Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Right that's it. I have officially had enough. Stop the world, I wanna get off. If I thought yesterday was bad then it was a big mistake waking up this morning. I had to make an emergency trip to see Rose this afternoon so she could put me back together. And Nobby keeps calling from Malta all sad and homesick and I can't bring myself to share the gloom down the phone so poor Rose copped the lot.

The worst bit is my landlord, who is turning into the tight-fisted pedantic old b*stard that the agency said he would as the end of our contract approaches. He stood in my kitchen this afternoon inviting the family over for champagne on Friday night then I hear not half an hour later he was lying his arse off to my agent trying to wriggle out of 600 euros it turns out he owes us. I'll spare you the details but suffice to say I've got to pass him in the playground tomorrow on the school run and how I'm going to stop myself now from kicking him in the nuts I have no idea.

On top of that I have to babysit the new tenant while he swans off for his annual 2 month summer holiday which means that he won't be here for the changeover. He brought her round today, complete with 8 month old baby and heart-breaking story about how they are living in temporary accommodation with all their stuff in storage while they wait for us to bugger off. I wonder how honest I should be with her? She's French though so lucky for Mr Tight-arse I lack the vocab to explain how I really feel.

Meanwhile, the kids are on some sort of mission to keep me so busy that I forget about all the other cheese (see the Hungarian phrasebook for that one, 'cheese' = 'shite', I'm just toning down because my Mum's due to look in here!) . They are blazing such a trail of destruction through the house I am going to recommend the next major US hurricanes are named after them. Plus they are also doing stuff that's just downright naughty. For example, I have filled the old sandpit with water for the dog to cool off in, which she has been very grateful for while it's been so hot here this week. So Pickle decides that it would be a great place to have a quick pee while he's out playing in the garden rather than having to take his shoes off to come in the house and use the proper facilities. That's male logic for you - I'll get told off if I run inside with my shoes on but if I sneak a pee-pee out here there's a chance she'll never know. Sadly he's rumbled next time Tiggy takes a drink from her pool when Poppet falls about laughing yelling 'She's drinking your wee-wee!!!'

So off they go upstairs to get out of Mummy's way as she is rapidly growing horns and a forked tail to go with the bad mood due to trying to get the house in some order before the landlord comes round with the new tenant. Then Poppet comes down to say that she can't get off the make-up that Pickle's applied to her face.... alarm bells ring, I dash upstairs, and sure enough there's face paint all over the freshly washed towels and a bright red greasepaint stick discarded on the white carpet. Cue the frightening fangs and reverberating roar and my transformation into Monster Mummy is complete as the little darlings dive for cover back out in the garden and I pointlessly dab at the carpet with Vanish. Aaargh!

Next stop Rose's house for a coffee and a rant. How guilty do I feel sitting there off-loading while Rose looks like she's just gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. But that's the beauty of it you see, sharing woes between Mummies. She's been there too, there are stories of her own to reassure me that my kids behaviour is perfectly normal and we all relax just a little bit in time for the show-down of attempting to extract my two away from her two. No mean feat when there's a Mr Incredible game on the computer and Pickle's getting his first fix for a couple of days. I can assure you that our eventual get-away went relatively smoothly, but when we found the dog wandering in the road upon our return to the house having for some inexplicable reason decided to make a bid for freedom from the garden, I may have had a tiny outburst just to ruin the moment.

Anyway, I'm hoping that sleep might help me and I'll wake up all fresh and happy in the morning. That's the yarn I spin to the smallies, maybe it really works? It's worth a try. First I need to get the blighters into bed - I tucked them in 2 hours ago and I can still hear them mucking about. Come home Nobby!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

News at Ten

I am somewhat in the doldrums today. I so wish the Doldrums was an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean but in all reality it’s just a suburb of Gloom in the vicinity of Dismal. Besides, Its Nobby who gets to do all the travelling these days, he’s the veritable Scarlet Pimpernel lately poor thing. He’s only home long enough to chuck one load of shirts in the wash and pack up another before he’s off again. Poppet even told him off about it the other night: ‘Daddy, I’m very cross with you. You’re never home!’ And I am run so ragged that I wasn’t even home myself last time he came back from a week away so now my own name is Mud. I have a to-do list as long as the Bayeaux Tapestry but I’m not feeling terribly motivated. To put it in Blackadder terms, I’m as weary as a dog with no legs that’s just climbed Ben Nevis. I am learning to hate the end of the school year with all the shows and fetes and trips to keep track of. Poppet is on another one today and I know the perky, perfect Mummy she deserves would have made her packed lunch the night before instead of racing round like a headless chicken ten minutes before school-time, throwing Weetabix down throats with one hand and whipping up a healthy picnic with the other. But that Mummy lives elsewhere I fear. And she probably isn’t also juggling a house-move, a birthday party for 20 six-year-olds and a leaving do, with the mountain of associated jobs those three keep vomiting into her lap.

