Saturday, 22 December 2007

Baaaaah Humbug

“T’was the week before Christmas, and all through the house, the appliances were breaking down, and Mummy became a total grouse…”

Is it just me or have we slipped into a parallel universe or something? Is The Doctor on the prowl, battling some unseen electronic foe on behalf of mankind while we only see the fall-out? If so, do you think he’ll lend me his Sonic Screwdriver for a bit? So far this week the phone spent a day in a huff, the boiler has been playing silly buggers, the oven has a cob on and to cap it all the coffee machine is having a tantrum. The toaster won’t toast, the hair-dryer won’t dry and the tumble dryer is making a very weird noise. Plus the dog has decided that ‘come here’ now means ‘run away in the opposite direction as fast as you can’. What’s going on?!!

All I have to say is BAH HUMBUG! I need a big injection of Christmas spirit, preferably single malt and no ice. On the positive side the presents are all bought and wrapped and hidden, but I haven’t actually packed any clothes for our trip yet because I have been running in circles trying to sort out the curve-balls and round up the dog. I was telling my Mum all about my woes on the phone yesterday, ringing off at one point to have yet another go at Pickle for trying to ride the dog like a horse (he just doesn’t get it) then calling back to carry on my rant. She was very tolerant; I think I even got away with all the swearing I was doing. I’m seeing her on Sunday so I’ll soon know. Her response though? She laughed. I guess she’s seen it all before – kids teasing the dog, dog chewing the fixtures and fittings, fixtures and fittings that break down just when everyone is leaving town for the holidays… I hope one day I can muster a giggle too. In the meantime, I am promised a very relaxing Christmas chez Ma & Pa and I can’t wait to get there – provided the newly mended car doesn’t join in the fun and games of course. We are dumping the dog with friends who have a boisterous puppy themselves whom Tiggy adores so I hope she behaves.

Meanwhile, I need to find a babysitter for the boiler because the plumber wasn’t able to fix it because it needs a new part. We seem to be plagued by boilers more than anything else, having had to fully replace the one in our own house in England after it drove our tenant insane for 3 years. The one in our French house has been playing up ever since we moved in, and it was brand new at that point. Who can forget the 300 euro water leak it produced on Christmas Eve two years ago? Well now it keeps losing pressure and switching itself off every night – just as we’re going through a cold spell with temperatures of minus 5 every night. Luckily I know the trick for getting it working again but it’s been Siberia in my slippers each morning for the past week and last thing I have then wanted to do is venture into the garage to talk nicely to the boiler. Thankfully the plumber only lives across the road and kindly excused the whopping errors in my French - just my luck that the verb for ‘to lower’ is only one letter different from the verb for ‘to shag’ so you can look a proper numpty if you pronounce it wrong… I think he got the message that rather than getting fruity with the thermostat each evening all I actually did was lower the temperature on it. While we wait for the spare part we need to keep the temperature up to avoid it switching off so now it’s more Sahara than Siberia; the dog is laying herself across the front door trying to catch a draft and I have been forced to reduce my customary 4 jumpers down to 1. But it could all go pear-shaped while we are away so that we return to a walk in freezer for a house with a bunch of frozen pipes. Oh the joy.

But I really must tell you about my great discovery last week. Having tolerated all the bureaucracy and crazy rules here for the last 3+ years - like giving way to the right on the roads, needing a medical certificate to sign-up to any sport and needing my passport as id before my kids can be left in the crèche at IKEA – I have found an area where the Brits have surpassed their French cousins by miles (or rather kilometres). It’s the Pet Travel Scheme. It sucks. I mentioned last time that I had to visit the vet the next day. Well, I came back spitting feathers, and not from a run-in with a low-flying budgerigar either. Here’s the thing. I want to take my dog to England now that she won’t have to wallow in quarantine for 6 months. I did some research on the internet and saw how many hoops you have to jump through in order to be allowed into other countries with a dog. Of course for the UK it’s not so much a few hoops as a full-on assault course, due to ‘our’ morbid terror of rabies (‘la rage’ as its called over here. Yup, the red tape will fill you with ‘rage’ I can tell you.) But it wasn’t until I went to see the vet that I found out that you also have to do it all in the right order otherwise the blokes at the border won’t let you into the country. I thought we were halfway there since Tiggy already has her tattoo and a rabies vaccination certificate. But the UK has rejected the tattoo as a valid form of id, only a microchip will do. So that effectively renders her rabies certificate invalid as well for the purposes of importing the dog. Ohmygod, I am starting to sound like a page from the DEFRA website. Someone stick a muzzle on me quick.

Long story short, we’ve had to start the process all over again: first the microchip, then the rabies jab, then the blood test (to check the rabies jab has produced enough antibodies) then a wait of SIX MONTHS before she can set foot (paws) on UK soil. And along the way you have to properly register the chip in order to get the Doggy Passport, which she also needs, but at this point the French put the boot in and won’t register the microchip unless she also has a tattoo! Merci beaucoup. You know, living here has added a whole new meaning to that phrase ‘mad as a box of frogs’… As of this afternoon I have indeed truly seen it all. Walking through the muddy forest earlier Tiggy and I came across a little old lady with her over-weight and bad-tempered Doberman. The lady was in full make-up... and a calf-length fur coat. Vive la France.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Just a quick word

I am determined to Blog a few lines before another fortnight slips by, especially as I have just included my Blog address in all my Christmas cards, telling my friends and rellies they can catch up on all our news here. So a hearty ‘Welcome!’ to any new readers; don’t fret, you will get all the gossip but only when I can disentangle my boy from the keyboard and myself from the daily turmoil and actually concentrate for half an hour. I am hopeful I may get away with it now as the kiddies are involved in a very interesting sounding game upstairs which has Pickle going by the name of Agatha and Poppet sporting shorts and a strappy top despite the inch of frost outside. At least they aren’t tormenting the dog who is currently flaked out on her bed after wolfing down a huge bone. I thought dogs were only supposed to gnaw on bones but ours likes to actually eat them - after crunching them into little pieces on my best rug of course. Then she buries what remains in the plant pots in the garden to marinade for a few days before digging them back up for another chew.

So, all is relatively calm at the moment, which makes a nice change from chasing my tail taking the kids to school, the dog to the park and the car to the garage. Yes, the brand new car is in for repair already and I am pootling about in a courtesy Fiesta. Oh the shame! Mind you, it’s a whole lot easier to park, I just hope they won’t mind all the baguette crumbs that Pickle has already smothered across the back seat. I should have known not to get a Ford, no matter how good the reports about the S-Max in What Car, with our luck we were always going to get a dud. Still, the garage didn’t sound too worried when I explained the problem. Luckily my French teacher was able to furnish me with an appropriate translation of ‘the bastard thing keeps cutting out!’

Meanwhile the whole household has gone Christmas crazy, spurred on by the children who are so excited that they had the tree up on 1st December and are ploughing their way through 4 advent calendars. We have a chart on the wall counting the ‘sleeps’ to the big day which they started crossing off in November. I didn’t get much of a look-in on the decorations this year; I was only required to trail some lights around the tree after Poppet had gone at it. It looks as though someone has vomited tinsel and baubles all over it, but we’re very proud she dressed it all herself. I’ve been busy in the kitchen instead. I’ve made mincemeat, shortbread, gingerbread and mince pies and Nobby made a Christmas cake. Someone stop me or I’ll be putting the sprouts on next. And we’re not even going to be here for it, we’re heading back to Blighty for a change. Wish me luck trying to hide all the parcels in the car. Mine still believe in Santa so they get a bit confused whenever presents turn up here in the post. They reckon the elves do all the shopping and wrapping – huh! if only! You have to sharpen your elbows before venturing to the shops these days. At least Nobby and I have agreed a system to make sure we get what we really want this year. We buy whatever it is we fancy and give it to the other one to wrap up for Christmas Day! I’m very pleased about it and Nobby is being exceptionally generous this year…

It has now taken me two days to write all this so I am going to publish and run before something else happens to interrupt me. The kids are both staying for lunch at school tomorrow and I am sooooo looking forward to a day on my own. Of course the dog needs to go to the vet now and I have a room full of presents to wrap but at least the soundtrack will be more Simply Red than simply shouting.

And… relax.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Whose Kids Are These?!

I think someone switched my kids in the night. They looked the same, they sounded the same but all day yesterday they were total buggers and couldn’t possibly have been the adorable darlings I have been raising for almost 7 years. I suppose it didn’t help that I was in the throes of a migraine and really just wanted to hide in my bed in a darkened room. Normally when Mummy is ill they are really sweet, bringing me teddy bears and blankets and tiptoe-ing about. And in fact they did that on Tuesday night when I arrived back early from my Jujitsu class which is where the migraine started. I’ve only ever had about half a dozen migraines before and only since Pickle was born. I get the ‘visual disturbance’ variety which mess about with my peripheral vision and which frankly, if they weren’t so frightening, would be rather comical. There I was, in my kimono, facing a young chap who was about to try and hit me with the blunt end of a rubber dagger so I could subsequently throw him over my shoulder and get him in a head-lock, when suddenly I couldn’t see his nose. All his other features were intact but when I looked directly at his face his nose was missing. Then I realised I couldn’t see the mats to my right or indeed half of the rest of the class so I grabbed my bilingual friend and asked him to translate that I had to go and I scampered home to grab an Imigran and a dark bedroom.

Poppet and Pickle were still up when I arrived and brought me a few toys and made some effort to keep their voices down while I got some rest. But by the next day they had completely forgotten about it and I was literally the bear with a sore head all day. Oh well, I suppose you can’t see a headache, there’s no coughing or nose-blowing so it’s easy to forget to stay quiet and to build a cushion mountain on the new coffee table and shriek at the top of your voice instead. Why did it have to happen when they had no school?! They’ve been pretty painful on and off recently anyway, especially Pickle’s habit of teasing the dog into a frenzy and jumping about on the sofa. I have lost track of how many times I’ve told him off about it but he’s so thick skinned I reckon he’s developed rhino hide. Nothing gets through. At least the dog will fight back, although very gently as she’s such a sweetheart, except it hasn’t stopped him yet, even when she’s nipped him pretty hard. One day he’ll drive her too far and since she’s unlikely to get her mouth round ‘would you just f**k off and leave me alone!’ I reckon he might lose an arm. Perhaps that will teach him? Hmm, I doubt it. Dog-baiting is much more fun than getting your shoes on and your teeth cleaned for school. I asked him once how he would feel if someone was teasing him to distraction like that, hoping he might put himself in her place for a second. He replied ‘I’d lash out at them’. Not quite the ‘I’d feel cross and want them to stop’ that I was fishing for but slightly more sophisticated than ‘I’d whack them’ I suppose.

