Friday, 29 June 2007

What Poppet did

I am composing this from my sick-bed having off-loaded the kids onto the school system lest they catch the dreaded lurgy from me. I’ve got tonsils the size of plums, my glands are sticking out of my neck quite alarmingly and I generally feel like ten tonnes of crap. I went to the doctor to beg a miracle cure only to be told that there isn’t one and I have to wait for it to go away and rest as much as possible. Er, rest? I explained that I have visitors coming tonight, plus a birthday party for 16 under-fives to put on on Sunday and school breaks up today so I think that rest is out of the question. Even while the children are at school there is no peace and quiet because the blasted road-works are still not finished a week after they were supposed to be. I think the French regard deadlines as more like guidelines so you really need to double any estimates they make on how long things will take. Today they are re-digging up the trenches that were previously filled with sand so that they can tarmac them. Why they couldn’t have tarmac-ed as they went along I shall never know.

Besides, I’ve really let the house go these last few days. I reckon if Anthea walked in my door now she would never get to admire my beautifully tidied art drawer, having already fainted away at the state of the rest of the place. She’ll need to try and land on the sofa though because the floor is so bad she’d probably stick to it. I have already called my Mum, who is arriving here this evening and will most likely have to make her own bed when she arrives, and warned her about the current condition I’m in. She has totally come to the rescue regarding the party on Sunday, which I am SO not organised for. Even though it’s at a fun park where in theory I only need to bring a cheque-book and a cake, you can’t buy party cakes in France. They only make fancy patisserie stuff and would have total heart failure if you suggest it might appeal more to a 5 year old with a picture of Spiderman on the icing. Thank goodness Mum is coming over today and can nip into Waitrose on the way, hurrah! She doesn’t get to bail me out very often these days given that I live a 7 hour drive away.

Anyway, while I have been ill I have been a total grouch and woe-betide any small person who crosses me. Pickle and his little friend already got both barrels the other morning when they couldn’t tear themselves away from Thomas the Tank engine to put their shoes on for school. I’ve given up with the ‘counting to five’ method because they always wait until I get to ‘1’ before actually doing what I’ve asked. In fact I even found myself adding zero to give them one final chance before punishment, which they of course took as an extra second to continue messing about before complying. Thankfully the light has dawned on how cleverly they have been manipulating me and now there’s no countdown. They can be cunning little monsters and you can’t give them an inch. Even when you think they aren’t listening their little radars are taking in every word. As I was getting Pickle his Ventolin the other day I said under my breath ‘you’d better have some of this before you cough up a lung’. Two days later I overheard him calmly telling his friend that ‘my Mummy doesn’t want me to cough up one of my lungs’. What? First, he shouldn’t have heard me say it and second, how does he know he’s got 2 lungs when he’s only 4? Frightening. But it’s always like that. One minute you’re yelling at them to grow a brain and stop walking in the middle of the street/jumping off the top of the slide/using the skipping rope as a lasso in the lounge. Then the next minute they floor you completely by doing a 50 piece jigsaw/getting Sonic the Hedgehog to level 3/setting the video recorder. I really can’t keep up.

Poppet did a good one the other day. Every morning we have a major fight about what clothes she will wear. She tends to pick a favourite for the week and wear it every day until it voluntarily walks off her and into the laundry. We tried getting things out the night before so we could avoid the daily confrontation but she usually just flings the clothes she has just taken off at me and tells me to get them washed, dried and ironed for the morning. (!) This week she announced that she has no nice clothes at all and collapsed in a fit of weeping. I calmly took her to her room and started showing her one top after the other, urging her to choose one. After the 20th emphatic ‘no’ I’m afraid I lost the plot and proceeded to empty her entire chest of drawers into a large bin-liner and take it away announcing ‘now you really don’t have any clothes’. She managed to grab something half decent before I took it all away so at least she didn’t go to school in her pyjamas, but when she got home I told her to go through the pile and put out all the things she had decided are ‘not nice’ so I could get rid of them. I was hoping that she would fall in love with all her clothes again and decide to keep the lot, but instead she came over all ‘Annie’ and kept coming downstairs with a pair of trousers or a skirt and saying ‘oh, this would look lovely on my friend Lily’, ‘oh, Bessie would adore this colour’… in total I think she put two thirds of her clothes on the reject pile. I calmly informed her that I am not Daddy Warbucks and she is not getting any new clothes and this is real life here not a sodding MOVIE! Geez, I wish I’d never let them watch TV. Well, for now I have played along and put away all the offensive articles so her chest of drawers contains only about 4 outfits in the hope that she will come to her senses. So signs yet, she went out this morning wearing the same thing as yesterday and the day before. It’s way too big for her but I am just not up to another fight while I am barely surviving on hot lemon and Strepsils.

