Sunday, 19 December 2010

The roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd

Ladies and gentlemen, it's Blind Date!!
And here is your host, Miss Nobby's Missus!!

Oh yes, that was me last Wednesday night, sporting a lovely pencil skirt, tight jacket and an extremely dodgy Liverpool accent, bringing the joys of London Weekend Television to the parents and students of our school in Budapest. It was a Tudor version of the popular show, where Henry VIII, aka the Headmaster, had to choose between his six wives, played by various other teachers, much to the delight of all the students who weren't expecting it.

I confess to a lorra ad-libbing, chuck, and I really did enjoy myself, mincing around the stage. I'm not sure how much of the sarcastic humour scanned to the Hungarian audience, who so don't do irony:

'Contestant number 6, Kate, has been married twice so surviving fellas is Parr for the course for her...'

but we did get a lorra laffs.

Poppet and me did not laugh at a different show yesterday, we just stared open mouthed in awe at the amazing Budapest Opera House and a stunning performance of The Nutcracker. It was a wonderful Christmas treat from our lovely neighbour who risked life and limb in driving snow to come with us and sit amongst the ridiculously dressed up and outrageously behaved little darlings and their mothers.

Given that it was about minus 7 degrees and eleven o'clock in the morning I confess I passed over the floor length taffeta, sparkly shoes and diamond tiara, opting instead for tights, woolly trousers, vest, t-shirt, jumper, cardie and my comfy snow boots. However I was in the huge minority, why on earth would you pass up on the bling just because you might freeze your bits off on the journey? You never saw anything like it and I am proud that my little girl whispered to me,

'You'd never buy me clothes like that would you Mummy?' as another satin and lace froo-froo puff-ball flounced past us.

The only other two children who were dressed almost normally were Little Miss Loudmouth and her sister Miss Kick-That-Seat who were unfortunately sitting directly behind us in the stalls. Their parents weren't only ignorant of the unspoken dress-code, they also hadn't got a clue about keeping their kids under control or whispering during a live ballet performance such that I turned round to them at the end of the second act and told them they were unbelievable.

Cripes, I'm such an old stick in the mud now that school's out! I am supposed to have three weeks away from small people climbing up my legs, calling my name over and over again, spilling drinks and bodily fluids all over me, but I think I've taken it to heart a little too much expecting all kids to be seen and not heard. Jeez, maybe that stint in France is starting to kick in?

Anyway, I'm still partially on duty as I am interviewing a five-year old tomorrow morning before dashing off to the dentist with Poppet, whose temporary crown just fell off. She was amazingly calm about it, I'm immensely proud. I can't wait to show Pickle round the surgery, he's going to love looking at all the machines.

He bought himself a Robot yesterday which 'walks' along the floor avoiding objects as it goes and he has gone all Blue Peter on us creating mazes and rat runs for putting it through its paces. He reckons he's going to invent robots that will bring him snacks to the sofa so he never has to get up from the TV or Wii ever again. And he still hasn't given up on building a 'shelter' under the hill in our back garden, if the landlord will agree. I can just see him bombarding this dentist with questions tomorrow as he rebuilds this tooth again.

Second thought, better pack a DS.

Finally tonight I would like to annouce that Tiggy, our wonderful woofer, can count. Nobby discovered this amazing talent and I am just so sorry That's Life isn't still on the air so we could show our mutt off to Esther Rantzen.

Every night before we go up to bed Nobby lets the dog outside for a weesht then heads off to the cupboard to get her a bedtime treat. I think I've mentioned before that she only has to sense him walking towards the hallway and she makes for her bed like a cork out of a bottle.

Well it seems, ever the numbers man, he always gets her three biscuits and hands them over one at a time. And this smart pooch now takes the first one and puts it down in front of her and looks up for another one. She takes the second one and puts it down and waits for another. Only when she has two in front of her and the third one in her gob does she start eating. Amazing.

At this rate we just need the kids to come up with a double act and we'll shortly be performing at a theatre near you.

Friday, 17 December 2010

My Boys

I forgot to include a Lesson for Nobby last time.

It was such a lovely romantic evening, watching TV with a bottle of wine and a few candles. Until one candle burned too low and set fire to the plastic Christmas decorations round its base. I was shutting down my computer at the time, luckily Nobby noticed it and called me in that slightly higher-pitched than normal voice with an edge of panic to it. Actually all he said was 'Aaaargh!' or words to that effect so it took me a second to clock the belching smoke and growing flames in the corner of the room. As I sprang into action to fetch a wet tea towel, Nobby attempted to move it away from the surrounding ornaments and decs which were all in imminent danger.

Not as much danger, however, as poor Nobby's finger, which caught a big drip of molten Christmas decoration - how on earth he managed to set the candles down safely, run to the kitchen, shove my tea towel aside and thrust his hand under the tap I'll never know, his finger's quite a mess. So Lesson 4 (Nobby): leave your burning ornaments where they are and fetch a bucket of water.

Thank goodness for my recent First Aid course. I opted to leave out the recommended introduction:

'Hello. My name is Your Missus and I'm a trained Emergency Responder. Can I help you?'

and went straight for 'Sit down, shut up and put your hand in this bowl of water.'

He's now sporting a fetching bandage, he's exempt from washing up but he has to shower with a plastic bag on his hand. Well, it's something to talk about in the office.

My other boy made an interesting pronouncement the other morning. Apparently they were going to do some cooking in school. Pickle declared he definitely wanted to learn how to cook because,

'When I'm grown up, I'll do all the cooking so my wife won't have to.'

He said this as he finished his morning weesht in the upstairs toilet - without lifting the seat and without flushing -before dropping his PJs on the floor and heading down for brekkie. Mmm, yes, I muttered, your wife won't have time to cook while she's picking up your clothes, flushing the loo and cleaning the bathroom so if you don't want to starve, yeah go for it!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Lessons of the week

Lesson 1 (for Poppet): When messing about in front of the mirror instead of going to bed when Mummy has told you to, always wear a gumshield. Especially when performing contortionist tricks which involve trying to wrap your legs round your arms whilst standing on your hands. You never know, you may fall over and you're either going to land on your arse... or your face. And if your face makes contact with the drawer handles in front of you, you may chip a tooth.

Yup, we've had another 'oh shit' moment from the her ladyship. I always thought the boy would be the one to have us rushing to emergency rooms late at night, but actually Poppet is the one who breaks pieces of herself and last night it was two thirds of her front tooth.

You never heard screaming like it.

I got straight onto the phone to my Uncle in Cornwall - I think I only phone him for denstistry questions lately. Long story short, much wailing and gnashing of severly shortened teeth later, Poppet and I made an 11pm visit to a dentist recommended by a friend and he was able reassure us that the tooth was probably salvagable without root canal work at this stage and, with the help of a beautiful assistant otherwise known as Nobby's missus (all the nurses had sensibly gone home to bed) he proceeded to apply a temporary crown so poor Poppet wouldn't look a total Fang the next day.

I have to say, if you're going to wreck your teeth, do it in Budapest. Amazing.

Lesson 2 (for Pickle): When Mummy has been up until one in the morning with a traumatised daughter, she won't be firing on all cylinders getting all your ducks in a row for you next morning. Therefore, it might be better to think about picking up a coat for the minus six degrees snowy weather BEFORE you arrive on the school premises.

My son looks very fetching in my car travel blanket, though I swear the coat would have been much trendier, after all the dosh we paid for it. This is the same boy who made it all the way to a birthday party climbing trees in the Buda hills before realising he wasn't wearing any shoes. You'd have thought the ritual humiliation of having to wear his sister's spare PINK trainers for the entire party would have rammed the message home that one ought to check one's footwear and out garments before entering the car, but no.

It'll take a lot more than a sledgehammer to get that message installed.

Lesson 3 (for Nobby): and I have said this before - NO YOU CAN'T WIN.
You married a woman, there is no such thing as 'winning', be it choosing the right gift for a birthday or examining the decisions taken in an attempt to fix your daughter's broken tooth.

Deal with it.

So ends the sermon for this evening.
I'll tell you about my thespian performance some other time.

Just say a quiet 'yippee!!' for me at 14h GMT+1 tomorrow when school ends for three weeks!!!!!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Feeling all white

My back aches, my arms ache, my legs ache. My Winter workouts have begun.

No, I haven't had an aberration and joined a gym, or given in to temptation, dug my PJs out and joined in with the kids' judo class (that's next week).

It snowed.