Oh well, they are both out today so it’s just me and the dog… and a bunch of gardeners 3 doors down buzzing away with hedge clippers and sounding like a swarm of enormous angry bees. What a day for my neighbour to choose to get her bush trimmed… Anyway, at least I can whang in some earplugs and update my Blog as it has been about 3 weeks since my last entry. I was thinking about writing it the other day whilst I was doing the ironing. The what? Yes, well I couldn’t find any drying paint that needed watching so I knuckled down and did some. I saved the shirts for my cleaner though; she is fantastic at them and can whip through 10 in under an hour. To help speed the job up I was listening to Nobby’s i-pod on shuffle, which was a strange experience. His taste is slightly different to mine anyway and at least he doesn’t get Disney songs every other tune like mine. But he’s recently added on a French course, which I can just picture him muttering along to on the train in the morning. But the I-pod treats it as any other track so you can go straight from ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ to ‘Working With French Pronouns’. Bizarre.

Anyway, I’d like to write more, especially about my recent trip to the UK to surprise my brother at his 40th birthday party, but this monitor is getting rather too bright for my fuddled head and I would like a little rest before the kids come home for lunch. (I’d also one day like to meet the mad French person who decided that 2 hour lunch breaks in the middle of the day were a good idea, so I can shake them warmly by the throat.)

I’ll be back.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Coming round

Its eight thirty in the evening and what will you find me doing? Catching up on my emails and updating my Blog perhaps? Clearing away the evening meal and tidying the kitchen? Marching round the block on a nice energetic walk with the dog? Nope, I am falling asleep on the couch, while the dinner things fester on the table, the computer hums away to itself in the corner, nothing more than a very expensive clock and the dog sits hopefully by the back door with her lead in her mouth. Yes, having laughed like a drain at my Mum and Dad for taking a little kip once dinner is over, now it’s me settling down to unwind in front of Mastermind and slowly slipping into a coma. I’ll just rest my eyes for 2 minutes, thinks I; the next thing I know I’m jerking awake with a string of drool down my chin just in time to see the winner being announced. What’s that all about? Is old age creeping up on me? Surely not. It’s my brother who is about the hit 40 after all (tee hee!).

But, hey, I wouldn’t mind being my parents at the moment, seeing as how they have just been on a 2 week cruise to the Caribbean – rafting down the river in Jamaica, shopping in Cuba, rounding off in Barbados - nice. And yet here I am instead, trying to find a way to get Pickle to stop jumping on the sofa and teasing the dog, desperately searching for something else that Poppet will eat besides chicken nuggets, and trying to train the dog to stop gnawing the table legs and running around the house when she’s just been rolling in puddles in the forest.

Meanwhile the conspiracy theorist in me is convinced that I have become part of a clandestine scientific experiment to see how many virtual balls the average housewife can keep juggling in the air, including a girl with a broken leg and a boy with asthma, while other objects are thrown in from all angles. Let’s see how she copes with a broken down car in the middle open farmland, with a user manual in French and no clue what the error message on the dashboard means. Or how about we turn that traffic light orange as she goes past it and have the police pull her over for a ticking off? OK, now here’s an oven that fuses the whole house halfway through cooking a Sunday roast and remains out of action for the next 3 weeks. And show that dog where the food scraps are on the compost heap so she can vomit teabags all over the carpet.

The men in white coats have been having a field day with me. Will she drop the lot and reach for the bottle? Or perhaps go for a relaxing diversion that the whole family can share? Ah, yes, she’s going for a trip to the cinema, looking up the nearest one with a family film in English and driving for 40 minutes to get there. Buying the popcorn, settling down, preparing to forget all about the list of tasks back at the house. The film is starting… and it’s in French. Bugger. Those beastly scientists doctored the web site and sneaked in another curveball - that particular cinema never shows films in English! Arrgh.

Hand me the bottle someone. No, tell you what, just re-open that school, pronto. Who cares that the school runs are murder; the half term holiday is way too long.

But before I become a total moaning Minnie, Poppet has turned everything around today and wiped out all the stress with one simple act - she walked without her crutches! She limped into her classroom with them under her arm instead, much to the delight of her teacher, and her Mum. I am not sure what gave her the proverbial kick up the bum she so desperately needed. Maybe it was the threat of going back to the hospital if she didn’t get walking, or maybe it was the promise of a trip to Disney if she did. Either way, I am overjoyed to see such progress and I am bursting with pride.
They can chuck what they like at me now; I have my little girl back.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Curve-ball central

I think I have mentioned curve-balls before but this weekend they have been coming thick and fast, as if some vindictive cosmic tennis coach being has trained his super-turbo-powered ball machine at us and turned the power up to maximum.

It all started in Thursday night when we only had one more day of school to get through before the half-term holidays started, with the long anticipated lie-ins and laying about in pjs until lunchtime. I had my final Friday ‘sans enfants’ all planned out; a gentle stroll through the forest with the dog followed by a French lesson in the morning, a little wander round the shops during the afternoon then a night out with the girls. But Pickle developed a cough during Thursday night which meant that I was up until 4am, the dog had to forego her Friday morning walk as he had to stay off school and I was a total zombie during my French lesson and mis-pronounced the word for ‘weigh’ so my tutor thought I’d said ‘shag’.

Then as the coughing got worse and Pickle started to wheeze like an old man I decided to take him to see our lovely doctor in the afternoon. I took the opportunity to leave Tiggy alone in the house for the first time rather than have her throw up in the car again, anticipating that we would only be gone half an hour before returning home with the obligatory bagful of medication. Er, wrong. Lovely Doctor did a quick examination then requested that I calmly proceed straight to Accident and Emergency, do not pass Go, do not collect the shopping. So we ended up spending almost 4 hours at the hospital with Pickle hooked up to a nebuliser whilst I made frantic calls to Nobby and other friends to make sure someone could collect Poppet from school and someone else could get home to the dog before she tore the place apart.

Luckily Nobby was able to get out of work so by the time he got home Tiggy had been alone two-and-a-half hours and the only casualty was the brand new hands-free kit for my mobile phone. Pickle had 4 treatments before they finally let him go, by which time he was perky as anything and giggling uncontrollably at the sock puppets I had created to amuse him when they wouldn’t let him surf the internet on the hospital computer (how rude). I did manage to salvage my evening out with the girls, I am pleased to say. Good thing too as I was the chauffeur and the only one who knew the way to Peony’s new house. I just had time to change my top, slap on some slap and have a quick fight with Nobby about which one of us had been more put-out by proceedings. In the end we agreed to congratulate each other for successfully fielding another crisis and I had a tip-top night at the Chinese with my mates, covering the usual subjects of child-birth, schools, parking, and husbands.

Mercifully, Saturday was relatively uneventful, although I did have to get up early with Pickle, despite him having a good night. We have a fair system for alternating our weekend lie-ins because you can guarantee that the little darlings who you can’t drag out of their pits without a crow-bar and monkey wrench on a school day will be up and bouncy by 7am on a Saturday and Sunday, however ill they may have appeared on Friday night. Nobby doesn’t mind getting up early on a Sunday because he can watch Match of the Day so I do the Saturday stint. Of course Nobby misses out if there’s Saturday school but them’s the breaks, huh. (hee hee!) But the next curve-ball is the dog’s new-found love of chewing things. It’s amazing how quickly she has gone from our beloved Tiggy to ‘that dog’. I knew it might happen but I had imagined the honeymoon would last longer than a week. I should have smelled a rat when she made a play for Poppet’s long-suffering Rosie the Rabbit during my French lesson on Friday. I thought the hands-free kit was just punishment for me leaving her alone for so long the first time, but since then the list of casualties includes a wooden coaster, a doggie finger-puppet, several of the kids drawings, a couple of pens, two sponges, a pair of gloves and two table legs. And her own toys that we so lovingly purchased last week are still in pristine condition. Oh dear.

Now, the refuge insisted that she is three years old but to me this is very puppy behaviour which I just did not expect, especially not after such a good start. We have a friend who bought 3 rabbits a couple of years back and she was told by the pet shop that they were all dwarf variety and wouldn’t grow much. These days it’s pretty clear they were talking total codswallop because I had a real dwarf rabbit once myself and hers are now three times his size, and it now looks possible that the people at the refuge went to the same charm school as the rabbit dealers and just told me what I wanted to hear.

Oh well, I’ve been hot-lining Dog Borstal all week and I reckon we can get through this. Out in the woods she is a wonderful companion, even if her ‘walking to heel’ is still dismal and she has a thing about joggers and cyclists. I don’t really think she’d eat one if she caught it but I don’t take the chance when the shell-suits are approaching and she gets that look in her eye so I quickly slip on the leash. She and I have been making a lot of friend with fellow dog-walkers and she was given the right run-around by a whippet the other day which left her flaked out on the rug for the rest of the day so it’s not all bad.

Today the children decided to join in the game with some antics of their own, never to be out-done by a mere doggy. They got Nobby first, though. Pickle was up at the crack of dawn so Nobby took him downstairs for a spot of football on the telly but couldn’t work out why the program wasn’t on yet. Until he realised that the clocks went back last night and we never cottoned on. Classic! Later on Pickle made beds for the 6 fairy dolls out of a boxful of tissues. Clearly they all have very sensitive little bodies as each bed needed about 30 tissues. Then Poppet designed some lovely signs for the teddy-bear school they created… with a big black marker-pen… on the play-room carpet. I didn’t find the resultant splodges on the cheap non-stain-proof carpet until I cleared away the surreptitiously placed toys later on. I reckon they were banking on me doing the tidying once they were in bed but I got the better of them for once and called them both in for a telling off. Naturally they each blamed the other one which is all very comical because you only have to see who’s not making eye-contact and sidling towards the door to find the culprit. Pickle offered to try and wipe it off with some wet loo-roll but I managed to persuade him to leave it to me. Then I followed them back into his room to see what they’d been up to while I’d been tidying – they were bathing the dollies in a little baby bath in the middle of his bedroom carpet. I let that one go; at least it was only water for once. Pity they're not ones for using a lot of soap or his carpet could have had a free shampoo at the same time.