I could whine on all day but for the benefit of my time-pressed readers and in the interests of ticking at least one item off today here are the headlines.

BONG! I am allergic to Ash trees. No, not ashtrays, Ash trees. I had the hilariously named ‘Prick Test’ last week following on from the episode I had back in March (see how long it takes me to catch up with myself?) and the result was very clear. So I looked out for the culprit at home only to find that I am in fact surrounded on all sides by Ash trees here. They flank the house, the neighbours have at least 2 each and they are everywhere in the forest. Thankfully the buggers only pollinate for 2 months per year and now I am forewarned I can stock up on appropriate drugs ahead of time – just don’t expect much sense out of me in March and April from now on, I’ll be the one floating by in a cloud of nasal spray..

BONG! Talking of nasal, Rose broke her nose. Seriously, this is not a Dr Seuss joke. She was playing tennis and hubby hit a high one which came down hard on her raised racket and smacked it into her face. She now claims she looks like Stephen Fry. Her children reacted much as mine would: her little girl ran to the bar to get napkins and ice to stem the pouring blood, her boy just rolled his eye skywards and said ‘Daddy, will you play tennis with me?

BONG! I can get E4 on satellite all of a sudden. You know what that means? Friends!!! Two episodes a day, every day of the week. Now I have my own obsession to compete with Nobby’s football compulsion. I can’t get a word out of him while 22 blokes are kicking a bit of leather around but now he’s getting a similar response when 6 people are chatting on a sofa in Central Perk. Ha!

BONG! I got through a play-date with next doors twins without committing any murders. They’ve recently grown extremely fond of Pickle and call for him constantly through the fence. They can’t actually see through the fence to check if he’s there so they just call and call, sometimes for half an hour at a stretch. The parents and Nanny never say a word but on occasion it has driven me to hiding in the house with all the windows and doors closed to shut the beggars out. So my latest strategy is just to send Pickle over to play, in the hope that he’ll break something thereby encouraging the parents to train the boys to shut up and not invite him round. However I thought is was only fair to have them here for an hour or two in exchange, what am I like? Last time they spent ten minutes here they left an hour’s worth of tidying up behind them. But I am relieved to report it was a total success – thanks to a pile of chocolate crepes and a baby gate across the back door.

BONG! Pickle came first in the sack race at Sports Day. He also got 2nd place in his other three races so he is very proud of himself. I love watching him run – luckily the races are all in a straight line because he runs with his head turned sideways checking up on all the other runners rather than looking at the finish line. I wonder where that competitive streak came from?!

BONG! The kids have trained the dog to jump up onto the trampoline. She hasn’t mastered bouncing on it yet but its early days.

Well, that’s about all I can muster for now folks. I am going to crawl into my hammock this afternoon and forget about all of it. Sod the removal inventory, sod the insurance documents and sod the immigration questionnaire. I am on strike.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Small Talk part 2

Strike that, here I am again. I’ve gotta tell you this one. I had just finished Blogging this afternoon when the doorbell rang and in walked another removal company representative to estimate how long it will take to cram all our worldly goods into crates and schlepp them across Europe. The last one was a wee bit reminiscent of a Bond villain, complete with dodgy accent but minus the white cat, much to Tiggy’s disappointment. This one, however, to coin a Little Britain phrase, Ooh ‘e was GORgeous!! And he spent a whole hour going through my drawers, phnarr. Actually, since the cleaner was just on her way out as he arrived everything was pretty much tip top, no knickers lying on the floor, no piles of washing-up in the sink. But I had completely forgotten about the toy display in Poppet’s bedroom.

She and a little friend disappeared for over an hour on Monday, so engrossed were they in their game. They only emerged to ask me for some string. I thought nothing of it at the time and handed over a whole ball. I am not sure what Mr Gorgeous made of the resulting array of Barbies, each beautifully dressed in her best clothes, hair coiffed to perfection, and each tied up and gagged at the end of Poppet’s bed, but he never said a word.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Small Talk

Poppet: Mummy, if there’s a place called Hungry, you know where we’re going to move to, is there another place called Thirsty?