I am going back to bed; wake me up when someone cures the common cold.

Monday, 25 June 2007

What Pickle did

So we spent yesterday afternoon at a football tournament in the village – yes, it’s the ‘F’ word again. But I only went along because I knew it was near a friend’s house and she was having a little garden party at the same time so I could slope off for an hour with Poppet to sip champagne and scoff canapés while Nobby entertained the budding Man Utd player in the family. It was a lovely afternoon really. Until the final match, which Nobby and I were watching to cheer on a friend’s son while our kids played nearby. Pickle suddenly disappeared from under the pine tree he’d been swinging on and I couldn’t spot him anywhere. More curious than worried I wandered over to see if he was lurking behind the trunk ready to jump out at me. No sign of him. But I could hear ‘Mummy, mummy, here I am’ coming from somewhere so I continued to search. It wasn’t until I stepped back and looked UP that I saw him – right at the very TOP of the tree!!! Holding on with one hand and waving, thinking himself very clever. My heart was in my mouth. He was probably only slightly higher than the roof of our house I suppose, but to a Mummy who suffers dizzy spells on a deep-pile carpet it might as well have been 100 feet. The boy has no fear. Poppet fetched Nobby over and he was very impressed – clearly no vertigo on his side of the family. And once Pickle had successfully descended he expected high-5s all round. Hmm. I must call my own Mum to remind me if I ever pulled any similar stunts. I remember liking tree-climbing but I think it was my sister who won the prize during a trip to King Arthur’s castle in Cornwall when we found her sitting astride a wooden fence, humming to herself, and admiring the 200 foot drop down to the rocks and the sea on the other side…

See Mum, NOW I get it!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Jogging through June

It’s 9 in the evening and I have decided to abandon my attempts at new and cunning ways to persuade the children into their beds and come to update my Blog instead. There are only so many realistic threats I can come up with, all my creative juices are dried up after a mad day chasing my way through a long to-do list. I know all the books say that punishments need to be relevant and immediate so you shouldn’t say ‘go to bed now or you won’t watch telly tomorrow’ because the little darlings know darn well that come 4.30 tomorrow Mummy will be begging them to sit in front of Bob the Builder and stop following her round the house. So far I have removed Pickle’s favourite bedtime CD and teddy bear and I am this close to removing the night-light. But honestly I just can’t go through with it as the time-wasting tactics just make me want to laugh and hug them! Pickle is currently constructing a dragon’s head out of Duplo while he sports a fetching ‘King’s cloak’ cunningly crafted from a blanket and a belt. He already finished the new mile-long railway system for Thomas the Tank Engine, and the elaborate sleeping quarters for the toy hamster would shame any Changing Rooms team. Poppet has other methods – she went down easily enough, accepting the warning that Mummy would be right next door doing the ironing and even kissing me goodnight. 10 minutes later she has quietly turned the light on, fetched her Girl’s World dis-embodied head and is busy coming up with hair and make-up for the next cover of Vogue. Love her.

Oh well. I know that Pickle will give up by about 9.30, which is when he turns into a pumpkin And as long as Poppet doesn’t decorate the wall as well I think I can let it go. They’ll pay in the morning when I go get them at 7am to get up for school. And frankly I would rather watch paint dry than continue with any more ironing. But oh, mother, what is going on elsewhere, have I been invaded with the spirit of Anthea since confessing to the picture tidying episode? I went on to organise the rest of the children’s art and craft materials using handy plastic boxes, I’ve tidied all the bedrooms, developed a laundry routine and started menu-planning for the whole week. I had some ladies over this morning for a 1st Aid course and I hostess-ed to the max, even dragging out a tablecloth and the nice crockery.

Nobby, of course, asked me if I’m pregnant. Nice. And, er, NO!