And at our house, before we can get all excited about sledging and stuffing snowballs all over Boy-Next-Door, snow can only mean one thing - clearing the driveway. Ouch-a-rooney. Just staying upright is hard enough on the crazy slopes, let alone shovelling 15cm of snow out of the way. It's not so bad if the snow is fresh, but Tiggy and Dog-Next-Door like to come and dance around on it while we're working, compacting it down nicely and making it much harder to shift.

Is that doggy irony? Even though half the drive is snow-free they have to play on the bit we're still trying to clear?

Anyway, its a much quicker job with many hands and the neighbours, despite spending most of their lives in Lisbon and rarely seeing white fluffy stuff except on the head of their beer, are quite the dab hand at snow-ploughing. Nobby, however, was no help, but he did have a sick note.

Earlier in the week he had an invite from that British Father's Group to go out for a bevvie or two and a curry Friday night.
'I'm not sure I'll go this time,' he says, 'not with that football tournament the next day.'
'You could always go for the meal and then clock off and come home early,' says I in all innocence. 'You could do with a night out. Treat yourself!'
'Yeah, I suppose,' he said. So off he went.

I had a call at 10pm asking for the phone number of the taxi firm, which I took as a good sign after the last time (see previous posts) and he called in person at 11pm in reply to my text telling him it was snowing to discuss whether he should make a run for it before the stuff got too deep.
'We're just leaving the curry house and we're off to a bar. I'll just go and have one...'

That was the last I heard until he crept loudly through the front door sometime later and woke me up. I have a rule never to look at the time if I wake up in the night so it wasn't until Saturday morning that he confessed it was 3.30am when he finally rolled in.

Well, I thought, good for him. Bad for the football tournament but at least he had a good time. Why is there a green wristband on his arm? What does it say on it?...

I approached him with a pair of scissors.
'Let me cut that thing off your wrist,' I said.
He let me, but then snatched it off me and screwed it up in his hand!
'You don't need to know,' he said.
'I've already worked out you must have been clubbing,' says I, 'which one was it? I might like to go there myself.'
'Er, no you wouldn't.'
'Why not?'
'Forget it'
'Come on, what does it say? What's 'Marilyns'?'
'Well, what sort of club do I like the least and where I would definitely not take my wife?'
'I dunno, a rave?'

Yeah, I am dumb first thing on a Saturday morning.

It took me a while but I got there in the end. He meant one of those very warm places where the ladies don't wear very much and they'll let you watch them dance... for the benefit of my more innocent readers it was a flower arranging club.

So off he went to football with a bit of a hangover, and no sympathy from me. And I cleared the way for him to get his car out. Which one of us is the bigger mug?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Little Boys

Our windows have been leaking. Not all the time, I might add, mostly during rainstorms of the horizontal variety to which we are frequently treated up here in the Buda Hills. I may have mentioned one such storm that caught us all unawares last year, with me and Pickle in the my brand new (to me) Ford Focus trying to get through the flood waters that collect in a matter of minutes at the big dip in our road. Yikes that was a doozy. We had to drive up-river to our place and thanked our stars for the automatic gates and garage door.

Until we got inside the house and found the pools of water under the windows and eaves. Some of my least favourite towels have been perched in strategic places ever since.

Then the landlord called on Thursday to say that he was sending the boys round to replace the leakiest windows in the upstairs glass-area between the childrens rooms and could we please clear all the toys out of the way ahead of time?

Yeah, er, OK. Two years of accumulated toys and debris to be cleared in one evening - that particular area has been used mostly for dumping toys the kids don't play with all that often such as the baby-cots, prams and pushcairs, plastic Princess dressing table, 4 million soft animals, that sort of thing.

The quick option was to transfer it all willy-nilly into one of the bedrooms, using prior knowledge and good judgement to choose which child would make the least fuss.

Yup, we bunged it in Pickle's room.

Given Poppet's penchant for drama and anally retentive organising of her earrings and stationery, (despite the fact that she stores her clothes in a heap on the floor,) we figured that what with all the Lego strewn across the floor of Pickle's room, the half completed cardboard villages in the corners, the carpet of Beano comics and the recently re-acquired and reconstructed marble tower he was unlikely to even notice.

But notice he did and he protested as only a little boy can.

He built a camp.

There are blankets pegged to a strategically poised doll cradle, the plastic Princess dressing table and a wooden castle on top of a baby-bath. He's borrowed Poppet's sheepskin rug for carpet and furnished the den with 4 million soft-toy friends and a torch hanging from the blanket ceiling.

Tonight he announced he's sleeping in there. Oh to be a boy.

By the way, the new windows look great and it's raining cats and dogs tonight just to christen them properly. My towels are optimistically still in the cupboard.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Rant alert

It was one of those days when we had to divide and conquer to keep both the kids happy. Pickle had been selected to play in a football tournament a little way out of town and last time we tried to make such an event a family affair all we got was grief and aggro from Her Highness about how boring it was and 'Can we go now?' every 5 minutes.

So instead Nobby took the boy and we girlies settled on the sofa for some Dr Who and a bite to eat, which was great until Tiggy decided she was a girly too and planted her big arse on Poppet's lap and her head in my armpit.

Now, last weekend I ordered some new glasses so I was very excited about going to collect them and Poppet was very excited about going to a shopping centre with Mummy, who doesn't yet have Nobby's gifted mastery of the word 'No' when it comes to all things pretty that she sets her heart on.

Besides, this week we've abandoned sticker charts as bribery tools for good behaviour given that they don't get as excited about colourful bits of gummed paper these days as they do about shiny coins and paper with large numbers on them. I've been getting a lot of coffee made for me this week and I haven't had to nag about homewok as much but it really hit my wallet when I totted it all up this morning; I don't remember them being that good.

Well, I was very disappointed in Vision Express when my gorgeous new glasses, which were supposed to make me look like a proper intellectual teacher at last, had a fault on the lenses and had to be sent back. The bl**dy ridiculous thing is that they called me to tell me they were ready - hello? ever heard of quality control?? Sheesh. Of course I had to sit and wait while the bouncy blonde who bounded over to serve me when I walked in had to go off in search of someone who spoke English, though why she thought I couldn't work out on my own that the glasses had to go back when I couldn't see through them I'm really not sure.

Still a trip to the cobblers with Nobby's shoes pepped me up; the guy spoke wonderful English and did the job nice and quick. I would seriously like to clone that man and have one in every establishment at that particular shopping centre.

Because then, we stupidly went to the supermarket to get some milk and beer (an odd combination but both essential in our house.) I have never seen people more miserable in their work than the women on the checkouts in Match. Perhaps they offer a free sense-of-humour-bypass with every successful application. They certainly train them in customer contempt and utter rudeness.

As if it wasn't bad enough that Poppet announced in the cereal aisle that she's crossed another brand off her list of acceptable foods.

Her: 'Mummy, we need some chocolate Krispies because I was served (!) Cookie Crisp this morning and I don't like it any more.'
Me: 'I see. Well I'm sorry but they don't sell Krispies here. Whatever happened to your daily dose of Weetabix?' (she ate at least three faithfully every morning for YEARS until she discovered how much she liked to turn the milk chocolatey.)
Her: 'OK, fine. (sigh) I'll have Weetabix then.'
Me: '(swearing inwardly) They don't sell Weetabix here either!!'
Her: 'Right, well I'll have Cookie Crisp then.'
Me: 'But you just said you don't eat Cookie Crisp any more!'
Her: 'Can we go now?'

Once the checkout hag had swiped my purchases across the infra red and chucked them in my general direction, I dared to ask in my broken Hungarian if I could have a ticket for the free parking. Oh My God if she didn't just start swiping the next person's shopping through and spit out a rapid fire reply in monotone Hungarian without even looking at me. Now I know I look younger than I really am (I fool myself!!) but no need to treat me like a pesky child. It's not like I expect anyone to have to speak English in their own country, hence me scraping my vocabulary barrel to address them in their own tongue, but whatever happened to manners in this country?

On top of that, she had watched me take one of the Lego promotional leaflets from the top of the till, she saw me with a child, but she didn't give me the 6 stickers I had earned until I asked for them. And with much sighing and gnashing of teeth thrown in. Gordon Bennet we've come a long way from me getting irate at all the 'Books For Schools' tokens I used to get thrust upon me in Sainsbury's when I didn't have any kids and I never went near a school!

I don't go round with the word 'foreigner' stamped on my forehead; if I didn't have a child in tow that I'm kind of obliged to talk to then no-one would ever know I wasn't local. The crunch came today when we had been queing for ten minutes in a single line in C&A for the two tills that were open, a third one opened up and offered to serve me as I was next in line and some total cow from behind me literally RAN to get there first.