Pickle: You know, when Tiggy dies we could get a German Shepherd.
Poppet: Yes, and if it’s a boy we could call if Nitchy and if it’s a girl we could call it Bitchy!

Mummy: I have to tell you some bad news children; we didn’t manage to get the house with the swimming pool in Hungary.
Pickle: That’s all right, we’ll sneak into the house next door and use theirs!

Rude Awakenings

No sooner do I get back into a bit of blogging than something else comes up and I stop for another fortnight. This time it was my first reconnaissance trip to Budapest, which meant leaving my children with my parents and taking off for the weekend with my best friend. Hey, it may sound like fun but the preparation was no picnic I can tell you. My brain was so overloaded with writing out a short handbook of instructions and tips on how to cope with my kids’ various foibles, not too mention getting enough food and wine in to keep them all ticking over for 5 days, that I became about as much use as a chocolate teapot and unable to retain any information from one moment to the next. Hence the rude awakenings throughout the day. For example, I’d make a mental note to put a new toilet roll beside the loo since the Andrex Puppy had clearly been round again and cleaned us out. But it wasn’t until I settled myself on the throne a couple of hours later that I realised that I’d completely forgotten to do it. Then I’d tell Nobby that we’d have fajitas for dinner and make a mental note to buy some, but not actually remember to do it until I put the pan on that evening and wondered where the ingredients were. So when the landlord came round to badger me again for a moving date he found me incapable of speaking any French, and I had to resort the Parisian full-body shrug (which actually felt pretty good having been on the receiving end of them for four ruddy years!) The kids didn’t help by deciding to try skipping with a rope on the trampoline. I could see disaster looming as I had a flashback to the last time I was due to go away without them and Poppet broke her leg on that bouncy castle. The one good decision I made that day was making a carbonara to a recipe which required a tablespoon of white wine in the mixture… and a glassful in the chef (it really says that in the book, honest.)

So back to my little jaunt. By weird coincidence Rose’s Mum lives in down town Budapest and kindly agreed to let us stay for the weekend so we could to familiarise ourselves with my future home and seek out the essentials for living there. We took our task very seriously, conducting an extensive survey of local amenities – coffee by the Basilica, dinner al fresco beside the Danube, Long Island Iced Tea chez Fat Mo’s – and learning some local language, such as the Hungarian for ‘cheese’ which is pronounced ‘shite’. I was also introduced to a totally new level of customer service in the local restaurants. Having been used to surly waiters with a whole bag of frites on their shoulders here in Paris it was a total revelation to eat in a place that keeps a little basket of reading glasses behind the counter for those who've forgotten to bring theirs for reading the menu, like Rose’s Mum. And they do ‘doggy bags’ too in case you’ve ordered more than you can manage, plus the coffee knocks Paris into a cocked hat.

Anyway, the relocation agent brought us crashing back to reality on Monday with a whistle-stop tour of the available schools and houses for rent. The school was a no-brainer luckily. I had no problem rejecting the swanky-looking school that proudly showed me a class of 5 year olds each plugged into individual computer consoles with headphones, and a class of 7 year olds putting together a Powerpoint presentation for their parents. Call me old-fashioned but I plumped for the school that showed me a class of 6 year olds reciting a poem at the tops of their voices whilst jumping up and down behind their desks, with the teacher joining in. The houses were another matter altogether though. Things were looking pretty grim after nine viewings and none of them ticking all my boxes. Thankfully the agent pulled a corker out of the bag on the final day when Nobby was actually with me and we were all done and dusted by coffee time. Nobby has since found out that the street name where we’ll be living is the Hungarian equivalent of 'Sesame Street' in that it features on a popular kids television program. I'll have Tiggy keep a look out for large yellow birds landing in the willow tree.

I am pleased to report that Mum and Dad weren’t quite on their knees when I returned and they had worked their way through an impressive list of jobs which I had cheekily left lying about. They stayed on for a few days so I could pamper them a little bit myself to say thanks. Now I am psyching myself up to the task of sorting out all the junk we have lying around the place so we don’t transport all the way across the continent to sit and fester in another house. Given that I am the world’s worst squirrel and struggle to throw away clothes the children have grown out of or drawings they have proudly thrust at me after school this could take some time. See you another fortnight, probably!