So back to the news. Nobby is out playing football this evening and I am beginning to think I should have called this ‘Diary of a Football Widow’. No, it’s not that bad and Nobby even confessed to his first slip today when he actually forgot that he had an important match tonight and remained at his desk instead. Wonders will never cease. It’s probably no bad thing as I wouldn’t have had the car back at the right time anyway having got carried away with the after school events – tonight we had a tea party in the (French) school playground to present the teachers with their end-of-year gifts after which we stopped off at the park in town for a bit. I took them via the pharmacy to get some more hay-fever medicine for Pickle. Poppet and her little friend decided to sample the lipsticks while they waited for me… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination but I am glad I still carry wet-wipes with me. At least they were careful though; I am grateful they are past the ‘dragging things off the shelves’ stage – I will never forget the day I parked Poppet’s pushchair too close to the display in the glassware shop in Bath and she managed £50-worth of damage within 5 seconds.

In fact, she and I went on a nice, successful girly shopping trip to La Defense on Saturday while Nobby took Pickle with him to a football tournament. She seems to have come out of her pink phase and chose mostly aqua-marine, turquoise and green outfits which she really enjoyed trying on and parading in front of the mirror. As a reward for being so good I took her to McDs for lunch and then she nagged me for a trip to see Shrek 3 until I finally cracked. (It didn’t take long, I love that series and number 3 did not disappoint I assure you!) We decided not to tell Pickle but he’s happy anyway after the McDs Happy Meal toy turned out to be a plastic talking Shrek which burps…loudly.

Also this week, we have had their first ever school sports day at the English school. It was great fun; egg and spoon, sack race, balance the beanbag on your head race and of course the Mummies and Daddies race. Nobby took the afternoon off to come and watch and got roped in to holding one end of the finishing tape while I helped hand out the 1st, 2nd and 3rd stickers. Pickle did really well winning 3 races and Poppet was miles ahead with the beanbag on her head. Possibly nothing to do with the wide hair-band she was wearing… I don’t think any of the 6 year olds noticed and the other parents were very sporting!

Nobby’s due back any minute so it’s time to get the dinner on. All I can say is thank heavens for Nigel Slater and his 30 minute cook-book. And of course my handy menu plan – this cannot be happening man. Will there be any jobs left to give my Mum when she comes to visit next week?!

Thursday, 14 June 2007

And another thing:

I wouldn’t normally Blog twice in one day but this day just takes the biscuit and I need a bit of cyber-ranting. Given the poor start I should have known not to try driving or cooking as either one was destined for disaster but the sun was shining and the pool at my friend Peony’s was beckoning so off we went. All I can say is that the journey was like one of those arcade games where you are moving through an obstacle course with things jumping out at you from all sides. Naturally we had to battle with the workmen to get out of my road, which now involves going round a bumpy diversion as they have started digging trenches across the road as well as along it. Then there is the weird French rule of ‘priorité à droite’ which means that cars joining the main road from side-streets on the right have right of way! Not everyone follows it, many do actually give way rather than just pull out without looking but this afternoon we seemed to come across every last stickler determined to exercise their right, whether we had to screech to a halt or not. And then there was the lady who turned left across in front of us without indicating, so of course we weren’t expecting to stop and nearly rammed her, and she had the nerve to stop her car in front of us, get out and start an argument! Ooh, they love a bit of arm-waving and shouting. I was spitting feathers by that point, and Poppet even piped up with ‘Mummy, why are you moaning?’ until Pickle sensibly requested his new favourite song on the CD player –‘ Doo, Doo, Doo, Da, Da, Da’ by the Police. How very appropriate, bless him.

Surprisingly the swimming went ok, probably because I didn’t have too much of a hand in it being a bit of a coward around cold water, but when we got back home for tea I should really have known better than to fry anything. Of course the oil was going to jump out onto the electric hob and start smoking. And of course Poppet was going to take one look at the final result and say ‘I don’t like the look of that’ and go back out to the trampoline.
The only saving grace of the day was when the thunder started to rumble as I was pegging out the last sock on the washing line and the rain started to come down in stair rods with accompanying lightning, at least I remembered to unplug the phone this time. And although I got all the washing back in without getting soaked, today was not the day to tackle folding a fitted sheet. That's now in a heap in the corner awaiting better luck tomorrow.