How I wish I'd kept up the Hungarian lessons and taken a crash course in swearing and insults. I would have earned a shiny diploma today with all the things I wanted to say at this point. I was always rather good at ranting in checkout queues in France. The rule there, if the queue jumper refuses to back down, is to keep up a persistant tirade of sarcastic comments peppered with the odd 'insupportable' and a couple of 'mal elever' (badly brought up).

Sadly all I managed here was a very loud, 'What do you think you're doing?' ... and she never even turned and looked at me. Neither did the checkout woman. Shame on both of you.

Innit great to be so welcomed in a different culture? Days like today, to quote the great Mr Billy Connolly, I feel about as welcome as a fart in a space suit.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

More Magic

I am trying to work out if Tiggy is the dumbest or the smartest dog in the universe. You be the judge.

Every night, at bedtime, Nobby gets her a biscuit from the cupboard, which is her cue to go and get into her bed so we can shut her in the conservatory for the night. She knows which cupboard it is and no matter where she's flaked out on the floor or how asleep she seems, once that door is opened she'll be in her bed quick as lightning.

On Monday the cleaner did a major wash and polish in the conservatory and decided to pop Tiggy's bed on the coffee table so she could get the mop round. That night Nobby returned from the biscuit cupboard and sure enough the dog had disappeared from the sofa (!) but neither she nor her bed were immediately visible in the conservatory... until we switched on the light and looked at coffee table, on top of which was the dog bed, with the dog in it, ears up and waiting for her treat.

I'm thinking perhaps she's slightly over-trained, if there's such a thing?

Anyway, from disappearing dogs to disappearing Pokewalkers, when the thing hadn't turned up by Thursday night, I decided to step up the search a notch or two. I had the headmaster announce it in assembly on Friday morning and Pickle published his poster in every classroom, featuring a picture of the Pokewalker and a reward of 1500huf (£5) for its safe return. His original offer was 150huf (50p) but I upped it, never really thinking any amount would work.

Halfway through Maths, whilst I was simultaneously fashioning fish out of playdough, wrapping small people in painting aprons, tripping over plastic counting teddies and comforting a distraught little chick-pea with the tiniest paper cut you ever saw, Pickle burst into my classroom and demanded 1500 huf... before proudly producing the Pokewalker from behind his back.

Someone in Poppet's class gave it to her shortly after the posters went up. I promised not to ask any questions but as you can imagine I was dying to know where the thing had been all week until I resorted to bribery to get people to help us look for it. Especially when Pickle told me that all his settings had been changed; someone had clearly played with it.

So a valuable lesson has been learned by both Pickle and me. Don't bring electronic devices to school if you want to hang on to your eardrums should you happen to lose it. And when it comes to rewards and Primary kids, 50p will probably do.

Meanwhile, we all visited a Mamma and Baby exhibition last weekend. No, I don't have anything to announce before you go all squeaky, this thing catered for 'babies' up to the age of twelve. My stock answer for anyone who asks me if I'd consider 'going for Number 3' is 'You first.'

Besides, between you and me and the internet, now I am done with all that, I found the sea of baby bumps being variously patted, stroked or cuddled everywhere I turned actually quite nauseating. Though tinged with a hint of sympathy for the dizzying array of pushchairs, prams, cots, car-seats, cribs, moses baskets, bouncers, hammocks, swings, walkers, slings, nappies, bottles, pacifiers, changing tables, dou-dous and other crap they were trying to get their heads and their wallets round, knowing myself that you don't need half of it and what you do buy will be too small or broken within 6 months and you'll wish you'd borrowed it all off your sister-in-law after all.

Not that my lack of interest in all things baby put off any of the stall holders who happily thrust leaflets on all kinds of essential new-mother devices into my hands at every opportunity. All in Hungarian of course but more importantly, do I look bl**dy pregnant???!**$£%??!!

I still managed to get through every forint in my wallet though; these wily people really know what they're doing. They had table upon table of toys and games and puzzles laid out for the kids to try, which Poppet and Pickle made a bee-line for, once they'd tried the jungle gym and the dry ski-slope. Suddenly I was hit with the realisation that the Big C is only 6 weeks away, though mercifully none of the stalls were draped in tinsel or baubles, so that had me standing out of eye-shot gesturing to the stall holders to wrap up and tot up whatever games they were hooked on. So I came home rather laden.

This week Nobby and I took in another show, this time Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. All in Hungarian again of course but this time the subtitles were actually working. Strangely though they seemed to have translated the English score into Hungarian for the cast then translated it back into English for the subtitles as opposedto just using the original, such was the quality of the spelling and grammar. Apparently Jacob thought his son Joseph was 'dayed' rather than 'dead'.

Well, it gave us Brits something to titter about considering we couldn't understand all the ad- libbing that Pharoah was doing; he thoroughly enjoyed playing Elvis and hammed it up big time. In all it was a great show, better than Jesus Christ Superstar even. But once again we were floored by the community clapping. We thought we'd get away with it because they unfolded a huge technicolour flag across the ceiling so they couldn't bring down the Fire Curtain with the 'hidden' encore door in it. Hmm, no such luck, they made their own door out of the set and walked down and bowed about a dozen times while the audience all clapped in time with each other! It is truly weird.

Still, it's only fifteen minutes of my life and we're considering going to see Spamalot - note to self, get seats on the end of the row for a quick getaway.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Magical Holidays

Pickle announced on the way home from school today,

'I'm going to cross my fingers and stick them together with sellotape. My handwriting won't be great but at least I'll have lots of luck.'

Bless his little cotton ones. In case you're wondering why he needs lots of luck, he made the genius decision to take his 'Pokewalker' to school today... and lost it. Naturally I am furious but it's hard to roar at a small boy who's crying his heart out one minute for his rotten luck then determinedly planning how he'll put up posters round the school to try to get everyone to look for it and discussing with his sister how much reward he should offer.

'I think 150 forints will be a good award for anyone who brings it back.' (That's roughly 50p in real money.)

I'll let you know how that one pans out. I am not looking forward to watching him tell Nobby.

So, it was our first day back at school today after the half term break. I went easy on my little ones, at least two of whom were distraught to find out that they had to come back, having thought that the previous nine weeks was all they were expected to do school-wise. Poor lambs. Several piles of playdough and a home-made cave later and they seemed a lot happier though; personally I'll be picking flecks of sticky stuff out from under my fingernails for weeks but whatever keeps them keen.

And thirteen children crammed into a sweaty tent to demonstrate the concept of needing light to see went down a storm. Not sure I should have set them searching for tiddlywinks in the dark to demonstrate how their other senses come into play when they can't see, it was a bit of a scramble. I'm kinda glad we were missing a few regulars.

Anyway, the half term break was nice. We were bitten by the travelling bug for some reason and decided to explore a little - I think Nobby secretly decided 'anything to keep her away from the computer' when he whisked us off to the lake on the first Sunday then booked us three nights in Bratislava. For the record it was a great decision to get away from it all, and I discovered that Pickle and I both have strange, magical powers.

We were looking for a lunch spot at Siofok (pronounced 'She-oh-ferk' - should I be worried that Poppet found the word 'extremely rude'??) an hour's drive away beside lake Balaton, having wandered along by the lake a little way, spotting crabs and snakes (yes, really) and trying to keep Tiggy away from the fishermen. The place was pretty quiet, having closed up most of its businesses for the Winter already. There were a couple of 'gyros' (kebab) and pizza stalls still pumping the alluring smell of hot oil into the atmosphere but Pickle had other ideas.

'I'd like sushi for lunch today please.'

Ha! we all thought, fat blummin' chance even in the summer round here. Somehow sushi just doesn't seem to fit with the Hungarian idea of acceptable cuisine, on account of its lack of stodge factor. Here's a for instance. The last Friday of school we decided to celebrate making it through the first two months of my return to work with (most of) our sanity still intact and we went to a Mongolian Barbecue. We've been to several in the UK, long, long ago of course in the Before-Children years and we thought the idea of creating their own dishes to be cooked on the griddle would really appeal.

However, we found the process has been somewhat localised to fit with the local fare and instead of picking your meat, veg, sauce and spices, they only barbecue your choice of meat - be it marinated veal, paprika chicken, or a spot of goat or horse for the more adventurous - then you can choose your veg from cauliflower cheese, dumplings, chips or pickled cabbage. Yum.

So the chances of finding a sushi bar in the prime holiday location during the off season were super-slim to positively anorexic. We drove along the shoreline with our eyes peeled for signs of life and lo and behold, there was a sushi bar, open and raring for business. Right on Pickle.