So I wonder what tonight holds? I’ve done my best to move most of the tempting objects out of the dogs reach but I wouldn’t put anything past her. I’m taking a huge risk leaving the shoe rack out in the hall – I’ve moved my favourites off it of course, I’m not completely barking, yet. My money’s on the remote controls getting a chewing next, or possibly the rental contract I’ve had to leave by the front door so I don’t forget to post it. Hmm. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Brace yourself, Sheila, here comes a rant. French people please turn away now as the following spleen-venting may cast aspersions at your culture. I’m extra boiling-mad as I write because I have had time to stew on this for a few hours and dream up what I should have said. Whereas at the time I smiled and nodded and said ‘Er, I see, OK’, I now wish I’d been able to say, ‘Frankly I find your decision illogical and unreasonable so why don’t you grow a scrotum, fill it with some bollox, stick up for common sense for a change and tell the lazy mothers to naff off?’
But I didn’t know the French translation, so I rolled over. Again.

Yes, it’s been another school-run to tell the grandchildren about, how did you guess?
Following on from the run-in with that woman who wanted me to move my pushchair so she could park a bit closer, and her subsequent suggestion that I park in the spaces in front of the school while Poppet can’t walk, you may remember that I took her advice and have been parking right by the gates ever since, in a spot reserved for me with a traffic cone by the policeman and the lollipop man. (The pushchair is now in the garage awaiting a buyer and I’m not sure Tiggy would want to share the boot with it anyway.)

This afternoon the policeman came up to me and told me that he can’t reserve me a spot any longer because there have been complaints from other mothers that it’s not fair. But he could give me permission to park on a wide bit of pavement another 20 yards further away from the school, if there isn’t already someone else parked on it (which there frequently is seeing as how some of these children have such delicate little legs). I politely reminded him that my daughter has a broken leg and another 20 yards is a bit much on crutches. So he said he was ‘desolé’ and that if I get there early enough I can certainly still use my current space but he would have to leave it un-reserved from now on, since the complaints, so if someone else bags it first then they can and I’ll have to go somewhere else.

???!!!** **???!!!!

Can someone please tell me what planet I woke up today? What’s that all about? This is the Municipal Policeman talking, who never turns up in front of the school without his little Thunderbirds-style hat on his head who has happily been stopping traffic to let me back out of my space and replacing the cone behind me for the last 2 weeks. He has also been reserving a parking space for several months for a French mother whose own 6-year-old is suffering from cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy whilst also attending school – I wonder if she has been told she can’t have a spot too? I wonder if these nitpickers who have taken it upon themselves to moan about this have actually devoted even a microsecond to putting themselves in our places. The main reason I spent 6 weeks struggling on with the double buggy was because I knew that this other lady was getting help parking and didn’t feel I had the right to request the same treatment when I know my child is going to get better one day and is only going round with a blue plaster in her leg rather than a post-chemo bald head and an uncertain future.

It has occurred to me in the last couple of hours that this may be some Anglo-phobic thing but can you really believe he’s decided to halt my temporary sanction instead of telling the lazy complainers to park somewhere else and WALK because my daughter CAN’T? Blimey, give me a Gendarme any day. They do undergo a total sense-of-humour bypass when they sign up but at least they have balls.

And I say again, aaaaaaargh! ('scuse me while I clear the screen of all the steam coming out of my ears).

Oh, but he did also say that I could write to the council and ask them to intervene if it’s a big problem. Er, thanks buddy but I’d rather you point out the b**ch who complained and let me argue the toss with her with the aid of one of my daughters crutches. I told a few friends about it this afternoon, after arriving at school at 4pm just to ensure I got my usual place and that Poppet didn’t need to deepen her blisters by hobbling further up the hill. They were also pretty floored by the lack of logic being applied and we are now going to spread the word and try to find out who it was for ourselves. I suspect it was someone with older kids in the upper elementary school who likes to carry out the drive-by drop-off rather than actually parking up and getting their hair mussed up. Maybe such people are actually still in the their pyjamas when they slow their 4x4s to an almost-halt by the school gates and shove their little darlings out before speeding off home for their appointment with an espresso and a Hello magazine…?

I’ll keep you posted on this one. But I have to ask, having never done school-runs anywhere else, would this happen in England?
P.S. quick Tiggy-update, day 3, she stayed downstairs all night, but pee-ed on the Persian rug. She also chundered in the car on the school-run but that travel blanket needed a wash anyway. Oh, and she did a poo for Nobby on their walk this morning! Current score is Nobby: 1, Me: 4

Monday, 22 October 2007

Look What I Got...

My brother recently sent me an email with the exact same title as this entry. The attached picture was of a shiny red car. Don't ask me what make or model it was, I am so dumb when it comes to cars and I am not ashamed to admit it. Much as I love Top Gear and a weekly dose of Jeremy Clarkson humour, I just don't get it. As long as it has four wheels and something to steer with it's just another car to me. But Bruv was clearly very proud so here's a quick congratulations. 'Congratulations, Bruv!' (He's also getting a 40th birthday next month; is there any connection? I'll check with his girlfriend whether he's also had a new haircut and bought a whole new wardrobe in case we're looking at a full-blown mid-life crisis here...)

Well, I am far too young for a mid-life crisis but clearly some mental aberration occurred on the weekend because look what I bought:


As if I didn't have enough going on at the moment, what with a daughter with a broken leg and a son with new and emerging allergies, I fell for a dog. It's more true to say, however, that the dog fell for Nobby and him for her... I tell you, it was love in that refuge. So 'Tiggy', as she is now known, is gradually becoming part of the family. She's been here 2 nights so far and stayed downstairs without complaining the first night... then had me up until 2am last night repeatedly having to take her back down to her own bed. Oh dear. I confidently told the woman at the refuge that I have had a dog before. It's now dawning on me that in reality my parents had a dog whilst I was still living with them and I didn't have to take part in any of the settling in or training processes. Rose and I were only last week discussing how we seem to need more and more to raise these children 'The Woodhouse Way' given the way our sons are constantly throwing themselves about the place making us yell 'sit!' at them several times a hour. But for all that practice it seems I still have a lot to learn. And it all looks so straightforward on Dog Borstal! I've only recently adjusted to carrying a handbag to accommodate all the paraphernalia I seem to need for the children these days and now I have added a dog-walking bag with the long lead, reward treats and poo-bags inside. Can I ask, if Tiggy and Nobby are so loved up why is it I have had to pick up all the dog-poos so far and Nobby is getting off scot-free? Surely she wants to offer him a big steaming pile of dung as a sign of affection? Or is she trying to put me in my place, I wonder. Watch this space for updates.

Meanwhile, we've finally had some visitors at the Nobby and Me household - my sister and her husband popped over at the weekend for the France v Argentina rugby match (3rd/4th place play-off). They arrived on Thursday night, just as France was kicking off it's other sporting passion, a public transport strike. Previously our local suburban line has never been affected but I think the powers-that-be have been reading my Blog about my unending run-ins with Sod's Law and so this time not one train arrived at or left our local station for 4 days straight. I had to go to La Defense at 9 o'clock at night to rescue the pair of them on Thursday. That was 'interesting' as it's a concrete jungle surrounded by ring-roads with no escape routes. Nightmare. Getting to the match was much simpler on Friday but what a shame about the result. Still at least I had some voice left for shouting at the TV on Saturday for the England game. I'm not sure why we've descended into rugby frenzy. We spent our 8 year wedding anniversary squished like sardines into the local English pub to watch the semi-final. Hardly the usual romantic night out, although we did go for a meal afterwards - at the local curry house. Still, it's been fun; my family knows how much I love a good shout.

My sister has also been dashing straight from work to the pubs to watch the games. She was meeting her hubby at a pub in Kensington for the semi-final and he sent her a text telling her where to find him when she got to South Kensington tube. When she got there, however, there were no pubs in sight; because he was in West Kensington (and had clearly had too many beers already). When she finally caught up with him she told him loudly and in no uncertain terms what a muppet he was, and let's face it she had written proof, having saved his text. The pub owner overheard and offered her a free pint to make up for it. So the moral of this story is that nagging your husband loud and long in public does occasionally reap benefits so we should all make sure we do it.

One more titbit before I have to sign off and dash out for the next school-run - with Tiggy in tow of course because I'm not confident I can leave her alone in the house yet having watched her start chewing on a table leg right in front of Nobby and me last night! Goodness knows what she'd get up to left all alone. So far, touch wood and whistle, she is ok in the car, which is a blessing since she'll be doing the 7 hour drive to the UK with us every so often, once I have her passport sorted. Mr Sod may have finally missed a trick. Both dogs we had when I was a kid had to be drugged senseless for car journeys unless we wanted to be mopping up sick the whole way. So, the other day I was discussing potential meals with the children when I realised that I didn't have any ketchup left if they wanted chips (as they usually do). Pickle pipes up with

'That's ok Mum, you can use that sauce called Barbara'. I was slightly confused by this and assumed it was something to do with having discovered the previous evening that the sugar here is called 'Daddy's' as he'd been able to read the icing sugar label whilst dowsing his crepes.

'What sauce is that then?' I asked.

'You know, Mummy, the brown one called Barbara that you put on my hot dogs,' he replied.

'Er, do you mean barbeque sauce, Pickle?'

'Yes! That's the one.'

Friday, 12 October 2007

Life is a Roller Coaster, just gotta ride it …

I am not sure I’m in the right mood for blogging but I feel the need to share the roller coaster week I’ve had.
The high was definitely Monday, surprisingly. I am normally rather Boomtown Rats about Mondays but on this particular one I finally admitted defeat in the housework stakes and engaged a cleaner. Admittedly it took me 2 hours to get the upstairs rooms in a fit state to actually dust and vacuum, i.e. being able to see the floor and furniture tops. I would usually have found some distraction or other after half an hour, like some drying paint that needed watching. But the knowledge that someone was sparkling the downstairs and wasn’t going to stop until the whole house was finished spurred me on to get down behind those shelves in the playroom and fetch out all the bits of toys that hadn’t seen the light of day for several months. Rose called me at one point and quickly asked if she’d got me out of the shower or something as I sounded slightly odd when I said hello. Oh no, I reassured her, I was just under Pickle’s bed trying to reach his stash of Thomas books that were piled up under a pile of dust underneath it.

