Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Strange Country

Hi, yeah, I know it’s been weeks since I last sat down and blogged. I haven’t been hiding under a rock, I’ve just been chasing my tail as usual, but after what just happened the nearest boulder is looking rather attractive.

The bloke at the Post Office just refused to serve me. Was I making a scene? Was my child pulling all the cards off the display? No – he refused to serve me because I wanted to post something. ??!!*%&??!! Apparently there is now a machine for weighing and franking your parcels and the service desk does not expect to handle them any more. I am practically speechless. This has got to be the all time prize winner of screwiness I have encountered in France.

And I thought I’d seen it all with the woman in the fur coat in the forest. I haven’t seen her since but I do keep coming across blokes pissing up trees. I turn up for a nice relaxing walk with the dog, sometimes we even drive to other parts of the forest for a bit of variety and nine times out of ten there’s a car parked nearby with its engine running and a guy with his back to me, hands at six o’clock, pretending he’s examining the moss.

I know, when you gotta go, you gotta go and I admit that I have taken advantage myself sometimes when out with the children – that little voice that whines ‘Mummeeeee, I need a wee weeee!’ while you’re miles from the nearest loo can push even the calmest Yummy Mummy over the edge so it’s a relief to know that you can hold them over a drain or take them behind a tree without getting in trouble here. But some people really take the piss. Rose’s mother was once waiting for her outside the local shop, in the car, parked next to a tree. When she noticed that someone was beside her door, on the same side as the tree she looked up… and came face-to-todger with a chap taking a leak, blissfully unaware that he was in mortal peril from an outraged Hungarian Mummy inches from his family jewels. Somehow the shock was too much and she let it pass but thank goodness she doesn’t have a heart problem!

Anyway, speaking of mums, I had mine here all last week (and Dad) which is why I’ve been so slack about catching up here. During their stay we celebrated two birthdays, visited Versailles palace, hit the sales (girls only, Dad stayed home with the kids, sensible man), completed 14 school runs, tried the latest grocery shopping experience: the ‘Drive Thru Supermarket’ and planned, prepared and supervised a party for 14 seven-year-old girls. (My little girl is 7, can you Adam and Eve it?! No wonder I’ve started going grey.) So my poor parents have gone home for a rest, it really is no holiday coming to visit us! The birthday party went very well thanks to all their help, the kids are somewhat more civilised at this age, even if they do still knock apple juice over and smear crisps on the sofa. I think it was only the dog who really disgraced herself by digging under the fence and running off to play with the neighbour’s German shepherd. He doesn’t get out much that one as he’s purely a guard dog and he must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when she broke in. When Nobby finally managed to retrieve her I swear she had a guilty grin on her face.

Meanwhile Peony has given birth to a beautiful baby girl (in hospital I am pleased to report). I went over to meet her for the first time today, armed with cake for her Mum and siblings and lots of pinky-schminky gear for her. Poppet was fascinated and helped herself to several cuddles, mercifully without asking me if she can have a baby sister herself. (How can I put this gently? Er, NO!!! I’m sticking to dollies me.) Pickle was more interested in chasing the cat than admiring the baby, typical boy. I finaly heard the more accurate account of the birth than the ‘it was all over in 10 minutes, ah, she’s so beautiful!’ I got from the new Dad. Another typical boy; oh well, I doubt its much easier to watch than to actually do the labour.

Anyway, I have also recently been introduced to a fabulous drink available from IKEA. It’s called Glögg and I guess it’s the Swedish equivalent of mulled wine. Only with a LOT more cognac. So I here’s a Glöggy toast to Peony’s new baby, welcome to this strange country we live in!

Thursday, 10 January 2008


Note to Nobby - when your beloved changes into her track-suit trousers at the start of the evening the most affable remark for a husband to make is not 'Are you feeling fat, dear?' as you did yesterday!

A far more suitable question would have been 'Is that more comfortable, dear, considering the deranged day you've had and your understandable craving to flake out on the sofa now?'
I know we housewives are supposed to be attending coffee mornings, lunches and facials all day but, as it was, I broke with the norm yesterday and had 6 kids and a heavily pregnant friend over for much of the day. Admittedly our kids are at an age where they are pretty good at occupying themselves (although it’s always best to check on them when they get too quiet in case they’re putting make-up on the dog or seeing how may toilet rolls you can fit down the loo.) I sometimes even get shooed away in a moody Kevin-the-teenager stylie when there are friends over that Mum might embarrass them in front of. So I managed to get quite a bit done in between the bottom-wiping and snack-provision – 2 loads of washing, 1 batch of flap-jacks, cleaning, emails, and of course some gossip with my mate Peony. Though I love having her here, she's due to give birth any day now and I've told her the towels that are spread out on the kitchen floor are there purely because of the dog's dirty feet but I'm not sure she believes me. Perhaps it's the nervous tick I've developed around her that's making her think I’m worried she’ll go into labour on me… The way that if she makes any sudden moves or dares to utter 'ooh' if the baby kicks her I'm jumping up yelling 'What?! What?! Is it starting?!!' Poor thing must be totally sick of me but I can't help it!