It was several days later on the way home from Bratislava, a cute, quaint and rather gorgeous city where we visited the zoo, a children's art gallery and the national museum, where there was a brilliant Maths exhibition that had me reaching for my notepad to scribble down teaching ideas, that I discovered some magical powers of my own. Prepare for another road-rant.

Oh. My. God. Those of us who grew up with 70mph speed limits on the motorways find driving in Europe a very naughty thrill where the limit is 130kmh, equivalent to 80mph. But there's always one who needs to go even faster isn't there. Or in the case of the M7 between Bratislava and Budapest there were dozens. One Mercedes was literally weaving all over the road behind me trying to persuade me to move into some non-existant space to let them past, I've honestly never seen anything like it. Then there was the Renault who came so close up my bumper I couldn't see his headlights but he could probably read the Horrid Henry book Pickle was perusing in the back seat.

I am not normally a malicious person but I really did wish these idiots... ill-will shall we say, for the sake of diplomacy. What I really wanted was an unmarked police car to shoot out of the bushes and chase the buggers down; I found myself trying to keep them in my sights in case my luck was in, right up until the shout went up from the back seat 'I need a wee!!' and I had to turn off.

After a brief pit-stop we were back on the road and you'll never guess what hove into view at a layby further on; one silver Mercedes, one ruby Renault and one lovely shiny police car. Did something mysterious happen to us at Halloween? We'll see - I'm setting Poppet on the job of finding this Pokewalker, maybe she'll levitate it out of its hiding place or something. After last week, anything's possible.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Circus anyone?

Five-Year-Old's Mummy took Poppet, Pickle and me to the circus today as a reward for our sterling efforts in caring for her adorable child after school hours. It isn't much effort really, not when crawling around the classroom looking cute and saying the occasional 'miaow' will keep her amused for hours.

I asked Nobby if he'd like to come along to the circus, having never experienced a Hungarian one before. He thought about it for roughly two nanoseconds before saying 'no thanks.' This may be due to he fact that the last circus he endured was a travelling one which came to our village in France during our last few months there and that time I was already booked elsewhere and was in the priveleged position of being able to say 'no.' Thirty euros, two manky lions and a couple of pathetic clowns later Nobby was deep into circus-humbug mode from which he has never recovered.

However, now I've been to this one in Budapest I'm kinda glad.

Not because he missed out on a great show, I'm not that nasty, just because he missed all the drooling from Five-Year-Old's Mum and me.

See, it was the Colombian circus - a troupe of muscular, semi-clad Colombian chaps in their early twenties, throwing themselves high in the air from various swings, trapezes and see-saws, with a side order of dancing, wiggling and rapping and the occasional clown and sealion to make the kids laugh while we Mummies mopped our mouths.

A top quality afternoon all round I think.

Actually, I reckon Nobby was quite happy to stay home today after rolling in at 2am this morning following his debut at the British Dad's Club last night. He claims it wasn't a heavy night and he didn't feel hungover this morning. They were in the Scottish bar at 7pm, followed by a good British beer and curry-fest and rounding off the night in some huge bar where the antics on the dance-floor are beamed in to the drinking areas to encourage others to 'get on down'. Nobby told me about some unwitting girl with apparently 'huge knockers' whose girating was featured at length in nauseating close-up on the big screens...

So just a quiet night then? Hmm, I think not, and here's the deal-breaker.

Later on he told me the story of how he tried to dial a taxi at the end of the night - him being a 'numbers man' by the way, the one who always looks at the clock when the kids wake him up in the night so he can calculate how much sleep he's got left, the one who never forgets a wedding anniversary (as opposed to my annual 'oh crap' moments)... You can take the man out of accountancy but you can never take accountancy out of the man.

Now I know that Hungarian codes are tricky but I thought he'd have mastered them by now. For mobiles prefix the number with 061, for landlines just 01. Our regular taxi company is 061-seven-sevens. Nobby, in his 'sober state', forgot the number and dialled 107-seven-sevens.

Trouble is 107 is the Hungarian equivalent of 999.

Nobby: Beszelsz Angolul? (do you speak English)
Bloke on phone: Yes
Nobby: Can I have a taxi please? I am on the corner of This Street and That Street.
Bloke on phone: This Street?
Nobby: Yes
Bloke on phone: And That Street?
Nobby: Yes.
Bloke on phone: And you want a taxi?
Nobby: Yes, please!
Bloke on phone: Then why did you call the police?
Nobby: .....???!!!&*($&"£$£*£$**£(^$*!!!

Ok, dear, just a couple of beers with the lads, I believe you.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Excuses 101 by Pickle

Overheard in the classroom after school. Pickle is waiting for me to finish my prep and there is a five year old still waiting for her Mummy.

Five year old wants entertaining, Pickle wants Mummy to vacate the computer so he can surf.

Five Year Old: 'Can we play cats?'

Pickle: 'Well, I'd love to the only problem is I'm allergic to cats. So, no thanks.'

Saturday, 23 October 2010


I hum.

(.. there fore I am...?)

So does the hamster.

Are we starting a new reality show for ITV? Don't worry, you're safe, I'm talking strictly ponging.

We had a two hour window today while the small people were at a birthday party and since the lazy good-for-nothing sun actually made it out of it's festering pit for the first time in ages, we took to the garden in an effort to tidy it all up a bit. Nobby was on weed duty but I headed straight for the bonfire area to play the pyromaniac, reminiscent of autumn days at my Grandad's house where he burned pretty much anything in his purpose built firepits at the end of the garden.

Perhaps it's Pickle's influence with his new found love of The Prodigy ever since I started letting the kids choose the tunes on my i-pod on the way to school. They were getting somewhat frustrated with my Depeche Mode fetish and my excuse when they asked me to change the tune of 'I'm currently a taxi driver, not a DJ' led to them grabbing the gadget and doing it themselves.

So now I'm a Firestarter, twisted firestarter. Well, I should use the term carefully today as I didn't exactly produce a roaring blaze because things were a bit damp. But I do hum of essence of bonfire smoke.

And that's not all.

Tiggy, the little darling, thought Christmas had come early when she spotted, and successfully cornered a tiny ginger ball of fluff under the hedge. Obviously I am a total softie when it comes to furry creatures - ask Nobby; I always have little cuddle with Lucky the hamster before bedtime, however 'musical' his cage is since Pickle can't find it in himself to clean it out - so I also hum of essence of privet hedge and helpless kitten after I dived on to rescue it and take it home.

Lastly I have a subtle whiff about me of car maintenance after getting busy with the T-Cut on my motor when Nobby pointed out the horrific scratch on my rear wing, the result of being forced into a hedge by an urban tractor who needed the whole bl**dy road the other day.

Thankfully no-one at the birthday party commented on my new perfume when I went for the pickup. Either they are too polite or they didn't notice over the heady aroma of sweaty child since it had been a football party and they were all rather glowing by the end of it.

Before I clock off to watch a movie with Nobby - it's Saturday Darby and Joan on the sofa night - let me leave you with a classic from the Pickle-meister.

We went to a Mongolian Barbecue last evening to avoid cooking. I should warn to the connoisseur that this was Mongolian with a Hungarian twist - they only cooked marinated meat on the griddle, all veggies were on the side either au gratin, deep fried or boiled to death. But still it was a nice evening, and there was a wide range of meat to choose from, including goat and horse for the adventurous.

As an addition there was some small speckled eggs on the counter by the griddle. Whilst watching his choice of meats sizzle away, Pickle asks Nobby,

'What are those Daddy?'

'Those are quail eggs, Pickle,' replies Nobby.

'Oh. Well, they look really small for a whale.'

Saturday, 2 October 2010

How to write off a Saturday by Nobby's Missus

... go to the karaoke / cocktail bar with your daughter's class teacher the night before.

It was a great night. Feel a little sorry for the sober guy we took with us, not to mention the other people in there who had to endure me wailing into a microphone.

Now it's almost 2pm, my head is just about back on my shoulders and Nobby, the absolute darling, has taken the kids shopping without me.

It's very quiet, just what I need.
All I want to hear now is 'plink, plink, fizz.'

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Happy in my job

So one day I'm mopping up shite, the next I'm washing gravel for the school fish. One moment I'm giving out stickers and cuddles for learning how to count to ten, the next I'm marching sixth formers to the Principal after catching them smoking.

It's all in a day's work.

And they pay me too!

Friday, 24 September 2010

One month down

So we're only four weeks in to the school year and already the primary teacher's worst nightmare has dropped in to haunt me.