Anyway, long story short I’m glad I’ve got some help and she’s coming again next week and doing the ironing as well! Result! Nobby walked in that evening, took a look around and asked me what had happened. I assumed he meant the clean, tidy house and not the vision of me slumped on the sofa with a glass of wine - that last bit is quite normal at nine o'clock at night. That’s when I knew I was safe to hit him in the wallet to help me keep on tops of things. Of course he’s expecting some gourmet meals from now on as I should have time to spare, but I am happy to indulge in a bit of Nigel Slater-ing if I know the bog has been cleaned within the last 7 days.

Thursday, however, was a definite low. We took Poppet to the hospital to have her cast taken off her leg and we had all been looking forward to the big day when she might finally be able to walk again. However, the surgeon took one look at the x-ray and said, ‘oh, well that’s not quite healed yet, better put her back in plaster for a few weeks.’ And that was that. The poor little might couldn’t face school that afternoon because everyone had been expecting her to walk in with both shoes on. I hadn’t been quite prepared for the muscle wastage on her thigh or the stiffness in her knee so I don’t think there would have been any actual walking happening for some time anyway.

But the new cast only goes to her knee and they have set her foot at a right angle so she can actually put it to the floor if she wants to. And I decided this morning to do away with the double pushchair on the school run and tried out my French on the policeman to reserve a parking space right by the school gates so she can walk in on her crutches instead. Of course she only hobbled as far as the gate this morning before claiming exhaustion so I had to carry her across the rest of the playground, but we’ll get there. I feel some tough-love coming on. My girl will not wimp out any longer!

Naturally, though, left to my own devices after getting back from the hospital, I fell head-long into Guilty Mum Mode, blaming myself for the lack of bone-knitting because I’m not feeding her an adequate diet. Luckily my straight-speaking Dutch friend, I’ll call her Blossom here, you know who you are!, quickly put me in my place when I told her and verbally slapped me about a bit telling me that it’s not my fault. She’s very good at it, like being walloped in the mush with a wet haddock. Its. Not. Your. Fault. Why do we mummies feel so guilty all the time?!! As a result I hit the books instead and tapped into font-of-all-nutritional-knowledge Rose to find out how I can get more calcium into her and it looks like it mostly comes down to cheese.

Poppet doesn’t eat cheese.

But she used to – so I embarked on a quest to the cheese counter in our local shop where I used to be able to get this orange coloured ‘Cheddar’ she once claimed to like and bought some this morning. The little monkey ate loads of it for lunch! And half a packet of corn tortillas which are also apparently a calcium source so I think we are sorted. Phew. Big thanks to Rose and Blossom for sorting me out.

Anyway, we’re off to another clinic tonight to try to find out what else Pickle is allergic to as he’s been having some episodes lately and we’re not sure why, since hay-fever season is over and we’re not aware he’s been in contact with any cats. Luckily it’s not all the way into Paris but I’m still not looking forward to making my way into the outer rim on a Friday night. I think we're probably looking at switching from the roller coaster to the dodgems for the journey. Oh well, the new car needs a few scratches.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

What am I like??!!

Someone asked me that very question a couple of days ago when I had sent her another invitation to join me as a friend on Facebook. She’s been my Facebook friend for months already.

So what am I like? I’ll tell you. I’m like a dog who’s been chasing its tail so long it’s in danger of disappearing up its own backside. No, I mean arse of course, dammit, the kids aren’t reading this, not that they haven’t heard the word before, ahem. I’ve been so stressed out and cross that I have let slip quite a few naughty words lately and I just hope they haven’t remembered too many of them. Sadly I happen to know that children learn by virtual osmosis and you only need to whisper a rude word in their general vicinity for them to store it away in their repertoire to be pulled out again sometime soon, usually in front of guests. Although I don’t recall ever saying the phrase in front of her, Poppet came out with something I swear rhymed with ‘clucking bell’ the other day when she was struggling to put some trousers on a Barbie.

Bugger. I am a baaaaad mummy.

It’s true. And I have recent proof. I let rip at another Mummy this morning, in front of both our children, when she politely asked me to move my enormous pushchair off the road so she could park closer to me and allow more room for cars behind her. She was only being nice. But my two were already thumping each other, I had books, crutches and bags galore to cart to school and it was raining as well so the poor woman got both barrels. I was spitting feathers (and expletives) all the way to the classroom, as we walked past all the other cars whose owners hadn’t given a toss and parked several yards behind the one in front. It’s just my luck to get the do-gooder up my bum first thing in the morning.

However, before you decide I am a total monster and switch off my Blog forever, I have to say that by the time I had delivered my payload and chatted with a dozen cute little 6 year olds, who love my strange accent, I had totally calmed down and felt awful about it. So I waited by her car to apologise, and watched her flinch as I approached her; I didn’t realise I was that frightening, I was welling up by the time I got my French in order to say I was sorry. Anyway, she was very nice about and we’re all friends again. After all, there’s a still a week to go with the big buggy and I have to live here a few more months after that so I don’t really need a reputation as a ball-basher at the moment.

Anyway, I am going to spend my first kid-free morning of the week (I kept Pickle off the first few days to let the cough subside, needless to say I needed a crowbar to get him out the door this morning…) calmly dreaming up some gentler alternatives to my favourite swear-words. I like ‘clucking bell’ and Rose has found ‘molluscs’ a handy substitute for one of the ‘b’ words when you drop something on your toe. I just need something starting with ‘sh’ and several others beginning with ‘b’, although I fear it may already be too late where one of them is concerned. Poppet read me a lovely story about Goldilocks once and as she got to the part where they decided the porridge was too hot to eat straight away she said, ‘The three bears decided to go for a walk while the porridge cooled down, so they buggered off into the forest.’ !!!!!

Oh dear. I have corrupted them. What am I like?

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Angry Young(ish) Mum

Get that bottle of wine opened, QUICK. Egad, what a week. Call me Bill Murray and send me to Punxsutawney because I have been trapped in Groundhog Day all week and I can’t TAKE IT any more! You are witnessing a woman on the edge, people. If anyone calls out ‘Mummeeee…’ ONE more time I swear I will scream. I guess it’s just the culmination of 4 weeks with a daughter who can’t quite do everything for herself at the moment thanks to the full leg cast. And this is a girl with a very low threshold of patience. She gets huffy waiting for the TV to warm up so you can imagine the rocket I get if I don’t jump her side within 10 seconds of her calling me. She has this indignant tone that has well and truly driven me round the bend. And I thought I was only heading over the hill, isn’t life full of surprises? But however many times I repeat my mantra that the house and the shopping and the cooking won’t do themselves and Mummy wasn’t actually standing around picking her nose waiting for a job to do it never seems to get through. In fact, while I was writing that last sentence a little voice just called down the stairs for Mummy. The little person attached to the voice was put in bed half an hour ago but they just can’t resist one final request when all I want is to park myself and do something for me for a change. I have tried all ways of getting the message into their precious heads including, I am ashamed to say, yelling until my throat hurts but the next morning it starts all over again and I realise that I might as well talk to the wall. In fact I did just that earlier in the week when I was getting zero response out of my little darlings but they just found it hilariously funny and called for a repeat performance. So now I am the entertainment as well as the dogsbody – my CV has never looked better.

Gawd, listen to me. I must sound like a really resent them, which of course I don’t, and I know I am going to miss it when they both evolve into Kevin the Teenager and declare how much they hate me and it’s so unfair, but puh-leeeze… can we let just ONE minute go by without adding another item to the to-do list? And if it’s not their immediate needs, like feeding one end or wiping the other, then they’re banging on about what toys they’ve seen on the adverts that they absolutely, positively have to have for Christmas. Yes, even though it’s still months away and the Christmas ads haven’t appeared yet I’ve already had the full interrogation from Poppet about how exactly Santa knows what he’s supposed to be buying and how precisely he gets in our house when we don’t have a chimney. It’s my own fault for borrowing the film The Pole Express I suppose. For now I’ve completely banned commercial telly for them, I don’t care how many times they’ve already heard the story in Balamory, it’s CBeebs all the way for us.

Anyway, here’s to a better week; only 11 days to got until my dear Poppet can start to walk again and so fetch her own drink, take herself out into the garden and stay for lunch at school a couple of days a week (yippee!). Meanwhile I shall resign myself to the perpetual routine for a bit longer and take solace in alcohol after lights out. I actually made it to a party last night, minus husband though because the local babysitters are too young to cope with lifting Her Highness should the need arise, plus Pickle is coughing fit to bring up a lung… again. I blagged a lift with a friend who was also husband-less and spent the evening beside the drinks table steadily working through the champagne and talking about anything but children. It was lovely! And tonight the wine is already open so frankly all I’m up for now is a bit of sofa-time.
Thank you for listening!

Friday, 21 September 2007


One school-run down, three to go, and now I have 2 hours all to myself, yippee!! First I need to have a cuppa and calm down after the stress of getting one able-bodied-yet-reluctant child into one school and a willing-but-unable-to-walk child into the one next door. It’s dawned on me during these last three weeks since I had to re-join the buggy-brigade just how much I have been taking for granted since the children stopped needing to use the pushchair. Luckily most Mamans outside the school are wise to me now and get themselves and their kids out of the way when they see me coming but there is always one who stands there looking at me as if to say ‘Make them walk why don’t you?’. Er, have you been living on the moon for the last three weeks or what? thinks I. And then you get the lazy ones who park their cars half on the pavement to get that extra 10 metres closer to the school so I can’t get past. I cracked this morning and left a note on one Renault Espace. She’ll know it’s me of course, though, because the grammar is bound to be all wrong plus I don’t write in the flowery French script everyone is taught here. Bit of a give-away so I hope it doesn’t come to an argument! Having been here so long now they all expect me to speak perfect French and quite a few have stopped to ask me about Poppet’s leg recently. I think I am making sense most of the time but in every conversation there is a point where they frown and I realise they’re losing my thread. Oh well. I am making no apologies for being an alien.