But kids are like buses - they will leave you standing in the cold for hours at a time then they all come at once. And in their case it will usually be when you've just picked up the phone or started cooking or parked yourself on the loo. I was uploading some photos to the web and all I needed was 5 more minutes to finish when all of a sudden one turns up in her coat and gloves demanding I get the bikes out of the shed, another desperately needed some old toilet rolls for an urgent creative project, one needed me to play Bingo with him because none of the other children wanted to and my son of course just wanted me off the computer so he could use it instead. Then the dog joins in by pawing at my legs and looking hopefully at the door. And then the phone rings.

Oh well, I mustn't grumble, Nobby did buy me dinner after all. I did have to pick him up from work, drive him and the kids to the shopping centre and take the kids to ToysRUs while he looked round the sales first… but at least I didn't have to cook. And I thanked him graciously by letting him put the knackered, ice-cream pumped children to bed by himself afterwards while I took the dog out; very generous of me I thought. So then the casual lounging gear was calling and what can you do?

I've donned it again this evening, actually, although Nobby's not here to comment. I made the mistake of going back to the sales during school time this morning and spent over 45 minutes in one shop, and not because I am crap at choosing either. I knew exactly what I wanted, having done a little reckie a few days ago. It took that long first trying to get to the racks then queuing to pay. I have never seen a bun-fight like it. These French ladies take bargain shopping to a whole new level. I arrived only 5 minutes after opening and the mob was already in there, elbows working overtime and pushchairs being used as battering rams. Rose and I have often discussed a certain bizarre phenomenon we keep encountering in French shops. You start browsing through a rack of stuff and as soon as you reach out to pull something off for a closer look there's a person there up your bum trying to grab the same item. Even if the whole place was almost empty of customers when you walked in. It's true, I promise, especially in women’s clothes shops. It even happened to Nobby and me together in ToysRUs before Xmas. We were in the bedroom section looking at duvet covers, nobody else in sight. I had a Batman cover in my hand and reached out to pick up the last Spiderman one on the shelf and just as my fingers brushed the cellophane a hand swooped in out of nowhere and grabbed it! I turned round to protest to find it was one of the shop assistants with some bloke customer in tow, who did manage to look suitably sheepish when he registered the shock on my face. The assistant, however, never said a word and if you think that was bad, imagine what it's like in the sales. Oh yes, total torture.

By the time my friend Daisy caught up with me in the queue this morning I was apparently red as a tomato from the scrum to secure one little boys coat at 40% off and a couple of pairs of trousers. Consequently I didn't visit any more shops after that, we took refuge in a café instead to cool down. I spent the afternoon with Peony, trying to get her dog to walk to heel using a Halti. I’m not sure who won in the end. He’s only 9 months old but he almost pulled me over a couple of times fighting to get the thing off while I resolutely walked on calling ‘Heel!’ in my best Barbara Woodhouse voice. He actually obeyed better once I removed it, clearly so relieved to get it off, so we let him chase Tiggy around as a reward.

So she’s flaked out and in her trackie bottoms too now, I think Nobby should try it.
But bagsy not me going to the sales to get him a pair.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Happy New Year!!

Well goodbye and good riddance to 2007, the year when my daughter broke her leg, my son got put on steroids and I found my first grey hair. Yes, call me Mrs Selfish but that last one was the final straw. Surely I am still too young? Surely being blonde should hide grey hair? WRONG. The little bugger was 3 times thicker than the rest of my hair and curly so it was actually sticking out at the side for all to see. What an insult; I always wanted curly hair.

Never mind, 2007 wasn't all bad. The kids learned to ski, I gave up the voluntary work and still persuaded Nobby to let me get a cleaner, we changed the jinxed Volvo and finally bought a dog. Not that the dog is always such a good friend - especially when I went into the playroom the other morning and found a steaming turd in the middle of the carpet. The entire ground floor of this house is tiled but when Tiggy gets caught short in the night she heads for the carpeted section upstairs. Thanks a bunch. Now I find I need a new carpet cleaner, my old Vax just won't shift the nasty stain. Who on earth puts cream carpets in a rental house?!

Anyway, I am fairly optimistic about 2008. After all, we will be moving on to pastures new at some point this year so I will be able to stop moaning about the French and start on some other culture instead. We just experienced a French New Year party this holiday season and I can tell you it was certainly different. I have never seen a meal strung out for 4 hours before, it was quite something, particularly when we effectively ended up having the main course and the pudding in different years! It was a far more civilised affair than a typical English do; we had drunken texts from several friends back home, one of whom was listening to his wife murdering 80's pop hits on the karaoke mike and figured his year could only get better...

Our Christmas holiday in England was equally lively. I hope Mum and Dad have managed to fix the hole I made in their Artex with the champagne cork. It just went off in my hand while I was holding it, honest guv (phnarr). My Mum surpassed herself with the Christmas fair, not only was it wonderful not having to shop for or cook any of the food but we had the full traditional spread that you just can't readily find this side of the Channel - christmas pud (there is no translation into French), parsnips (rarely sold here, they only grow them to feed the animals) and sprouts (hard to fathom why when Brussels is only round the corner!). Not to mention all the nibbles and naughty cakes that Waitrose has to offer. Yum. Big thanks to my Mum for a wonderful Christmas.

So here's to a great 2008 (ooh that rhymes). It's been a shaky start so far what with the poo incident, the boiler still being up the creek and Nobby trying to chop off his finger the other night - personally I think it was a rather drastic way of trying to get out of cooking the roast but I'll admit it did look pretty painful. But Torchwood is back on the telly and the kids are going back to school tomorrow so there's hope for improvement already.