And I'm not talking about my hijacked lunch break because that happens all too often actually. This time it was a visit from a new addition to the class whose parents just decided he was ready to switch from Kindergarten (4 weeks into term? Takes all sorts I suppose) who I eventually dispatched to tour the building so I could go grab some lunch - fish fingers today, not to be missed. Only to be confronted with a sobbing class member who'd been caught fighting and needed calming down and debriefing. By the time I'd got past the indignant declarations of 'He started it!' and 'It wasn't me!' the rest of the class was heading my way and I had to manage on leftover morning snacks again.

Not long afterwards we had just completed a listening exercise on the carpet and several of the little darlings were showing signs of 'inattention' - lying on the floor, turning their backs to chat with the person behind, sighing, yawning, trying to fit all their limbs at once inside their t-shirt, singing... I eventually got the subtle hints. I reckoned a quick round of 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' would pep them up a bit, and sneakily reinforce the body parts curriculum unit (that'll show 'em; if you can't be arsed to listen I'll educate you on the sly while you think you're playing, [evil laugh].)

As we headed to the cd player somebody piped up with 'Someone's made a smell'. Sure enough there was a nasty odour pervading the air but I assumed it was a whiffy fart and carried on with the game. But I did notice a little boy right at the back who wasn't joining in. And by the end of the song the smell was worse than ever.

Oh yes, someone had pooped in their pants. Shit.

At least I found out why he was off school yesterday and I can put the right code in the register. However, a little heads up would have been nice.

But I got his mum back - by calling her away from work to collect her sick child and a particularly pungent bag of clothes. I like to share the joy.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Sod's Law wins

On the day my housekeeper told me off for not washing the floor cloths and then asked for more hours (roughly translated as a demand for a £5 per week pay rise) my new allergy has been diagnosed...

I am (mildly) allergic to house dust.

Love : fifteen to Sod's Law. But at least it wasn't the hamster making me sneeze.

I'll get you back.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Late Night

It is nearly 3am and I am blogging. This is not a good sign. It was less than a great day and I have had real trouble switching off, even to the relaxing strains of my Zen CD. I've actually been blogging for half an hour already but the computer just decided to invoke Sod's Law and erase everything I had already written in the line of therapeutic ranting all my issues off my chest and out of my brain so I can sleep.

Sodding computers. I hate 'em.

I hate Post Offices too; the world over, it seems, they are dens of frustration and bureaucracy and they could all do with short visit from a short range missile. I was mid-rant about my trip to my local PO when the computer spat its dummy out and erased it all and now I'm all wound up again. Grrr. I'll have to be brief this time.

Long day at the office (ha!), urgent bills to pay, urgent tax return to post, where you gonna go? I first went to the local shopping centre which is open till 8pm. This is at 6.15pm. The PO shut at 6pm. I then found a place open until 7pm, thanked my stars, left the kids in the car while I popped in and promptly fell into a bureacratic twilight zone.

There were six people ahead of me in the queue. Four wanted to pay bills, in cash. One had three parcels to send. One wanted a lottery ticket. Now, children, how long to you reckon that should take to process? I'll tell you: 25 minutes. Holy crap on a cracker what a chuffing palaver. I would have walked out but the security guard locked the doors at quarter to seven as the two queues were both 7 people deep and he must have known that it would take a long time to clear them. Oh. My. Goodness. The woman with the parcels was still wrapping them in the queue, clearly she knew she'd have time, I wish I'd taken in a copy of War and Peace, I could have made a good start on it.

When it was finally my turn, however, that's when the real nightmare began - I was the last customer anyway but a non-Hungarian speaker was the last person the lady at the window ever wanted to see at any time of day, least of all when her dinner is beckoning. I'd written down in Hungarian that I needed to send my envelope 'Registered Mail'. She refused to understand. She sent for the security guard. He ran over with a Serbian dictionary. I wondered how many ways there are of sending an envelope that it was so hard to understand what I was getting at. Surely she's seen stuff for the tax office before?

My bills had mounted up somewhat, given that I have forgotten the password for my online banking otherwise I would have paid them from the comfort of this very armchair. They added up, with the registered mail envelope, to about 80p over my bank card limit. So, you guessed it, my card was refused. She gestured for cash. Hmmm, let me see if I have £350 here in my bag. Yes, I know I did have the other day after payday but that is now safely stashed somewhere safe. I just don't carry that kind of cash, but clearly everyone else does because she got up and stomped away in frustration as I waved my English bank card at her and tried to think of the translation for 'don't give up now, try this one!' (actually it was something much ruder than that but this is a family blog.)

By the time I got back to the car - remember I'd left the kids there? - Poppet was crying thinking I had been kidnapped and they were both chewing on the seats with hunger having completed both judo and cricket lessons after school, hence why we were so late in the first place. When we got in I automatically kicked into food mode and it was almost 8pm before I realised why I was tripping over the dog every time I turned round. Lying across most of the kitchen was her subtle way of telling me she hadn't been fed herself yet and by the way where've you been all day Mummy? Oops.

Yes, well, you couldn't wedge a cigarette paper into my schedule at the moment let alone a wee or a cup of coffee. The epic adventure in the post office was the last thing I needed after an hour and a half at the end of a teaching day talking to a prospective parent with separation anxiety. (She told me it's her daughter that has the anxiety... after an hour and a half going through my agenda with a toothpick and still thinking she should wait until after Christmas to sign up I think I know better.)

Nobby didn't have a blinder himself so we had a cheeky vod over dinner. And that may also help explain my current insomnia as I promptly fell asleep in Pickle's bed when I went to say goodnight: no lunch + crazy day + vodka = crash out. It's basic maths, I should have known better.

Anyway, I am off to try again, listening to Lucky the hamster trying to make it to Australia on his little wheel has worn me out. At least now I've taken my allergy meds my nose is less stuffed up and having ranted a bit on here my head is a bit clearer. Cheers for listening, cyberspace.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Fifteen again

Twenty-odd years ago I took on my first 'proper' after-school job working a till at Safeways. And not one of these fancy bar code scanners either, this was a find-the-price-tag, punch in the right number, allocate the right department code minefield of potential problems.

But I enjoyed it, having never had a toy cash register when I was little and having to make do with the chord keys on my Casio organ to ring through purchases for my teddy bears. Not so nice was the ritual humiliation at the hands ofmy co-workers who all went to the same local school and rather objected to the private school b*tch daring to come onto their turf, despite blending in so nicely with the regulation orange uniform.

At least there was no initiation ceremony, such as the one I fell right into at the DIY store later on on my youth, when I eagerly ran to the stock room to ask for a skirting-board ladder to help out. Ha, at least I didn't get the tartan paint ruse, I was prepared for that one.

Pay day was the great day though. We all marched up to the cash office to collect a jingling envelope of coinage for the £1.29 per hour wages we had accumulated playing 'let's see if I can ring this all through quicker than you can pack it' with the customers and announcing 'price check checkout three' in a sing-song voice over the tannoy.

Well today was my first pay day for my new teaching job. In a weird twist of fate I did not get my bank details to the Business Manager by the deadline and, this being Eastern Europe, where cheque books are a work of fiction, I was handed over £1000 in cash.

If only I had a piggy bank to store it all in, my journey to through the time warp would be complete.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Lows and highs

The kids have been on the hot chocolate, Nobby and me are on the vodka again... that's a fair sign it's pelting with rain outside and we're all feeling the strain of the demise of summer. Even Tiggy is whining and restless; she's currently chasing an errant flea across her backside with her teeth, quite a trick if you can do it.

And not to be outdone, Lucky the Hamster has today taken it upon himself to chew up an entire loo roll innard, the same one he's been happily hiding inside and running through for a fortnight. Now it's just a pile of cardboard all over his wheel and he has nowhere to run to when Tiggy comes around, licking her lips.

Well, this has been coming on a little while I think, all the signs were there. Ever since the illegal Romanian satellite we've been tuned into for free pay-to-view TV was switched off last month, Nobby and me have borrowed the neighbour's box set of 'Boston Legal' for want of something to wind down with in the evenings. I have to say I am loving it; William Shatner still does it for me and he's clearly had an effect on Nobby who can be heard muttering 'Denny Crane' every time he walks past.

However, just last week we took to watching our daily fix *in bed on the laptop* rather than in the lounge. We've not watched TV in bed since we left the UK and it was really weird. But it did help me get to sleep after the crazy days at school; it's nice not to have to face the washing up or trudge the dog round the block once the titles appear. Just close the lid and close your eyes and try not to dream about Key Stage assessments or Curriculum conferences.

Today at school felt a little like drowning. Stupid me trying to teach Maths to the whole class and putting small plastic teddy bears in front of them to help the process. They enjoyed counting them out so much when I asked them to that they counted them out even when I didn't ask them to and you can imagine the rest. As a very wise someone once said, directing a bunch of small children is like herding cats.