But hey, it’s Friday! And it’s felt like one long old week. Nobby got back from Sweden (not Swindon) on Tuesday night armed with presents for all of us. He bought me some perfume by Hugo Boss called Boss Woman. Aptly chosen I thought, clearly he knows who’s in charge round here. Unfortunately he lost his phone during the trip so I can’t send him bossy texts all day any more. When I told Pickle Daddy had lost his phone he frowned and said ‘He’s lost it? But that’s what we normally do’ (meaning him and Poppet). Ah, the wisdom of the young. Pickle himself has been ill again this week. I think it’s back-to-school-itis: they keep those classrooms at about 30 degrees hence incubating all the germs they’ve all picked up on their summer travels and by mid-September half the class is off sick. He was up half the night on Monday coughing and wheezing so it was off to the doctors looking like a pair of zombies on Tuesday morning and I am dosing him with antibiotics now. And trying to ensure there are always tissues within easy reach, by which I mean pretty much in his hand because if there is any effort involved he uses his t-shirt instead. It doesn’t seem to bother him going round with snotty shoulders but personally I’d prefer to be able to cuddle him without the risk of sticking.

But it’s going to be a busy weekend again, no rest for the wicked. Last weekend we wanted to get Poppet off the sofa and out in the sunshine so we went en famille to the ‘Pick-Your-Own’ farm on Saturday afternoon. She languished in her pushchair pointing out all the discarded comedy veg she wanted me to pick up for the ‘collection’ she was making for her stuffed bear; carrots that look like a pair of legs, potatoes that look like a pair of buttocks, that sort of thing. Then she started snacking on a carrot fresh from the field, dirt and all. Mmm, yummy. I just thought about the vitamins and let her get on with it. The only thing she could really help with picking was the raspberries so Pickle and Nobby did most of the harvesting and had a lovely time while she and I grappled with the spiky raspberry bushes. Of course for the rest of the weekend all they wanted to eat was crisps so most of the veg is still tucked up in the dark in the garage now.

On Sunday once Nobby had left for the airport I had the great idea of taking the kids to the local Brocante – it’s a cross between a car-boot sale and a flea market and the whole town closes down for the day so the residents can clear out their attics and garages and flog their unwanted possessions - and let’s face it total tat - on pasting tables and rugs up and down the street. It only takes place once a year so it’s about a mile long and packed solid for the whole day but it’s a good source of cheap toys that they can break at their leisure and last year we even kitted out the whole family with second-hand roller blades for about 10 euros. So I bravely set off with the double buggy and a pile of cash and we returned a couple of hours later with four more Barbies with a talking car and horse-and-sleigh and three more Action Men, one of whom has a parachute. Pickle started launching the parachutist off my balcony and I had visions of him following it down – it’s about the height of the slide Poppet broke her leg on so naturally I was having kittens watching him. So I taught him how to fling it up underarm from the ground instead which he accepted. Then he had the brilliant idea of flinging it underarm from the top of the climbing frame to get more height. I think perhaps I should have plumped for the deep-sea-diver Action Man instead…

Anyway, this weekend there is French school tomorrow morning, including the annual parents meeting, where the teachers get us all in a room and tell us how they will be challenging our little darlings this year. They make us all sit on the children’s chairs and keep quiet until they’ve finished so it’s a real power trip for them and a dreadful flashback to being 6 years old for us. The children all go off and watch television during the meeting, lucky things. I know where I’d rather be considering how hard I have to concentrate to follow the French. Saturday afternoon should be more fun though, when two little friends are coming for a sleepover while their parents go to a wedding in Paris. The children have been excited about it all week. Pickle has already made up a bed on the floor in his room and even put out some of his favourite pyjamas for the little boy, and I’ve heard the little girl has been telling her Mummy how she’s going to sleep in the same bed with Poppet. Hopefully she’ll change her mind once we point out Poppet’s plastered leg and the cute little bed I’m making up for her on the floor.

So check back here on Monday and I’ll let you know how it’s gone, and whether we actually managed to see any of the rugby. I am hoping that the girls will play Barbie and the boys will play trains and they’ll all be knackered and in bed by 8pm. Hmm. Place your bets, please.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

No, I haven’t slipped off the face of the planet

Is it true? Have I got 5 whole minutes to finally update my Blog after about a month of complete silence? Can I really get it all done before all hell breaks loose again? I have been trying for 5 days but something always comes up, usually the children getting an attack of the ‘Mummy!’s. How is that they can be completely quiet for hours, even tell me to go away and stop interrupting their games if I dare to try and find out what they are up to. Then the second I pick up the phone, turn on the computer or sit on the bog they suddenly need me desperately? ‘Mummy! Will you get my Barbies?’. ‘Mummy! I’m hungry!’. ‘Mummy! Will you wipe my bottom!’. Well, for now, Nobby is in Sweden – which Pickle has delightfully misheard and insists he’s gone to Swindon – Pickle is upstairs doing who-knows-what with his train set and Poppet is parked on the sofa as usual watching the TV. She’s watching Pop though, so I know that as soon as the adverts come on she’ll pipe up with more additions to the Christmas list. ‘Ooh look! A dolly that can swim! Oh, I’d really like one of those, Mummy.’ And did you know that with commercial channels like that you can’t get away with saying ‘Mummy can’t afford it’ because the very next advert will be for a loan and the kid just says ‘but look, Mummy, you can borrow the money’. If only CBeebies played back-to-back Charlie and Lola we’d never turn over.

Anyway, quite apart from the constant lumming (as Rose calls it in her house) it’s been kinda busy here, in a Piccadilly Circus meets Spaghetti Junction sort of way, what with reading the final Harry Potter book (fabulous!), popping off to Marbella (more in a mo.) and to-ing and fro-ing to school. I have counted my school runs per week: 18 on a normal week, 20 every other week when there is Saturday school as well. And with Poppet’s leg still in plaster for another 4 weeks I can’t really call in any help yet. The crowd of Mums outside school are getting more used to my enormous double buggy now and have started to make way for us so I haven’t taken out too many ankles just yet. The kids in the playground await our arrival with great impatience and the moment Poppet’s bum is off the seat they all pile into it while we limp to the classroom. I’ve let them get away with it so far as there is naff-all to play on in their playground but they’re going to burst the tyres one of these days. It all adds up to a much lengthier school run than usual so I am constantly chasing my tail trying to keep some sort of routine going. I wrote my parents a veritable encyclopaedia of instructions on how to keep things running smoothly while I was in Marbella for 4 nights, but you just can’t account for the curve balls. For example, you get everyone up and dressed and fed and you’re just about to head for the car and Pickle decides that he needs to play Musical Statues. Right away. Er, come again? This was last Monday morning and the only solution to avoid the massive strop was to go with it for a couple of rounds, and let him win of course. He’s like Jekyll and Hyde that one. (I believe the word is capricious, if you saw Ant and Dec’s spelling bee…) On Tuesday we got as far as Pickle’s classroom, while Poppet was freezing her bits off outside in the buggy, and he announced that he didn’t want to go to French school, he’d rather go to the English school. Hmm. At least that’s an improvement on the previous week when he told my Mum that since he’d been to school twice that week he didn’t feel the need to go any more. Luckily the appearance of one of his friends persuaded him into the classroom so I could drop Poppet off. But as I made my way back out of the playground I found they’d already locked the school gates and I couldn’t get out. Thankfully the ‘Lollipop Man’ had a key so I could get on my way but it’s been becoming a regular event ever since. How much would it take for the gate-locker to glance over to see whether the double buggy is still parked by the classroom before she turns the key? Hey, but zis is France…

I hear a wailing upstairs; I think Pickles game is fighting back and my time may almost be up. So I must just report on my patient. Hard as it was leaving her and taking my trip to Spain after all, it was probably the best thing for both of us. Not so my liver, by all accounts, given that the bridal party in Spain were a bunch of total party animals and I felt compelled to join in and beer it up until 4am each night… but Poppet really started trying to be independent, despite the tonne of plaster on her leg. My Mum reported that she was even getting herself up the stairs the day after I left and she’d hardly needed any carrying. See, there’s the irony again; as Poppet re-masters the art of moving about on her own her Mummy goes out and gets shedded and can’t walk down the street in a straight line any more, let alone find her hotel room. I think I missed out somewhat having never done the Marbella thing pre-children. It was a totally new concept to head out for the evening at midnight, a time when I would usually be tucked up in bed, and I had a serious fashion wake-up call too that first night. The bridesmaids were all looking fantastic in little dresses and strappy sandals with their hair coiffed to perfection, while I stood there in my jeans and t-shirt with hair by Crazy Meg after my long journey which included a whole hour looking for the hotel. Then they announced they were planning to dress up the following night… hello? I’d just mentally discarded the twin-set and pearls and was racking my brains as to whether I had anything vaguely trendy with me, that didn’t reveal too much of the muffin-top or show me up as mutton-dressed-as-lamb, and here they were discussing sequinned camisoles and hot-pants. Deary me, I know sometimes it’s nice to stand out from the crowd but not as the obvious stay-at-home mum-of-2 who gets all her clothes from Tescos. Anyway, I think I pulled it off ok because I pulled a Spaniard the following night when all the girls hit a disco-bar together! Poor guy was a bit crestfallen when Nobby turned up to find out where I’d got to, and Nobby was a bit surprised to find my wedding ring on my right hand… (I was just living the dream for 5 minutes!)

So we came back down to earth with a bit of a bump (not to mention a thumping head) on Saturday but I am pleased to report that my parents made it through 4 days, 4 nights, 7 school runs and a trip to the hospital (Poppet’s check-up) without strangling either of the children, or each other. And my ironing mountain is no more! What it is to have a Mum who actually likes ironing. I am eternally grateful to them for the respite, they are truly wonderful parents to me, I don’t know what I would do without them. Thanks bigly too to Rose for accompanying them to the hospital as translator. And thanks also to our newly married friends for the opportunity to go large in Marbella. Since my return Poppet has been rather less independent for the last few days, I think its subtle punishment for my having sloped off without her, especially to a wedding, her favourite kind of event. She firmly refuses to use the crutches at home but she does shuffle about on her bottom and I’m keeping everything crossed she doesn’t whack her leg on the tiled floor and send us back to square one. But since all exercise is good at this stage I am happy to delay running to meet her demands in case she decides it’s not too much trouble to do it herself. Besides, I think she has a posse of other slaves at school to satisfy her and she did a great job on her friend’s dad the other day when she attended a birthday party and got the poor man to fetch and carry for 2 hours. (I had warned him, by the way, and he had blindly volunteered to give me a break, LOL!)

