I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

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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Drama

It’s been all-go around here lately – break-ups, punch-ups, gay kisses, graduation ceremonies, a near-catastrophic sailing trip and a surprise pregnancy. Wait, WHAT?? Oh yes, that was Dawson’s Creek*, I must stop getting it confused with reality.

Weirdly, reality has almost been more exciting over here in our little corner of ‘where the hell IS that???’. It’s been all TV film crews, gigantic diggers and a near-catastrophic chimney fire around here. We’ve also had a brand-new arrival in the family, which comes top of my lengthy, Fabulous Things list. (Right above the gigantic digger).

Harper Hero -  I have it on good authority that her first name has nothing to do with the Beckhams

Harper Hero – I have it on good authority that her first name has nothing to do with the Beckhams

My gorgeous niece, Harper Hero, was born last week, 4 weeks before she’d planned to say ‘hello world’ but at a good healthy weight. She needed a wee extra stay in special care but has lived up to her fabulous middle name and is due to come home shortly. They are coming to visit in May, from New York, so It will be another couple of months before I can sniff her fuzzy head. In the mean time I’m making do with daily FaceTime calls to my amazing wee sister who has been plugged in to a hospital grade breast pump for over a week.

The arrival of the gigantic digger on site heralded the start of the construction phase of the hydro electric scheme that has been six years in the planning and the cause of numerous bouts of IBS for my stressed out husband. It is VERY exciting and whilst I can’t claim to have any clue what it will do or how it will work, I do know that it is yet another example of Niall ‘getting shit done’ which he is definitely winning at as I can’t even stay on top of my ironing pile.

Not my dad. Thankfully.

Not my dad. Thankfully.

I can’t really say too much about the film crew as it is Top Secret and may not come to anything but it was a very exciting day and I did briefly feel like a VIP, as opposed to a sleep deprived slummy mummy with dubious personal grooming habits. It did get me thinking (and worrying) about how we would come across on telly though. Someone** once described my family as being one part The Osbournes to two parts The Good Life which perfectly summed up our household of four hormonal, strong-minded women and long-suffering dad with an affinity for home grown vegetables. Thinking about my own special little unit, I would say we are a pleasant mixture of The F@!king Fulfords, Monarch of the Glen and Downton Abbey (if Lady Mary spent her days fishing turds out of baths and cleaning up dog sick).

I’m still too traumatised to talk about the chimney fire which happened on my watch while my husband was away for a few days. If it hadn’t been for the heroic efforts of my father-in-law, breathless from extensive chemotherapy, I shudder to think what might have been. Fingers crossed for some dull moments coming up.

*the end is in sight. Six series in four weeks. There’s one hell of an ironing pile waiting for me.

**I’m pretty sure it was my charming brother-in-law

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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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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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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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Oranges and Angels

There are three more days until Prosecco Day Christmas Day and I am safely ensconced at my parents’ house with the girls. My husband is sensibly minimising exposure to the chaos and arrives on Christmas Eve. I am feeling pleasantly calm about the whole thing, having gone through the stress of having to be hyper-organised before we left. ‘Santa’ presents (for how long must we peddle this lie???) were dispatched, all wrapped, last week with my parents who came down for the unmissable school concert. Shoddy handcrafted efforts have been hurriedly finished off and wrapped before I change my mind and rush off to M&S. I’m even up-to-date with my Christmas cards , which is a miracle considering they were a week late arriving from the printer.

I strongly suspect that this is the last year of our exploitative festive greeting. Even the youngest was reluctant and I had to change the theme at the last minute as they refused to be wise men – “WE ARE GIRLS”. A mere nuance if you ask me but I respected their wishes and hurriedly hacked up a duvet cover to make angel costumes. Only the dog seemed up for it and is the only one in focus but we got there in the end and some have said it’s our best yet.

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I am unapologetic for that pun. Deal with it.

 

As part of my ongoing, ‘Christmas Is Not Just About Santa’ series of daily lectures, I took the girls to church on Sunday so they could hear it from an expert who I hoped would carry more clout. It was a special family service and lovely minister Steve had organised some activities to hold the children’s interest. We had all been handed an orange and a bag of sundry items on arrival and after listening to the story of the first Christingle, we were encouraged to make our own. Soon the dulcet sound of muttered swear words echoed round the little church as we tried to pierce our oranges with a birthday candle then secure a ribbon round it with cocktail sticks. I was doing quite well until I discovered my youngest was happily munching away on my ‘fruits of the earth’ (dolly mixtures) and the eldest had expertly peeled her orange representing the world and was greedily scoffing the lot.

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This was not achieved.

By the time I got over the shock of her eating a piece of fruit without emotional blackmail or threats of violence, Rev Steve had moved on to Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

I shudder to think what their interpretation of the true meaning of Christmas is now but it was a lovely service and I feel spiritually nourished and prepared for the festive onslaught ahead. Did I just hear a cork popping?

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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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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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