I am not sure what they make of me really, giving out stickers one minute and making them practice walking in a line up and down the corridor 5 times the next (well, how many times to they need telling not run down the corridors? Perhaps I was supposed to be grateful they were running in from their break heading towards the classroom and not running screaming away from it...)

I do know one student and her mother was happy with the way last week went. In the flurry of attempting to release the right child to the right parent with all the right baggage and pictures etc on Friday evening one lady made her way through the throng to me and said,

'Thank you for making my little one's first week in big school go so well. You could probably use some of this...'

... and she thrust a large bar of Lindt caramel-laced chocolate into my hand.

See, I said this was the best job in the world.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Cocktails and confessions

It's Monday night and I am already one vodka and tonic and a bar of chocolate down. Who said kids can drive you to drink? Ha! Still, you should have seen me and a fellow teacher bonding on Friday night whilst we celebrated making it through our first week of school by working our way through the cocktail menu at Fat Mo's... it was quite a sight to behold. Apparently we didn't look too bad after the first Mojito and a wee Sex On The Beach because we found ourselves attracting the attentions of some Swedish businessmen who had also heard Fat Mo's was the happening place in town.

Actually, it might have been the pull of the Hungary vs Sweden football match being shown on several TV sets round the bar... but still, they could have walked on past without a glance once the final whistle blew. But instead we found ourselves bombarded with questions: 'Where are you from?', 'What are you drinking?', 'What brings you in here tonight?'

Considering we were in there until 2 in the morning doing some serious girlie bonding, we've decided Las Vegas rules apply and what happens in Fat Mo's, stays in Fat Mo's. But I will tell you this as future reference for any girlies wanting to get shot of inebriated tourists who like to pull out a Cuban cigar and ask 'Have you ever seen one like this before?' (Incidentally, standard answer: 'I've seen bigger.' You'll be falling off your bar stool at your wit, he'll be wondering what the hell you just said.)

Anyway, 'What brings me here tonight?' Grab the other girl's knee, lean in close and say, 'Actually, we're on our first date. We met over the internet.'

If you want confirmation of effectiveness, pop into Fat Mo's any time; I swear there are skid marks by the exit.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Primary power

My back is aching, my head is throbbing and I'm losing my voice. Unseasonal case of flu perhaps? Oh, no. My first week as a full-time Primary School Teacher has done this to me. But, you know, I'm not really bovvered. I'm having a bit of a laugh.

I have 14 five-year-olds now and they are all quite adorable in their own little ways. From the one who keeps trying to climb me like a tree to get a cuddle any time I stand near her, to the one who throws a screaming tantrum every time his Mum leaves the classroom. Welcome to the world of separation anxiety, uninhibited hugging, half hourly toilet breaks and 'let's see how much of the classroom we have to wreck before she loses her temper'.

Not to mention the regular snacks and the dreaded lunch-hour which resemble a chimpanzees tea party at the best of times and makes me feel like I've presided over a birthday party for 14, three times a day.

I am pleased to say that my tree is still standing despite the best efforts of a couple of them to knock it down today. My display boards are finally full of art work, having covered 'What I Did In the Holidays', self-portraits and finger painting already this week. Together they have almost mastered the correct responses to 'One, Two, Three: Eyes On Me!' which I blatantly stole from one of my role models during training. The expectation is that they stop what they are doing and look round at the teacher (me!)

One slight spanner is the five children who speak no English whatsoever who usually gaily continue with their activity instead. The proper response from me is to wait silently for them to realise what the rest of the class is doing. Unfortunately the rest of the class is much quicker at realising that those five are having a lot more fun than they are standing still doing nothing, and hence resume their colouring, reading or seeing how far they can chuck Barnaby the class Teddy Bear while I am left looking a bit of a spoon.

They are VERY good at '5..4..3..2..1..0' meaning they have to run to the carpet and sit cross legged, oh I am loving that power (evil laugh) though some of the boys are now making like Poppet and Pickle and leaving it until the 'z' of 'zero' to shift their arses. Clever little buggers.

Speaking of which, Poppet and Pickle are settling in to their new classes very well by all accounts, each having made a new friend on day one, thank the maker. And they look fantastic in their new M&S uniforms, courtesy of Nanna P who made the mercy dash for us back in the UK then kindly flew over here to babysit the small people while Mummy went out to work. I bet she's needing a proper holiday now.

This school uniform lark is a great invention though. It shaves at least ten minutes off the morning routine because gone are the cries of 'I haven't got a thing to wear!' from Poppet and 'Where are my clothes?' from Pickle. There are NO EXCUSES. Ha! And they arrive half an hour before the rest of the school because I go in early to set up my classroom so they have no excuses for not doing homework either. They are getting real homework every night now and they HATE it! although the tasks so far have actually been very stimulating once they get stuck in - Pickle had some very interesting insights into the lives of the Aztecs and the fabled Moctezuma though he wasn't impressed with my attempt at drawing an Aztec pyramid. 'No, Mummy, it's not Egyptian, it has a flat top with a temple on it, silly.'

I'm sure there'll be some corkers to report from my class in the coming weeks but in the meantime here is one from my beloved little girl. Whilst walking through a shopping centre last week I stupidly allowed myself to be collared by one of those beauty product demonstration stands. The girl was very persuasive and did something magical to my fingernails which captured my attention, along with the 'buy one got one free' offer on the gizmo she was wielding. Ten seconds later she's rubbing some gel onto my crows feet and asking Poppet to be the judge as to whether it's made any difference to my complexion. 'Oh yes Mummy! It's really working!' she piped up (I reckon the woman got to her while I was browsing in Zara.) But you mustn't settle for just the eye gel; next she's massaging other wrinkly bits with some night cream and other magic products to Poppet's increasing delight and, I confess, having just endured a week of classroom prep, I succumbed to the Retail Therapy Fairy and 'invested' in a couple of pots.

Three days later Poppet asks me: 'Mummy, when are you going to start using that new cream from that lady for the lines on your face?'

'Um, I've been using them twice a day for three days, darling.'


And, suddenly the little girl with an answer for everything and the diplomacy skills of a breadknife couldn't think of a thing to say.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Getting creative

Sign me up for my Blue Peter badge right now. By gum I've earned it this week. Its Teacher's Weeks at my new school, where we all go in to prepare our classrooms for the invasion on Monday. My class is now up to 13 five-year-olds... and I can't wait to meet them all!

Did I really say that? Hmm, there are several signs of madness coming through at the moment. 'Can't wait to take on the educational and social development of 13 potentially exhausting five year olds' and, wait for it, 'this is just the BEST job in the world - last night I got to cut out massive numbers from coloured card and today I'm up on a chair firing a staple gun at the wall like a demon.' I think my journey to the Funny Farm is complete.

But needs must you know, I have been forced into this flurry of creativity. The new school has just moved premises, my year group is brand new AND the resources delivery was very late so there were no art materials or display board coverings available to decorate my rather clinical classroom. Even if I had materials, the furniture delivery is also very late and I have nowhere to put anything. Welcome once again to far flung Eastern Europe; anyone would think we're on the moon with the trouble involved in getting anything done.

So I clicked into Lesley Judd mode (oops, showing my age there) and went about raiding bits of sticky backed plastic and empty boxes from around the building and managed to construct a ten foot tree, complete with leaves and branches which stretch into the room, a 'clocking-in' style registration system, an alphabet display, and a multicoloured 'Welcome' board from, basically, rubbish I found lying about and the odd bit of paint and staples I nicked while other teachers weren't looking.

It's been a lot of fun, especially the look on my Teaching Assistant's face each time I come up with another wacky creative idea. 'Let's have an owl-hole in the tree to keep soft toys in!' (She managed to talk me out of that one and we have a mouse-hole in the bottom instead, hopefully too small for any students to crawl into. )

Then the resources delivery arrived this morning and I realised it isn't just me as the other Primary Teachers ran like greyhounds to greet the white van and started rooting around in the humungous boxes of paper, staples, pencils, toys and books that were dumped in the front driveway. Like bees round honey it was, or rather bargain hunters at the Boxing Day sales; I swear I felt an elbow as I reached for the pack of gold card.

Pickle happened to be with me too and get this: he abandoned his DS and the Club Penguin website in favour of helping unload all the stuff. Amazing. It's just like him to get a name for himself amongst the staff but this time it's for climbing into boxes and handing reams of paper over to he adults who couldn't bend that far over the side. Mummy is so proud.

