Thursday, 18 December 2008

I have had my first run-in with the local fire department here in Hungary. As opposed to my visits from les pompiers in France, this time there were no stray dogs or broken limbs involved - they were putting up the Christmas tree in front of the opera house in downtown Budapest. K and I had been out for a girly dinner and saw all the flashing blue lights as we walked down the road looking for a taxi afterwards so we decided to stay and watch. Did you know there is a custom built hole in the pavement outside the opera house especially for the Christmas tree? Now the guidebooks don’t tell you about that one, I expect the rest of the year it just looks like an ordinary man hole. Unfortunately the massive tree they unloaded with an industrial crane had a far bigger trunk than the hole so we were treated to a display of amateur chain-saw tree surgery by torch-light. It was K who pointed out the universal phenomenon we were witnessing – like queue jumping and football - when there’s a hole in the road and work to be done there’ll be 2 guys doing the work and about ten standing around watching. Not that I’m complaining about having a dozen firemen to gawp at after half a bottle of wine, mercifully there was a distinct absence of arse cleavage given that it was sub zero temperatures at that time of night. d I have to say I much preferred the firemen’s uniforms to the usually workman’s jeans showing a crack that you could park your bike in.

I have also had another run-in with the postal service. Well, technically I haven’t actually torn anyone off a strip given my language handicap but if our postman dares to come by in the near future expecting a Christmas tip he’ll be getting the tip of my Christmas tree up his nose after his latest stunt. On Wednesday I decided to pop home in between a Hungarian lesson and fetching the kids from swimming as it was pelting down rain and Tiggy had been outdoors for a couple of hours. She’s not using her shiny new kennel yet despite all my efforts to coax her in there – comfy blankets, tasty treats, my favourite cardigan… at the weekend I even squeezed in there myself to try and persuade her it was better option than freezing to death in the wind and rain but all I succeeded in doing was laddering my tights and cricking my neck –so being a bit of a softy I wanted to get her out of the rain and into the basement instead. I noticed something wet and droopy sticking out of the mailbox so I hurried out to fetch it trying to think what I might be expecting other than the newspaper and another pile of bills. (To quote Blackadder, ‘I feel like a pelican; everywhere I turn there’s an enormous bill in front of me.’) It turned out to be the batch of photos and personalised Christmas cards I had ordered from Kodak, beautifully packaged in a cardboard envelope. Which was by then water logged and starting to disintegrate. I threw open the mailbox itself expecting to find something extra special filling it up, and there was the weekly newspaper, all wrapped in cellophane, impermeable to water even if he’d chucked it on the floor. Oh, and a couple of bills.

Anyway, I am pleased to say that my Christmas spirit returned by the weekend and we put up our tree and lots of fairy lights and a crate-load of accumulated Christmassy objects the children have crafted at school over the years – a cardboard fir tree here, a paper-plate ‘bauble’ there, and the all time classic painted gingerbread cookies which Tiggy sneaked off the tree and into her bed while I wasn’t looking. We are now proudly displaying the customary fake tree (no pine needles for me, I have enough to moan about) whose upper branches look as though they’ve had tinsel vomited all over them while the bottom third is completely bare. But the kids had a lovely time and didn’t lum for a whole hour.

Now all I have to do is work out how to pack all the presents into 2 suitcases without the kids seeing and without the baggage handlers destroying them. Any pointers would be gratefully received.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Verbal diarrhoea

Poppet woke up with a bad dose of it this morning, My ears are still ringing now from the 15 minute drive to school during which I don’t think she even paused for breath. She was adamant she had to relate every detail of her very elaborate dream about cyclones and spinning houses to Pickle and me. Then afterwards she says ‘That was a long dream wasn’t it? Can you write it all down for me when you get home?’ Hmm, I’m not sure about that, but I will definitely hide the Wizard of Oz CD. Of course once she’d finished, Pickle was bursting with a hundred suppressed stories of his own which he then couldn’t pause even when his teacher needed to talk to me. I don’t know where Poppet gets it from (I can feel my Mum smiling at that one!) but she passed it on to Pickle in spades, and did you know these small people don’t come equipped with an off-switch?

Still, at least dream-stories and observations about how many fellow classmates wear Crocs at school means they stop lumming for five minutes. ‘Lumming’ is an expression created by Rose’s own Poppet when she had just attained kitchen work-top height at toddling age and spent her days up her mother’s bum giving it ‘Lum [love] some!’ to whatever Rose was touching. Now it is fully integrated into our motherly vocabulary because the little buggers still do and at much louder volumes. And with all the Christmas adverts on the TV at the moment the lumming is reaching critical mass and the next ‘Mummeeee, please can I have… oh pleeeeease’ may well make my head explode.

Now whilst the kids are getting more vocal and demanding, by contrast the dog has lately become more skittish and nervous. What with her super-sensitive doggy hearing I imagine her head exploded several days ago from all the noise, although it could be an after-effect of all the injections she’s been having (which are now finished, thank goodness). We already knew she’s a sensitive soul after the peeing incident during the move. But now every loud noise is setting her off, to the point where she won’t come into the garage to get in the car for the school run until the kids are already installed with the doors shut so she can’t hear them. (Yeah, I know how she feels!) Plus in the woods this morning there were a lot of crumblies out on a ramble in the rain and one old chap opened his umbrella as we approached. It was one of those lazee-boy automatic brollies where you just press a button and it shoots up all on its own with a whoosh and a click – I had one back in my school days which used to shoot off the end of the stick so I could use it as a missile but that’s another story. Anyway poor Tiggy was so spooked she turned and ran back in the direction of the car leaving me looking like a right spoon trying to call her to me in amongst all these rain-caped and brollied senior citizens. Eventually she responded to my whistling and thigh slapping and came over but giving the oldies such a wide berth she went right across to the other side of the road and nearly got flattened by the poo lorry (sewage truck, another another-story.)

Hey but the onset of Christmas has one huge plus – the Advent Calendar. This is the one month in the year when for 24 days straight the little darlings will get themselves out of bed and down the stairs unaided instead of having to be kicked out and carried. We bought one of those Playmobil ones which makes up a little scene piece by piece and Pickle is really excited about who is going to open the box with Santa in it. There is the additional advantage of helping them with some maths as they are doing alternating days and learning their odd and even numbers on the sly and not eating chocolate before school as with the conventional calendars. Ha! I still know a trick or two.

Addendum: In between writing this and publishing, Poppet has had another accident and needed another set of x-rays. She got hit by a hard football in the playground so we’ve been testing out our new medical contract, which I am pleased to say seems to be working fine. And the arm is NOT broken this time so thankfully I don’t need to call my future sister-in-law and break the news that her photographer had better devise a way to hide the attractive plaster cast on the wedding photos… I can picture the head explosion from here. Phew!