Well, I hope it’s not too long before I get another chance to write some more. Pickle has just announced that it’s his turn on the computer now. Who am I to argue?

Thursday, 30 August 2007

How to get out of going to school – Lesson One

I couldn’t believe it was already the end of the summer holidays. We came back from the Vendee last Saturday and school started today so I was running about during the intervening days trying to prepare. We spent hours in the stationery shop getting all the obligatory pens and pencils for school – note to self: don’t get the kids to choose their own, they will without fail always choose the most expensive ballpoint pen you ever saw in your life. Why have a 20p Bic biro when you could have a 5€ Barbie ballpoint with bits of plastic and feathers dangling off it? We practised getting up before lunchtime a few days so the 7am wake-up call on the big day wouldn’t send everyone into a tailspin. Yesterday Poppet and Pickle were up at 7.15 and fed and watered in good time for the school-run so we had an inspection at 8.10, our normal departure time. One slight flaw was that they were both naked as all the clothes are still in the laundry after the holiday. I swear all the clothes are breeding while my back is turned. Nobby and I have done so many washes and there is still a heap in the spare room and you don’t even want to know about the ironing mountain. Suffice to say I caught sight of snow on the upper peaks the other day so it might be time to break out the crampons before eagles start nesting on it.

Anyway, all was going well, the house was gradually getting cleaner, the children were getting over the trauma of leaving their new group of friends behind at the holiday resort and we’d caught up with a few friends in the neighbourhood. Sure there were a few curve balls like the flush on the downstairs loo suddenly breaking while we had a houseful of kids, and the vacuum cleaner having a nervous breakdown over the amount of sand I wanted it to suck out of the car. Then yesterday we were over at Peony’s new house being introduced to her new puppy and we decided to go to a fun park which boasts a huge inflatable with a slide at the end of it and a variety of bikes and cars and things to play on. Pickle had his birthday party there in July so we knew they’d enjoy it and get thoroughly worn out for a good night’s sleep before the return to school. What we weren’t counting on was my 6 year-old, Poppet, jumping off the top of the slide, landing badly and breaking her leg. Yes, I watched my child break her leg yesterday. The irony is she’s been climbing trees and mucking about on bunk beds for 2 weeks on holiday without so much as a scratch but half and hour on a bouncy castle and its sirens all the way to the hospital. So that’s how you get out of going back to school! There were good parts to the aftermath such as the superbly hunky ‘pompiers’ who turned up in the ambulance and carried her off on a stretcher and the blatant queue-jumping for a cubicle in A&E while the trolleys were stacked up in the corridors. The bad bit was seeing my little girl in so much pain – they eventually gave her laughing gas while they set the bone and that was very amusing afterwards when she was all giddy and chatty. I’m so proud of how brave she was and thankful that it was a clean break. As I keep telling myself, it could have been a lot worse. Now all I have to get used to is being her slave until she decides to give the crutches a go and get her backside off the sofa. I mean, who wouldn’t take the chance to languish in front of the TV all day with Mummy at your beck and call, peeling your grapes, carrying you to the loo and wiping your bum? I’m currently taking the reverse psychology route and hoping that if I tell her to stay lying down she’ll want to get up – we’re usually at similar odds so we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, so there we have it, 'c’arrive' (it happens) and it concludes a summer where Sod’s Law has well and truly reigned. Like Alanis Morrisette sang ‘Isn’t it Ironic?’, only I’m not sure she went far enough in my opinion and I suppose ‘Isn’t it Just Sod’s Law’ wouldn’t have had the same ring to it.

‘It’s like rain on your holiday,
a nasty smell when you’ve cleaned and cleaned,
it’s like ten thousand road-signs to Rouen when all you need is one to Paris,
or falling out of trees for weeks on end, then busting your leg on a bouncy castle.’

Thursday, 9 August 2007

How many sleeps left till the holidays?

Nobby sent me for a loop this morning. He decided to get all his clothes ready for packing last night so I woke up this morning in a total panic convinced that I needed to get everything packed today. I’d been locked in suitcase hell for most of the morning, punctuated by wild demands from the restless children who I really think I going to kill each other at some point. Pickle was chasing after Poppet with a very noisy ray gun and she was teasing him mercilessly by making up nursery rhymes about him and singing them in a mocking voice. He then hits her and she screams but doesn’t hit back. I wonder if one day she will lose it and give him an almighty thump and things might calm down for a bit. If I don’t knock their heads together first. Or end up in the Funny Farm, because, of course, we are not leaving until the day after tomorrow so I actually had another 24 hours to decide how much junk to take this time. So I did in fact have time to move all the furniture round in Poppet’s bedroom as she requested and I did have time to add more cardboard furniture to Boo-Boos little house for Pickle. So far since I last reported on the junk-modelling project we have added a turbo-boosted rocket bike for the two pet monkeys complete with a luggage compartment full of miniature rolls of sticky tape which they apparently sell door-to-door. Poppet made a convincing articulated lorry to transport her life-sized guinea-pig soft toy around in and I have been working on an elevator so that Boo-Boo can get up to the upstairs bedroom more easily.

I am thinking of putting in my application to Blue Peter quite soon.

Or I might join the ‘How Clean Is Your House’ team instead after bowing to pressure and reorganising Poppet’s room for her. Egad! it was filthy down behind all the furniture. And I discovered upon moving the bed that the snot painting went a lot further down the wall than I previously realised. How exactly do you get hardened mucus off the walls? The children were quite a help with the removals at first. Pickle is a dab hand with the duster and vacuum but he had to give up when he fell off the bed inside the princess tent which was temporarily resting on top of it. He didn’t damage himself too much, just a scratch on his cheek but he sat there sobbing ‘I hope I can still eat, otherwise I’ll just have to die’. (I’m not sure where the current morbid streak comes from but they are both at it lately. Poppet completely freaked her brother while they were sharing a room on holiday by recanting some dream of hers where a dog bit his hand off. I came in to check on them to find him weeping inconsolably lamenting ‘You shouldn’t tell me things like that. I’m only 5, I’m just a child.’) Poppet was reasonably helpful at clearing the floor but she gets easily side-tracked and spent a lot of the time nursing her Baby Annabelle doll who she claimed was upset by all the dust. It’s really sweet to watch her playing Mummies. I wish she didn’t have to do all the sound effects though, especially the high-pitched crying every 10 minutes. I just hope she doesn’t insist on bringing Annabelle and all her paraphernalia on holiday with us. She filled the back seat of the car earlier with the pushchair, feeding kit and change bag when we went to visit Nobby at his office. When he invited her to come in and see where he spends his working day I don’t think he was banking on carrying a pink buggy and a life-sized dolly past all his colleagues. Luckily she was persuaded to leave it all in the car and just took the guinea pig instead.

And I went shopping, hee hee! I was treated to both ends of the French ‘Customer Service’ spectrum while I was there. (sorry, I feel a mini-rant coming on, bear with me.) I was in the sports shop looking for UV suits for the kids in case we actually get some sun next week. I couldn’t find the size I wanted so I took a suit up to the Inquiries desk and asked if they had a pink one in size 8. I was informed that I had to find a member of staff on the shop floor for stock inquiries. (So what’s the desk for then??) The person I found was most unhappy at being dragged away from the young hunk she was helping to put up new shelves and marched round to the UV-suit section, took a quick glance in the empty Size 8 bin and told me ‘Non’. Er, I’m only English, not blind or stupid, I could see that for myself. I asked if there were any in stock, she told me all stock was out on the shelves. So why didn’t the other bl**dy women on the desk tell me that in the first place?! Gah! It’s enough to give you total trolley rage.

So I went along to the lingerie shop feeling I owed myself a treat after that performance, plus given my current waistline crisis I felt I ought to get some extra boost so the tummy can look flatter. (Trinny and Susannah swear by getting the right fitting boulder-holder so it’s worth a try). I was pounced on as soon as I got in the door by a lady, clearly on commission, who wanted to know what I was looking for. Unfortunately I had a mental blank at that point completely forgetting the French for ‘lift and separate’. She was a tacit professional though and soon sorted me out with a good selection without shouting my size too loudly round the store and even left me alone to try them on (for which I was profoundly grateful; I’m not up for the full Trinny & Susannah chummy tit-grabbing experience yet). So after that faultless piece of service I don’t know why the sports shop woman had to be so grumpy. Even the security guard there had said ‘Bonjour’ to me as I walked in, it’s sort of customary in most French shops to greet the shoppers and say goodbye when they leave. It was very noticeably absent when I went back to the UK. Maybe that’s her problem, she knew I was a Brit and wanted to make me feel at home. Thanks but the weather is already doing that.

Anyway, I am sapped of all energy now as it’s been a bit of a madhouse this evening what with picking Nobby and Poppet up from work, crow-barring Pickle out of his friend’s house, getting everyone fed and fixing the boiler which was throwing it’s monthly hissy fit and refusing to heat any water for the children’s bath. I swear that thing is female; I bet these breakdowns are on a lunar cycle. I feel the need to park it for a little bit, and maybe chomp a few biscuits which are only going to go off if I leave them in the cupboard while we’re gone. Rude not to really.