You can tell the holidays are drawing to a close; I think both the kids are looking forward to getting back into a school routine, and goodness knows they could use a break from each other. It has been all out war between them on occasion this last week, they are thoroughly fed up with each other now that the camps are all over. Pickle survived a whole week of football camp and Poppet came back from hers unscathed, enjoying a few Mummy dates while the boy was out kicking leather. But since Sunday they've put on an impressive display of crabby behaviour for Nana, who kindly flew all the way out here to babysit them while Nobby and I are both at work. It's the first time in almost ten years that we've both been employed and certainly the first time with two children to juggle. Ten gold stars to Nana for stepping into the breach. And twenty to Nobby for coping with the tables turning where his Missus works late and rocks up just in time to miss all the cooking and washing up.

Luckily Nana has a good sense of humour - she's sitting downstairs watching Little Miss Sunshine at the moment if any further proof was needed. However my offer to take one brat away with me to school to help me set up my room has proved very popular with all involved, though they are now fighting to be the chosen one on my final Teacher's Day tomorrow. Poppet is now good friends with the music teacher after taking the Brasso to all the cymbals in the music room. He let her try out the new Baby Grand as a treat. They've also been very excited about the uniform, which arrived in the post this week and which Poppet insisted on wearing for her morning at the school. Pity poor Mummy having to sew on two dozen name labels, sheesh.

So back to school we go. Think of me on Monday morning when I get to meet my brood. Who know what horrors and treats lie ahead. Thank goodness for my Blog to blow off some steam.
I promise to change all names to protect the little monsters...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


There have been some strange noises round the house since we arrived home from holiday, and not just the poor washing machine groaning under the strain of all the laundry.

Lately each night is punctuated by a persistant rattling, whirring sound coming from Pickle's bedside table. It started on Saturday night after the new hamster, Lucky Hamper, suddenly discovered his hamster wheel and decided to get busy with his own nightly hamster marathon. Yes, we got the hamster. No sooner had the plane landed in Hungary than the 'when are we going to the Pet Shop?' mantra started, so Lucky joined our family the very next day.

So far he has been very lucky to avoid becoming Tiggy's morning snack. The poor dog is overcome with interest in the little creature and sits shivering and licking her chops whenever Lucky is dragged out of his cage for a cuddle. And he's dragged out quite often, considering all he wants to do is kip all day long after his nightly runs. But Pickle has other ideas, keen as he is to stimulate the animal with interesting sights and activities. Lucky has variously been seen exploring a sprawling, custom-built Lego fortress, the inside of Pickle's trouser leg and the underside of his wardrobe. When tired he is perambulated about the bedroom in a miniature shopping trolley by Action Man and Barbie. It's really very sweet.

Poppet's room, on the other hand, has been emitting an eerie silence for almost a week. She's been at Kangaroo Kamp by the lake with a dozen friends from school. It's been really weird without her, though we've talked a LOT on the phone after I decided to get a new simcard for the spare mobile and let her borrow it. I think that was almost as big a treat as being staying away from home for five nights and she's getting through £10-worth of credit pretty rapidly. She's also convinced I gave it to her for keeps... Hmmm.

She arrived home yesterday laden down with armfuls of arts and crafts -shortly afterwards I was sporting four necklaces, three bracelets and a couple of woolly plaits in the my hair. I then had to undergo a masterclass in plait-making and then try to untangle the additional twenty or so necklaces she produced from her pockets. By all accounts she's had a wonderful time; the teachers presented a slide show of photos from the week including shots of Poppet digging in the mud in her bikini, Poppet collecting baby frogs and Poppet's team of snails.

At the weekend while all was relatively quiet in the house, I heard music coming from the basement. That's where we keep the Wii and I happened to know that Pickle was in his room exercising his hamster at the time so I tiptoed down the stairs to see what was going on. There was Nobby, Nun-chucks in hand, drumming along to Britney Spear's 'Toxic' while whacky 'Raving Rabids' rabbits cavorted across the screen.

He was pretty good actually.

One sound we haven't heard much while Poppet's been away is the TV. Though we've lost all our 'free' channels via the dodgy Digibox over the summer as the rogue Romanian satellite has finally been switched off. We're going to have to go legit. Personally I have had a new toy or two to play with. Firstly my midnight blue Ford Focus, bought for a song from Nobby's company's ex-salesman stock. We finally tired of playing musical cars whenever Nobby has to visit the out-of-town site or drive out to meetings and I know Nobby will prefer driving from garage to garage in the Volvo during the winter than trudging through the snow to the tram.

We've also all played with the 'bong' / hookah pipe that Rose bought for me years ago, after picking up some apple-flavoured, nictotine-free bong-tobacco during our Turkish holiday. It really works! You never saw anything so funny as Nobby, Pickle and me sitting round the dining room, playing cards and passing round the hookah pipe. We also bought some Turkish coffee which works quite well in the percolator. Nobby even dug out a very old tape of Turkish music which we had blaring out of the stereo at the weekend to relive our fortnight in the sun.

Actually, Turkey was so hot we could have really been holidaying on the sun. That's what you get for not doing your homework when you book a holiday. We knew that Hungary would sweltering during July and we'd need to get away. But we didn't check that Turkey would be 15 degrees HOTTER. One afternoon there I left a bottle of water in the sun beside my pool-lounger. By the time I retrieved it the water was hot enough to make a cup of tea. Still, we all came back with super suntans, despite using factor 50 and staying in the shade as much as possible. And I learned how to belly dance (nuff said).

This week I am setting up my new classroom, which finally has desks and chairs in it but very little else. Poppet is going to help me decorate a bit to make it more colourful while Pickle is at football camp all week. You know, on Monday both camps overlapped for one magical day. I had NO kids all day long.

It was very quiet.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Children and Animals

Actors say 'Never work with children or animals.'
Here is a newsflash: children are animals.
I should know, I have become the zookeeper at my own private wild beast reserve and the inmates are pretty savage.

No sooner did I boast on Facebook that my adorable offspring had mastered the idea of letting Mummy and Daddy sleep in on a Sunday morning - possibly something to do with Mummy growing horns and a tail if she is rowsed before 9am on an official 'day off' - than Small Person number two takes it upon himself to get up at 5.30am on a Friday morning and require the rest of the household to do the same.

Little bugger.

He also decided to whisper in my ear for permission to play on the DS, knowing full well he was banned from it yesterday. When I answered in the negative he decided to ask again, in case the previous answer was some aberration, possibly due to the fact that I had been deeply asleep the second before he opened his mouth. It's understandable logic, I should think: small brat demanding attention at some ungodly hour or delightful dreamworld most probably featuring a fit bloke serving me margueritas under a palm tree beside a sun drenched ocean? Hmm.

I mumbled the second 'No!' a little clearer and louder, yet still he persisted. A third 'NO!' prompted a slightly longer 'Pleeeeease' out of him for the next round until I was compelled to sit up and order him back to bed and to sleep for at least another hour, to which he gave me his own 'NO!' Aaaargh! By this point Nobby was grinding his teeth in frustration as the time remaining for us to shake off the savage beast, relax enough to drop back off and get in some reasonable sleep before the alarm sounded at 7am got shorter and shorter.

Eventually, as Pickle decided that shouting and throwing a pillow across the room might help me change my mind and relent, I dragged myself out of my pit to chase him back to his room. As I pursued him out onto the landing what did I see? A vision in pink PJs standing sleepily outside her room with a big frown on her face, and then asking 'Can we go swimming now?'

You know, I blame whoever's clever idea it was to keep Hungary in a time-zone such that the sun comes up at 5am and sets at 8pm. Clearly whoever it was did not have much of a social life and could not appreciate the beauty of sitting on your (or someone else's) terrace until ten o'clock at night without having to resort to floodlighting to see your glass of wine or fifteen litres of mosquito repellent to retain the ability pick up your glass of wine without needing to promptly drop it to slap fruitlessly at your arms and legs. Jeez I wish I could spend five minutes with that person... wielding a wet kipper.

In case you think I have been having any better luck with animals, Ha! think again. The dog is perpetually on the boil at the moment, fairly inevitable really when you're covered in black fur in 95 degree temperatures. She does love a good swim though, so since the nearest body of dog-swimming water is a good drive away I invested in a plastic paddling pool for her. But do you think I can persuade her to take a dip in it? She's deigned to dip her paws in, drink some of, then exit across the barren, dusty lawn to accumulate a good amount of mud on her feet then leave a trail of prints into the house before flopping in her favourite cool place - the downstairs loo. I've tried getting in with her, dragging, pushing, persuading, ordering her in but no. For now we are stuck with a hot dog.

