I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

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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No Thanks

I am a HUGE fan of autumn and have been loving the changing colours and light of the past few weeks. Who knew that taking a dog out for a poo at 5.30am could be such a treat. We might not get the spectacular sunsets that the smug west coasters get, but our sunrises can be pretty special if you have the misfortune of being up at that heinous hour.

This is what 6am looks like. You're welcome.

This is what 6am looks like. You’re welcome.

The sea is still inviting although the temperatures have dropped significantly. I thought I’d had my last swim weeks ago but seized the moment this week with a visiting southern friend who fancied a dip. His expletives could be heard for miles around as his testicles retreated faster than a Better Together campaigner in an egg factory when he submerged himself in the water and flailed around for all of a minute. Admittedly it was a little cooler than previous times but still utterly devine and the perfect remedy for a shattered insomniac.

Niall went for the subliminal approach to try and influence my decision.

Niall went for the subliminal approach to try and influence my decision.

I am still waking (or being woken) in the small hours and no amount of sheep counting or light referendum reading can lull me back to sleep. The Yes/No question continued to plague me until I finally cracked one morning after a pathetic four hour sleep. I tore the ballot paper from the envelope and defiantly etched my black cross in the ‘No’ box and sealed it all up before I had time to find the tippex. I don’t think I was impulsive. From the beginning I was firmly in the ‘No’ camp but was tempted by the passion and commitment of the ‘Yes’ folk and was very much buoyed along by promises of a fairer society, protection of our amazing NHS and improved child care options for working parents. News of Ukip gaining support and power also started to tip the scales to a ‘Yes’ from me but while my head was saying this could work, we can do this, my heart was screaming, please don’t go.

I am VERY proud to be Scottish but I can’t imagine not being part of the United Kingdom. A friend just summed it up perfectly for me on Facebook: “To me it comes down to being a fish and choosing whether you want your own pond or are happy to share the ocean.” I just think it’s better to share.

Who knows what will happen on the 18th, or indeed forever after, but it’s looking like there is only a baw hair* in it. I just hope the smugness will be kept to a minimum whatever the outcome and that the energy and debate will continue until the promises that were made by either side are kept.

* this is an official political term. Obvs.

3am Reading List

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