What a day. Where did I out that pillow? Night night.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Someone fetch me a pillow…

I knew it was going to be one of those days when the first thing I touched this morning – the bathroom tap – pretty much fell apart in my hand. So I mopped up the water and reached for the cleanser instead which promptly squirted in every direction except the cotton wool. That’s when you have to sigh and accept that everything is going to go just a little bit pear-shaped. Then Pickle’s kiddy computer wouldn’t work and Poppet’s favourite web page (colouring-in small fluffy animals) couldn’t be found and do you think that I could get the water into the kettle without spraying myself? And now the kids are ganging up on me; ‘Mummy can you dress this Barbie’, ‘Mummy I don’t like black toast’, ‘Mummy can you find my specific gold badge thing that I haven’t even thought about let alone seen for 3 weeks?’, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy. Ugh.

It doesn’t really help that I am more than a little bit knackered having been on my own since Saturday morning when Nobby zoomed off to Gothenburg for a symposium. I never sleep well when he’s away and so now I daren’t sit down for too long in case I slip into a coma. And we had such a busy weekend too. As soon as the taxi had pulled away we were off to the school fete at the French school. Just getting through the door at that place is a challenge in itself as you have to get past the headmistress, affectionately known as ‘The Hag’. She’s part dragon, part poodle, barely tolerates us Brits and will take any opportunity to wag her finger at you and shake her head giving it ‘non, c’est interdit’. So when I showed up late without the obligatory written authorisation slip we were supposed to take to prove that we were actually part of the school, despite the fact she sees me 4 times a day during term time and has done for the last 3 years, the poodle hair started to swing and I thought we’d have to go all the way home again. But for once sense prevailed and we were allowed to go and play, although I was later roped in to manning a stall as punishment.

Later that day we went next door to a birthday party for The Twins. This is also the home of our French landlord so there really was no getting out of it. The twins are the same age as Pickle and can be quite a handful. They come over once a week for an English ‘lesson’ for which I get paid in bottles of champagne, and rightly so as I need a drink after an hour with those two. I hastily swallowed the dictionary before going as all the other mummies were French. We had a good time but we never did find out the translation for ‘pea-shooter’.

Sunday had us driving 2 hours to Normandy to the annual lunch party held by our French tutor for all his clients at Nobby’s office and other enterprises. Without Nobby there I managed to avoid the pseudo-team meeting amongst all his colleagues and sat with my friends. Unfortunately that meant I missed the fact that his new boss of three weeks was there so only managed a very brief ‘hello, goodbye’ as we all left. Oops. It wasn’t easy trying to crowbar the children away from all the toys and of course the pond – no children went in this year but Pickle’s Lightning McQueen car somehow took a dive so the pond got a free dredging as we (successfully) searched for it. By the time we were nearing Paris it was really late and I was dropping off so we stopped at McDonald’s for tea. It’s amazing what a Big Mac can do for a flagging mummy!

Getting us all up for school the next morning was a challenge though. I opted for some gentle household chores after dropping them off, feeling guilty all the while having watched Anthea recently (Perfect Housewife) and knowing I should really be dusting on top of all my kitchen cupboards. Anyway, I’ve always been of the opinion that furniture doesn’t really need dusting until you can write your name on it. Instead, I sorted through a crate-load of artistic masterpieces that Poppet has been accumulating under a chair for a few months. It pains me to throw away any of her princesses and butterflies but I wanted to reclaim that little corner of the dining room; Anthea would be proud. I rewarded myself with coffee at Rose’s place, which was far more fun, even though I had to play dodgems with more JCBs and trenches on the way there and we couldn’t sit out in the sun because of all the noise. There’s nasty yellow spray paint outside her place meaning it’s marked for excavation and I then found some orange marks outside my front gate too so it looks like the road-works are here to stay a while. So much for the ‘peaceful’ suburbs! Her lounge was nice and quiet though, until the Tamagotchi started bleeping for food or a bottom-wipe – if anyone ever buys one of those for my kids they will be straight off my Christmas card list.