Legs Bums and Tums (and Boobs)

I am pleased to report that I don’t ache too much after our marathon bike-ride yesterday. And Poppet hasn’t repeated the naughty word I used when I asked her to stop asking questions while I was panting my way up the hill (well, not to me anyway). However I still felt the need to don the Bridget Jones pants again this morning before going out in public. I also decided to dig out a body-toning and ‘abs’ exercise sequence I received from some American fitness instructor just after Christmas as part of a 6 week on-line challenge I signed up for to beat the post-Christmas bloat. (I actually spent Christmas in France not the UK but perhaps there is a pattern emerging here…?) Throughout January I faithfully stuck to the daily schedule and industriously read every motivational email that plopped into my Inbox each morning… yeah, did I heck-as-like. Hence the need to *dig* it out - from the deepest, darkest depths of my email archive. It’s a nice, short, easy-ish routine, now I’ve finally tried it, although I had to laugh when it suggested using cans of baked beans for ‘increased resistance’ when doing the bicep and triceps curls. I think baked beans are part of the reason I’m in this mess in the first place! Luckily I found some old dumb-bells in the dark recesses under my bed so I don’t have to look temptation in the eye when I am supposed to be working out. Exercise makes me hungry enough as it is. I am staying away from the scales too. I very rarely weigh myself. Being one of these saddos who hangs on to the same clothes year-in-year-out I pretty much know when something needs to be done when the waistbands start to bite. That and the straightforward test of looking straight down to check whether I can see my belly beyond my boobs. It’s simple but effective. Nothing is scarier than the realisation that your wobbly tummy is entering the room 5 minutes before your nips. It hasn’t got quite that bad yet but I do remember the horrible moment during my first pregnancy when the bump overtook the oversized bust I had suddenly developed even before I wee-ed on the stick to confirm I was knocked- up in the first place. And then of course my waist disappeared and my belly button turned inside out and the degradation was complete. These days the old ‘rack’ isn’t quite as impressive which means the flab doesn’t have so far to go now, although I’m far from the ironing-board-with-a-pair-of-Smarties figure.

Well, hopefully my toning routine and some more bike rides will help along with our return to more sensible eating now we are out of reach of Tescos. I’m even trying those new exercise shoes which are supposed to tone and slim as you walk around at your daily tasks. And perhaps they will – when I’ve found enough balance to be able to let go of the wall. But for now the couch is beckoning instead, as are my comfy slippers. I wonder what’s on the box? (Pity we can’t get the slimming channels over here – maybe Paul McKenna could help us get the kids to sleep before midnight?!)

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

No, you don’t lose weight running around after the children.

I read an article in the paper last week which said that entertaining kids all day for weeks and weeks during the long summer holidays has been driving some women to drink. Well I haven’t hit the bottle just yet (well not tonight so far anyway) but I can identify with what they mean. It’s taking all my powers of creativity to keep the little beggars occupied so they’re not knocking the crap out of each other or slowly baking their brains in front of the TV or computer. I didn’t realise how easy I’d had it while we were on holiday but now there are no grandparents around and Nobby is back at work (lucky b*stard) it’s becoming a real test.

I have had some success with ‘junk modelling’ - using old food packets and cardboard boxes to create new and interesting toys (also known as the miser’s free alternative to Playmobil with the added bonus that you can chuck it away when the little darlings have had enough it after 5 minutes rather than filling the house with overpriced moulded plastic that nobody plays with). Pickle especially loves it as it appeals to his ‘inventing’ streak and Poppet likes to join in when all the work is done and she can move her toys in and make up stories. So far this week we have made a rocket ship for Boo-Boo Bear (and his side-kick Baby Boo-Boo) complete with space helmets and rocket-packs followed by a two-storey bachelor pad for their visits home to planet earth. Poppet muscled in on the ‘cottage’ with some of her dollies who, having no interest in exploring the universe, have taken up residence as squatters in the spare bedroom with a Fruit Joy frozen lolly box for a bed. Pickle couldn’t decide between Uncle Ben’s Rice or Atora Suet as the best packet for a wide-screen television so he’s opted for the wall projector cinema screen instead and stuck a huge picture of Batman on the wall. (He’s definitely not invited next time we go to Curry’s)

But really the main problem with my two is still bedtime and it’s not the ‘going to bed before the sun’ excuse any more. They just don’t want to stop playing. Poppet was messing about with her Barbies until 2am last night, even though Nobby and I went turned in at midnight. I don’t know where she gets the energy from – or why nocturnal Barbie games have to involve so much loud singing. And then the monkeys get up at 8am the next day to start playing all over again; ‘Lie-in’ is not in their vocabulary. In a bid to wear them out in the fresh air this evening we all went out for a bike ride after tea. I know that I am pretty exhausted myself after hauling myself plus a bike with a 20kg child on the back of it up the huge hill to the cycle trail. But I’m not sure it’s really done it for the kids, I can still hear them up and about in their rooms and it’s nearly 10pm.

A bike ride seemed like such a great idea of Nobby’s as we are both feeling the pinch a bit after over-indulging on the English fair last week. I could have done without Poppet’s running commentary from the child seat though as I limped up the interminable hill: ‘why are you going so slow Mummy?’, ‘why are you breathing so hard, Mummy?’, ‘why are we stopping again?’. YES! I am out of shape. I’ve been dreaming up all sorts of alternative reasons why my tummy isn’t quite fitting into my jeans any more. Perhaps it’s a phantom pregnancy? Or chronic water retention? But I think I need to face facts that I’m porking up. Hence the strenuous bike ride and the ‘slimming knickers’, à la Bridget Jones, that I dug out of the drawer this morning. (Sexy.) It’s not looking good for basking on the beaches next week; some do-gooder might decide I’m a whale and try to roll me back into the water. As luck would have it I did catch part of a revolutionary dieting TV programme on some obscure slimming channel at my Mum’s last week. Paul McKenna was telling an audience full of the dimensionally-challenged that they should eat what they want, when they want but stop when they are full. There was more to it than that I think and he was going to use some of his hypnotism techniques to help with cravings and addictions but, strangely enough: I fell asleep!

Dammit, looks like it’s the gym for me.

Monday, 6 August 2007

We’re back!!

What a fantastic break. I can’t believe it’s been two weeks already. It was so great to be back in England, apart from the floods of course. I had no struggles with the lingo, I could eat all my old favourite foods from Tescos (and make all my clothes just a little bit tighter) and no-one dinged the new car. Yes, we got it! The guy was even quite complimentary about the state of the Volvo, apart from the damaged bumper obviously, but he still let us have the S-Max. I didn’t get to drive it until we were through the tunnel however. After endlessly complaining about getting a ‘Mummy-mobile’ Nobby has been quite selfish about driving it at times. And he did get two rounds of golf in thanks to the massive boot so I think it’s now time he shut up and handed over the keys.

So now I am fighting with the un-packing, deep joy. Considering we are heading off again for another two weeks on Saturday it hardly seems worth undoing the suitcase. However Poppet is clamouring for the bag-load of second hand clothes she was given by a friend and Pickle needs all the little inventions he created out of cardboard that he insisted we bring home with us so I guess I need to tackle some of the bags. At least most of the washing is done thanks to my ever-efficient mum who will wash, dry and iron your cast-off clothes before they hit the floor! Bless her. She’s been an absolute angel giving us the run of her new house for the past week. The children repeated their territory-marking ritual as soon as they were through her front door and left a trail of toys all over the house. But the thing they ended up playing with the most was all the Lego – the same Lego kits I used to make when I should have been revising for my exams. Pickle built the town and Poppet made up stories about all the characters in it and they were occupied for hours.

After a night at Mums we headed off to the Cotwolds to a Holiday Park where we had snobbily turned down the luxury caravans in favour of a Pine-Lodge. We were glad we did, though, as we spent the afternoons cooped up drinking endless cups of hot tea and playing every game we could think of while the rain lashed against the windows and the lake-shore gradually crept closer and closer. I felt an odd kind of glee that our British summer holiday had such dismal weather, after all that’s how I spent a lot of holidays when I was a kid so why shouldn’t mine get the same treatment? (Aren’t I mean?) Luckily this holiday camp had an indoor swimming pool and an Entertainment Team so we did venture out to splash down the water slides and join in the Sammy Seahorse Club. Who could resist Bingo, Family ‘Name That Tune’, and ‘Deal or No Deal’? with an eight foot tall cuddly blue seahorse and his pals Tommy the Turtle and Larry the Lobster… took me right back to Pontins and the Blue-Coats, ahh.

After a week in the Cotswolds Nobby headed off to a Stag party while the kids and I hitched a lift with my parents back to their place then I took off - alone - on the train to meet Nobby in Exteter. I was quite looking forward to the two hour journey – just me, my I-pod and a good book with no kids in sight. The nice man who sold me my ticket told me First Class was going to be cheaper than a standard fare for some bizarre reason and that he reckoned carriage ‘H’ should be nice and quiet. Hmm, what a joker. Funnily enough all the mummies with kids were offered the same deal and I ended up back to back with a harassed mum on her own with 3 children, the youngest of which was still in nappies and trying to make his way around the carriage without touching the floor. As she dashed past me to retrieve him for the fifth time she gave me that defeated smile of the weary mum-on-her-own-with-the-kids and I thanked my lucky stars for my generous parents.

Nobby and I spent two very relaxing days in Cornwall at my Uncle’s and I got to hear all the gory details about the Stag party. Did you know there are 3 topless bars in Bournemouth? One called ‘For Your Eyes Only’, another called ‘Spearmint Rhino’ and the newest one is simply called ‘Wiggle’. Love it. (And so did the groom-to-be by the sound of it.) Then we came back to my Mum’s for the rest of the week, seeing various people each day and hearing all about their day out at Legoland with my sister and all the other lovely things they had been doing while their parents swanned off without them. I don’t think they’d even noticed we were gone. They made up some great games in the garden once the sun came out, although I’m not sure the fish enjoyed ‘Fill The Pond Up With Stones’ or ‘How Deep is That Pond Anyway?’. Pickle invented an interesting one; he shoved a stick down the back of his trousers, offered it to his sister saying ‘light my fuse!’ – he was a firework! Soon after that the stick became a tail and Pickle was now a kitten crawling round the patio. It didn’t take much longer for him to revert to type, though, and decide the stick was best suited as a weapon to beat his sister with. Ah, little boys.

So we left for France on Saturday morning, having managed to cram all our gear in the car without popping the roof off. By the evening I was back in the local supermarket stocking up on supplies and missing Tesco’s already. I managed a little French at the checkout but it is weird to be back.

But it’s pelting rain outside now so I feel right at home.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Ranting (but not about packing)

I need a rant. I am seething. I’m not sure what is making me more cross, perhaps writing it down will help me decide. Here goes.