And the children are after MORE pets when we get back from our holiday. We did agree that Pickle could have a hamster for his birthday but of course that didn't sit well with Poppet's Fairness Gauge and she now wants a rabbit. Not just any rabbit: a dwarf ginger-coloured rabbit. Because all pet stores have them don't they? Well, let me tell you about rabbits. Whilst we were in France we visited some friends who own rabbits and I generously rescued one of them from the clutches of my daughter and her friend after watching them push it round the garden in a pram, bounce it on the trampoline and dress it up in ribbons all afternoon. Coming over all Mother Earth I popped the poor creature on my lap for some respite and let it curl up for a nap while I chatted to my friend.

Half an hour went by before I decided we ought to be making tracks and I finally allowed Poppet to take the rabbit back. As she picked it up off my lap I felt a kind of damp sensation on my knees, then a trickling down my leg. Meanwhile Poppet shrieked with surprise as she realised there was something trickling down her leg too - and coming from the rabbit - so she quickly dropped it. Back into my lap. I had not realised until that moment just how much a rabbit can pee.

One other revelation, whilst at the same house, was that Nobby's lament that dogs only ever do 'silent-but-violent' farts is not entirely true. As I was reaching for a cloth to wipe up the rabbit pee, a very rude trumping noise echoed round the kitchen. The only other person in the room was a golden labrador called Nelson, who looked at me with that dumb expression that only dogs can muster which said 'So?' It's the same look I get from Tiggy each evening when she's let out a huge belch after wolfing down her dinner.

Yup, I am definitely gonna need a zoo license before long. Either that or become an actor.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Holidays, ha!

So you think teachers get the whole of the summer holidays on the beach with hot and cold running waiters bringing them margueritas all day long? Well, I can tell you its not true. I had to 'go into work' yesterday - now there's a phrase I haven't used in, oh, nearly ten years.

I had to drag the poor skunks along of course but they were reasonably well behaved once I stuck a screen in front of each of them - DS for him, Garfield 2 on DVD for her. I could have let them run around the school letting them sort out strategies for delaying getting to lessons and where to hide other people's stuff but the place is still a bit of a building site. Actually, it's a lot of a building site given that all the furniture and materials from the old site are arriving at the weekend and term starts in five weeks.

*My* classroom (hee hee!) is still empty, although Pickle was very impressed that there is a little room to the side with a sink in it, 'You've got a sink, Mummy!' The toilets are still being renovated to replace the full sized bogs with little ones for the pint-sized pupils on my corridor but they're 'waiting for parts' so there's a lovely line-up of porcelain in the hallway and some nasty looking holes in the floor in the bathrooms.

They're 'waiting for parts' to finish the reception area as well so when the prospective family I was meeting with arrived they were greeted with a masterclass in breeze-block walling and a crash course in building-materials dodging. No, it wasn't really that bad, I am just very cynical in my old age after years of run-ins with teeth-sucking workmen either shaking their heads in defeat at the size of the task or faithfully assuring me it would all be done in a week then disappearing for a couple of months.

Still, the family were really nice and very understanding about the enormous undertaking of simultaneously moving a school and adding three year groups and I was introduced to the cutest little girl, bright as a button but too shy to utter a word to me. We made a jigsaw and read some books while all the adults discussed the grown-up business and then I decided to throw her in the deep end with the ultimate test - I took her to meet my kids.

And an extraordinary thing happened. My children were even more shy with her! I couldn't drag more than a mumbled 'hello' out of them. I wonder if she knows the power she has, or how much I'd like to borrow her to get an occasional break in the noise round at my place? Later, Pickle told me 'She was really, really cute Mummy, but I didn't fancy her.' Hmm, I am the tiniest bit suspicious about that.

Once she'd gone normal service resumed, of course; fighting, arguing, wrestling, pinching etc. All taking place, I might add, in the Prinicpal's make-shift office. It also included some particulalry lairy behaviour from my boy who decided to demonstrate to my new boss, his new headmaster, his turbo-powered super-speed running, which consists of sticking out his little bottom, farting loudly then sprinting away.


I have never been more ready for a holiday in my life. Luckily we leave on Saturday for two weeks of all-inclusive fun at a resort hotel in Turkey, with hot and cold running kids clubs and hopefully a good line in margueritas.

Bring it on.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Road rage

Argh, I need a traffic rant!!

It has just taken an hour to deliver the children to their day-camp and finally get back home again. And that does not include stopping to chat, having decided I can't take any more of Pickle jumping up and down yelling, 'Come on! stop chatting! I'll give you twenty kisses to stop chatting, Mummy!' (They don't realise how rarely Mummy gets opportunities to talk grown-up instead of pondering which Pokemon I'd rather be.)

No, this was strictly a drive-by drop-off but it still took an hour thanks to a massive traffic jam going past our house - again. I thought while school's out the traffic would be better but something obviously threw a spanner in the works where the traffic lights at the end of the road are concerned. Because that's all it was, no accidents, no arse-cleavage wielding road diggers, just dodgy traffic lights which seemed to have re-sequenced themselves to only let one road out at a time.

I swear one of these days I'm going to take matters into my own hands and make those lights mysteriously disappear overnight. The times when they've been completely kaput the traffic has flowed with ease, with most drivers being surprisingly generous and considerate. I reckon those red lights get to us when we're behind the wheel; the idea of being controlled and forced to pause our journey by some glowing three-eyed lollipop disturbs our psyche somehow and we all develop rebellious streaks, seeing how many amber lights we can jump and leaping on the horn when the chap in front won't join in the game. I swear I've developed a new condition - 'Traffic Tourettes'. When driving round Hungarian roads I just can't seem to help blurting out obseneties, 'a***hole!', 'f***wit!', 's*** for brains!', and the occasional 'You could get a b***** TANK through there!'.

No wonder the children are so well versed in rude words.

Though, thinking about it, I have an inkling that the traffic chaos might have something to do with last night. There we were, ten-thirty at night, Nobby catching up on emails, kids catching up on seeing-how-far-we-can-push-mum-and-dad-with-this-bedtime-plan-before-one-of-them-explodes, and me catching up on red wine and a good book trying to ignore the shrieking from my adorable offspring.

Then suddenly the whole house went dark. And pretty damned quiet for a change!

Pickle deduced the obvious - 'Power Cut! everyone into my room!', he announced and I dutifully bounded up the stairs, less to obey him and more to ward off the impending melt-down from the ever-dramatic Poppet who was already saying 'Ohmygod!, Ohmygod!' despite the fact that the streetlights outside her room hadn't even gone off so she could see perfectly well and the fact that if she'd gone to sleep already like we'd told them to she'd never have known about the stupid power cut!!!

Luckily I had a torch handy so I could get the candles out without too much trouble and we spent the next two hours melting our bits off (the air-con was down of course, so we had to resort to the old-fashioned method of opening a window, shock horror) and trying to settle the kids back down in one bedroom. Ha ha. Not a chance.

Pickle came over all authoritative and broke out the glow-sticks left over from Halloween. How on earth he found them when he doesn't even know which drawer his pants are kept in I'll never fathom. He proceeded to create a double-ended nest on his bed so he and Poppet could sleep together, placing glow-sticks all round the edge to light the way to the emergency exits. Cute.

Nobby and I had fun trying to remember which lights were on when the power went out and diligently unplugged the TV and computer, reminiscing about the 70's and those heady pre-marriage-and-babies days when we spent many an evening by candlelight. Around half past midnight, just as we were dropping off slathered in mosquite repellent by the open window, we found out that we'd both forgotten to check the overhead light in our bedroom, as the place suddenly lit up like Blackpool illuminations and a swarm of mossies headed our way.

So, I can only imagine that the traffic lights had a similar experience - being up half the night to the excited children and getting woken up when someone finally got the elastic bands at the power station wound back up tight enough and hit the magic button - which explained their sluggish behaviour and the 2 mile tailback this morning.

I decided to come home from the drop-off via 'the back streets' to see if it was any quicker. It involves going over rather than round the hills, which means risking the car suspension and all my tooth fillings on the patchwork, potholed roads, not to mention my paintwork from mad drivers whipping past out of nowhere. Note to self: next time you're tempted to use the back roads, wear a sports bra and take some clean undies.

Anyway, by the time I got back to the traffic lights in question, an unavoidable bottle-neck to get to my house due the presence of yet another hill with no way over it, I was definitely shaken, not stirred and cursing my luck since I would need to leave again to pick them up in only two hours. Then, oh! Someone had switched off the traffic lights. And guess what?

There was no queue!

I rest my case. Now, where did I put my blow-torch...?