I took Poppet for a haircut after school and I think we must have met The Hag’s sister in the hairdressers. She examined Poppets hair before washing it and wagged a finger at me saying her hair is full of sand. Well, she’s 6. What on earth did you expect to find in her hair? She told me that it might attract lice (hilariously translated as ‘poux’ in French). I’d always been told that lice prefer clean hair in which case neither of my children are in any danger of getting them - there’s usually far worse than sand lurking in their barnets due to their horror of hair-washing. I don’t think that went down too well though as she then spent all of 2 minutes trimming the hair and charged me 26 euros for the privilege, 9 of which was for washing it!! Pooh.

Anyway, Nobby finally came home last night, laiden with gifts for the children and duty free cosmetics for me (he got it on the way out this time) so all is now well with the world and I can sleep at night again. Pass me a pillow someone.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Expect the unexpected

My best bud, let’s call her Rose, came over for a coffee and a rant at lunchtime. We do love our sessions putting the world to rights. Sometimes you just have those days where some old bat has rubbed you up the wrong way in the Post Office or some nutter has cut you up at a road junction and you just want to vent. Today it’s road-works. Rose says it’s getting a bit like World War 2 around here with all the trenches up and down the road(!) - the latest one stretches from her place all the way up past mine and round into the forest. It’s been a feat of manoeuvring to get out of the drive and past the various over-sized Tonka trucks in the street for the school runs 4 times a day.

Sadly the car and the gate had a run-in on Monday and the new dent is, of course, on a different door to Nobby’s last effort when he was late for football. Mind you, mine’s not so spectacular and I even managed to hide it for a few days by parking the car the other way round on the drive. But of course I forgot yesterday and his opening greeting to the kids upon returning from a 2 day trip to the UK was ‘I see Mummy’s dinged the car again’. Oops. I did have a lie all lined up about narrow parking spaces at the supermarket and hopeless old dears in 2CVs but in the end the truth just kind of spilled out.

Never mind, it’s not like anyone else’s car is perfect, you can tell who the new people are by their unblemished paint-work. A couple of trips to a French underground car park will soon sort that out. And banging up the kerb onto the footpath to squeeze past a few JCBs will nicely scuff those tyres too.

After school Poppet had a little friend over for tea and a bit of Barbie play. (Today it was burying Barbie up to the neck in the sandpit.) I was just cooking up some crepes when a flash of pink went streaking past the window and made me glance outside… to see Pickle and the Little Friend both stripped naked and having a water fight with the hosepipe. Thus began an evening fraught with culinary curve-balls. Thankfully none of the crepes burned whilst I wrestled the hose off them and hung out their clothes (they took them off because they were wet – would it have been better to remove them before starting the water?). Later on while I was heating some oil to start Nobby’s dinner, Pickle chose to fall off a tower of crates he had built and while I administered TLC the kitchen almost caught alight.

At least we now know the smoke alarms are still working.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Why won’t the ironing do itself?

The ironing mountain is getting out of control; very soon I will need crampons and a rope to reach the top and those jeans at the bottom will have been crushed into a diamond. And I am in denial now, so poor Nobby is having to do his own shirt each morning before he can get dressed. The children just go to school creased. Poppet likes to wear the same outfit all week until it crawls off her so she doesn’t really care and Pickle will wear anything at all as long as he doesn’t have to fetch it or put his arms and legs in it himself. How I miss my ‘Ironing Man’ and his little white van from when we lived in England.

At least it isn’t in the spare room any more so my brother and his girlfriend had a place to sleep when they came to stay this weekend. Not that we were here much, we took full advantage of the extra adults and dragged the children out into Paris. We visited Jardin d’Acclimatation – a fabulous ‘park’ with playgrounds, animals and a load of fairground rides in the Bois de Boulogne. Uncle got to drive Pickle round in a Go-Kart while Auntie took Poppet on the roller coaster. Then on to La Defense where we went up to the roof of the Grand Arche for a view over Paris and a very interesting art exhibition. Then we had a quick pizza before staying up late for the fireworks at a local town fayre.

Since they left on Monday I have been trying to get the phone fixed which has involved several calls - in French – to France Telecom and a visit to a FT shop. It is finally back up and running after 10 days and there were 26 calls on the answering service from poor souls wondering where on earth we were!

Note to self: always unplug the Livebox when there is an electric storm in case the phone gets fried.

And while we’re doing reminders:

Note to self: watch your language in front of the children.

Note to Poppet: the black and white four legged animal they were drawing on Smarteenies was just a cow, not a moody cow...