We’ve been waiting for the new company car for months and we were finally notified that we could have it the day before our holiday - that’s today – provided the old one was in good shape for exchange. The new one has double the boot space so Nobby in particular was delighted that he would be able to bring his golf clubs along on holiday without having to leave one of the children behind to fit them in the car. So first we had to get the dents on the Volvo fixed following our minor incidents with those gates (ahem). So that was all done last week and we have been driving extra carefully ever since. I mean, I have honestly never had such bad luck with any other car - gateposts and gates seem to jump out at it, other cars are almost magnetically attracted to it, it’s even been hit by a cyclist. And I always thought Volvos were meant to be tough but even the bike managed to smash a hole in a rear light and you only have brush it against something to crumple in the bodywork and make the paint fall off. Perhaps it’s jinxed, although judging by the state of everyone else’s car in and around Paris it could be something to do with the quality of driving in France, I dunno, I’d hate to bitch about the French (!) (Mind you, Rose had to park her car on the street for a few hours while they were digging up the road the other week and when her hubby came home from work the first thing he asked is ‘what have you done to the car?’, having spotted the family vehicle on the road sporting a huge fresh dent on the boot that wasn’t there when she parked it. Nice.)

With only 2 journeys to go before handover I carefully parked the Volvo yesterday morning in a little side road off a quiet village road opposite a friend’s house while we had lunch with her. And when we returned to the car after lunch – ta-da!! There was a dirty great gouge on the corner of the front bumper and a huge scratch on the wheel arch where some moron who clearly thought they were driving a tank had just ploughed on through. I mean, how hard is it to get your car down a road without touching the sides? Does this person also have trouble getting themselves through doorways without stripping off the paint with their shoulders? Do they walk down the street bouncing off the sides like a pin-ball? Maybe it was a woman who’s been brainwashed by their man into believing that 4 inches is actually 8. Or a man who’s been convinced that 32AA is 38DD. All I know is that I was stomping mad and this is not a place where someone who dings your car will feel enough remorse to stop and put their details on your windscreen (although I doubt that happens so much in England either). So it now hangs in the balance as to whether we will be able to exchange the car today so I am going to have to spend the day with my fingers and toes crossed that the bureaucrat they send to examine it isn’t a total jobs-worth or at least appreciates the male need for golf whilst on holiday.

Phew, I feel a bit better for getting that off my chest. I should have done it last night so I wasn’t stewing in my bed till 3 in the morning but there was the small matter of the children not settling until about 11 o’clock. Like many a small person, they have taken umbridge at the fact that they are currently expected to go to bed before the sun. And all the black-out curtains in the world aren’t going to fool them because they only have to get up to the loo or pop in to check if their sibling has gone to sleep yet (and be sure and wake them up if they have) to see that it’s still light outside at 10pm. I guess my clever idea to acclimatise them to sleeping in the same room together in preparation for their holiday hasn’t really helped either. It’s quite amazing how many personal possessions they suddenly need with them when you tell them they are sleeping somewhere else when they only need one favourite teddy in their own bed. It’s like some primal territory-marking. I set up the futon in the spare room and suddenly half the toys out of each bedroom had been transported in there to form an entourage around it. And then the messing about starts as each toy needs to be tucked in and read to. I just had to give up and leave them to it or I’d never sit down all evening. Me and my big ideas.

Oh and I’m in trouble with Nobby again. After he got miffed about me not making it clear that he took a day off work to take me out, he then got miffed that my addendum described him as a critic, when all he’s done up to that point is complement my writings. So please may I point out that I meant ‘critic’ in the sense of reviewer rather than detractor and publicly thank him for being so supportive of my exposing the intimate details of our lives on the World Wide Web (!). He’s not so encouraging about the time of day I generally get round to writing, though, as it tends to be very late at night when I have the house - and the computer - to myself. I’ve woken him up several times by crawling into bed at 1am. But what he probably doesn’t realise is that I only ever get full uninterrupted use of my Mummy-brain when all other family members are asleep. It isn’t even that they aren’t begging me to let them on the computer (Pickle) or telling me to draw princesses for them (Poppet) or asking me whether the car was really damaged by a third party and not my dodgy driving (Nobby, cheeky beggar). During daylight my head is not my own, what with constantly wondering what the kids are doing, especially if they’re out of sight and I can’t hear them, planning when to try and get some food inside them, deciding whether to draw the princess with long or short hair, working out how to get Sonic to level 3, etc, etc to say nothing of getting through the daily list of cooking, tidying, cleaning, mending, fetching, carrying, reading, wiping, playing, praising, berating, yelling… See, it’s only after bedtime I can switch off from everyone else and think about my own stuff. Just for a change I got up before the kids today to try to get my rant done in peace because I was updating my I-Pod until 1am instead last night. Unfortunately the brats got up about half an hour ago so my progress has slowed significantly while I get them breakfast and try to ignore the Tweenies finding out how cheese is made on the TV. Ugh. Sorry Nobby, it just can’t be done!

But I will take this opportunity to apologise to him for leaving the car running on fumes for its final journey to the office. Well you did say to send it back empty given that it’s been nothing but trouble these past 3 years. Perhaps I should have left a tiny bit in so that you didn’t have to stop off at the garage on the way in to ensure that the bloke who collects it can get back. The bloke we are now hoping will ignore the new dent and actually take it away. Oops. Sorry! (grovel). I think I’ll stop typing now and get on with crossing my fingers and toes. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Still Packing…

I wish I could report that all the holiday packing is done and we are ready to rock-and-roll in two sleeps’ time. But it would be a total lie. Admittedly there are a few more things gathered than 2 days ago but I still haven’t tackled the clothes situation, there is washing hanging up all around the house because I broke the rotor dryer at the weekend so it’s looking a bit desperate. I decided to take refuge in the park yesterday – we made a lovely village in the sandpit – and today we are going to meet a friend for lunch which I may be able to stretch to the whole day with a trip to the shops on the way home. Am I in denial do you think? Nobby has an interesting solution though. He is taking the car away tomorrow. He does have a legitimate reason in that he’s going to swap it for a spangly new Ford MPV which has finally arrived after a 4 month wait (hurrah!!) but we will be trapped here and I will be obliged to pack. Ugh. I have a new strategy of my own though. Since we are going to the UK I reckon that it doesn’t really matter if I forget anything as we can go shopping. Usually I loathe shopping but after being starved of M&S and Boots for 3 years I go a bit like a kid in a sweet shop if you let me loose in an English shopping centre. The first time it happened the bank were so shocked by the sudden spending on my Switch card that they froze the account and called me up to check I still had my card. It was very nice of them and all but since it left me standing at the petrol station with no way to pay and a big sign telling me I couldn’t use my mobile to telephone the bank I did sort of wish they’d called first and cancelled after.

So in theory if I warn the bank that there is going to be a major spend going on then I needn’t pack anything except the passports. Ooh, I like it.

Poppet is still upstaging me in the packing stakes. She arrived downstairs this morning with a load more things she says she’ll need. I’m not really sure about the woolly tights and the shoes that are 2 sizes too small but I am prepared to humour her. Besides I don’t want to rattle her cage too much as I think I may have pulled off a major coup regarding her ‘dou-dou’, Rosie the Rabbit. She was given Rosie when she was a baby and out of all the hundreds of other toys this became the chosen one; the ‘I can’t go anywhere without it’ companion. It’s a lovely soft stripy material and supposedly machine washable. Hmm, don’t believe the hype, people. After 4 washes it was looking distinctly flimsy and all the stuffing was bunching together. But could we persuade Poppet to choose another soft toy so that Rosie could get some rest? Er, no, and I strongly advise against arguing with a possessive 2 year old about what would make a more practical dou-dou. Then the holes started to appear, which just made her love Rosie more and severely tested my sewing skills. We nearly lost Rosie a couple of times after the move to France; she was left in Toys R Us and the DIY superstore so I quickly had to learn the French for ‘pink, stripy rabbit’. Then one time she slipped off the pushchair during a walk and by the time we noticed and walked back she had vanished. Faced with an inconsolable child and knowing that these rabbits are not readily available in the shops I started to panic. Until I noticed the road-cleaner’s lorry disappearing round the corner and in a flash of inspiration decided to race after him and ask if he’d seen it. Oh, he’d seen it all right, once he finally fathomed out what I was trying to say in my pigeon French whilst gasping for air and clinging onto him for support after my impromptu sprint down the road. He reached into his lorry and retrieved a sorry looking rag and couldn’t quite believe that this was a child’s pride and joy and not the discarded rubbish he’d taken it for. Oh dear.

But then Rosie really went missing, and in the nastiest possible way. Poppet left her in the local park one afternoon and nobody noticed until both kids were in bed and the usual shout went up ‘I want Rosie!’. Nobby was dispatched to the park after we’d thoroughly searched the whole house with no luck and sure enough there was Rosie – being tortured by a group of teenagers. The nasty rabble had ripped her to pieces and was kicking her head around the park. What Nobby wouldn’t have done for a quick ‘The Matrix’-style download of some choice French phrases to scream at the insensitive mob. But all he could do was gather up the pieces and bring them home where I tried all evening to stitch her back together… and of course failed. Nobby cleverly invented a story for Poppet, which thankfully she accepted, that Rosie had caught a cold in the park and a doctor had found her and taken her home to get her better and would send her back next week, while I frantically called a friend in the UK to locate us a new rabbit. When it finally came I’m not sure the lack of holes and dirt were completely lost on our little girl, but she didn’t say a word.

These days Rosie (mark 2) is dressed in a complete outfit to cover up all the new holes and dirt and I even tried re-stuffing her to make her last longer but it’s hopeless. So when Poppet asked me to put her through the wash this week I actually just washed the clothes then sneaked a brand new Rosie into them; I found a source of pink, stripy rabbits after the last incident and now I carry a spare. So far I think I have managed to hood-wink her into believing that my washing machine has taken on magical restorative powers. I just hope she doesn’t expect all her clothes to start coming out mended and back to their original colours. But she has been paying Rosie a lot more attention and she’s told me how beautiful Rosie looks after her ‘bath’; I do wonder if in fact it’s me that’s been duped?

So now I need to get a new spare… I feel a shopping trip coming on!