love with Brody whilst conducting an illegal 24 hour surveillance operation on his house. We’ve all been there. She confesses all at a secluded cabin upstate, having manipulated a relationship in order to prove her suspicions that he is working for the bad guys. Brody takes this rather well and it becomes clear that in matters of the heart, feelings are mutual. Their path to true love was never going to run smoothly though and cracks soon start appearing. Suspicions heighten towards the end of series one, culminating in Brody’s failed suicide bomb attempt on the ‘Veep*’ and Carrie’s further decent into crazy for being totally right about everything whilst being utterly disbelieved by her patronising male colleagues, who eventually escort her off for electric shock therapy before giving her the sack.

In series two, things start to look up for our star-crossed pair as, back on the payroll, Carrie is completely vindicated when proof of Brody’s suicide mission emerges. By declaring her feelings to him during a tense interrogation scene (in which poor Brody gets his hand stabbed by one of Carrie’s moody workmates) she turns Brody away from the dark side and persuades him to become a double agent. Things couldn’t get much better when Carrie brings about the demise of the uber nasty Abu Nazir, al Qaeda big cheese as well as Brody’s former tormentor and on/off bestie. It’s all looking rosy, especially when Brody calmly confesses to killing the Vice President in order to save Carrie’s life (now that’s romance) but with another six series planned it wasn’t all that surprising when the relationship was thrown into further turmoil during the explosive season finale.

We were left wanting more and desperate for answers. Series three only concluded on TV at Christmas time so we will have to wait a while for the DVD and in the meantime I will try to forget that my motor-mouthed sister gave the game away on Boxing Day, revealing a vital twist in the last episode. I am still working on forgiving her.

*Vice President. This was a penny-dropping moment as I’d been hearing that term for ages, wrongly thinking it was something to do with hair-removal.

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