Saturday, 29 January 2011


My neighbour just popped round and asked me if the earth moved for me.

Now, although we're pretty friendly I wouldn't say we're close enough for that kind of question actually. Besides, Nobby was nursing a hangover whilst watching Manchester United trying to get a goal back against Southampton so the only thing likely to move from his direction was his hand to his forehead.

Then I remembered the gaggle of girlies enjoying Poppet's 10th birthday party upstairs. I am still struggling to come to terms with having a ten a year old, no wonder I'm going so grey, especially coupled with the 17 five year olds I am looking after all week as well, but that's another story.

I'm pleased to report that birthday parties get less labour intensive as time goes by. I didn't have to fork out a fortune to spend three hours of my life slowly going deaf in the local play centre while hyped up kids perform death defying feats on various inflatable animals. Nor did I have to trawl the shops for party favours, pass-the-parcel prizes, balloons and sweeties then rearrange my house to accomodate a class-load of kiddies.

Poppet was offered a sleepover for three friends, which somehow evolved into a sleepover for six friends, but she took on all the organising and entertaining herself. I just had to provide the pizza and cake, make-up and nail polish, set a nice dinner table and make some 'truth or dare' cards. Just before my neighbour came round Poppet was leading them in a merry game of Murder In The Dark with a LOT of screaming. They proceeded onto a recreation of the X Factor later on, no quieter really.

But no, it was none of this. Pickle couldn't have done anything as he is away on a sleepover himself, the second one this weekend. Seriously he has a better social life than me.

It turns out there was an earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter Scale - and whilst the neighbours felt the earth move and watched all the beach balls wobble into the swimming pool from the vibration, Nobby and me missed it.

Clearly too chilled over here. We'll catch the next one.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

You don't have to be mad to live here, but it helps

My final comments from my last post were bound to set me up for a fall, weren't they? I am the master of shooting my mouth off and regretting it soon after. I wonder how Nobby lets me out on my own. He must have to brace himself every evening before he walks through the front door, never knowing what acts of madness are waiting for him on the other side.

Actually, thinking back to our Christmas trip home, I can't be left alone for even five minutes. Let me tell you the story.

Our flight to Gatwick was delayed on Boxing Day, but we still had to turn up and check in at the original time - nice logic there slEasyjet, thanks for that. This left us needing to occupy two excited monkeys for three hours without the aid of a play area, Nintendo Wii or DVD player.

At first we set up camp in the cafe by the Arrivals gate as the hour-long queue to get through passport control and security didn't really appeal. We played a few rounds of Uno as a family, a touching scene if ever there was one, until Pickle decided to change all the rules, Poppet got miffed because she didn't win and Nobby and me wondered once more where their competitive streak comes from. (It's definitely him!)

So I took Pickle off to calm down and whoever coined the phrase 'Necessity is the mother of invention' may well, I suspect, have spent time trying to amuse an eight-year-old at an airport. Armed with just a couple of Mars bar wrappers and a smeggy tissue we invented the game of 'Bin Basketball.' The airport kindly provided a back-board by having the bins up against the wall and a convenient oche/ockey line from which to throw. Pickle was as happy as larry having a brand new game to dictate rules for. I persuaded him that requiring Mums to shoot blindfolded was a little unfair but I conceded to having to kneel down, to the amusement of several onlookers.

Nobby was probably quite happy left alone with Poppet, knowing that the 'divide and conquer' method works pretty well with our two. But he didn't count on the 'Missus Factor' and you should have seen his face when I returned from the bins five minutes later carrying a large, sleeping baby.

No, I don't mean Pickle had stopped for a catnap, chance would be a fine thing. In just five minutes unsupervised by a responsible adult I had acquired a stranger's baby. A lady had just arrived from the UK travelling alone with said infant and she needed to put him somewhere while she dug in her bags for her phone charger so she could call her mother. Well, she couldn't very well pop him on the floor so she asked me to help. Then it turned out her phone charger didn't fit the socket she'd found so I offered to let her use my mobile. Which is why we ended up back at the table to fetch it from my handbag.

Nobby relaxed a little when I introduced the Mum but then, after her call, she said she needed to get a taxi, if I wouldn't mind holding the baby a little longer, and she hurried off out of the airport exit. This is the moment when Nobby went white as a sheet and demanded what I was going to do with my new acquisition if she never came back. He had a point I suppose. Total stranger asks you to hold a baby then buggers off out the door... if you're an eternal sceptic that one could send you into overdrive.

Anyway, she DID come back and take her baby but Nobby decided standing in the passport control queue would be good way to keep a better eye on me so sadly we'll never know who won the inaugural game of Bin Basketball. (Think I'll let Pickle have it.)

Well, I've been pretty good since that episode, right up until I decided two guinea pigs were better than one, despite Nobby insisting one was more than enough. I think meeting the little fella softened him up though, and he even managed to satisfy his football fanaticism by changing 'Gary' to 'Gazza.'

But I am sorry to report that little Peppermint didn't make it through his first week with us. I found him acting listless and unhappy on Sunday morning and sadly he died a couple of hours later. Poor Poppet was distraught and given that she was ill all weekend herself and has since been diagnosed with bronchitis and signed off school for the week she's really on a very low ebb.

So since Sunday afternoon I have been back and forth to the vet several times, first taking poor Peppermint for an autopsy, which showed he died from a parastic infection which he already had when we bought him, unbeknown to us. Then Gazza had to go to be checked out and I experienced the fun game of 'Hunt the Poo' - searching for stool samples in his carry box so the vet could check whether he was also infected. Then we did some complex maths trying to work out the proportions of medicine to give him when it's 10ml medicine per 30kg of animal and this one only weighs 250 grams. And finally a quick round of 'Squirt the Medicine in the Guinea-Pig', which went surprisingly well.

Lucky Hamper the hamster has also been in for a checkup and a game of Hunt the Poo and tonight Tiggy needs to get a blood test to confirm her rabies jab was effective.

... I'm not sure Nobby ever wanted to live in a zoo. If I was him I'd install Mummy-cams and revoke my financial priveleges before he gets any more 'surprises'. Poor bloke.

He's probably bitten his nails down to the quick by now, knowing that I am staying home alone with Poppet for the next two days while she guzzles the jungle juice and recouperates. He had no choice but to leave me my computer as I have vowed to use this windfall of time wisely and work on my teaching plans. What he doesn't know is that the vet agrees that guinea pigs should be kept in pairs but that we should buy them from private breeders rather than local pet shops.

Here, let me Google that. What's Hungarian for 'guinea-pig'...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Happy New year

There's nothing like a New Year to set you pondering the big mysteries of the universe. Like, 'how many Hungarian dentists does it take to change a 9-year-old's tooth crown?'

At least I can answer that one, thanks to Poppet and the ongoing tooth saga. You may have read that she snapped off most of one of her front teeth during an acrobatic stunt in December. The first temporary crown lasted a week before it fell off into her hot chocolate. The second one made it all the way to England for our post-Christmas Progress through the Realm... until she spotted something interesting on the floor of the rental car, bent forward to try and reach it and bashed her mouth on her knee.

She had to manage with only one front tooth for the rest of the trip, which wasn't easy when she didn't want people to know how she knocked the other one out yet they could hardly miss the strange hole in her smile. Oh well.

And to answer the original question, it's about four. One to build a new tooth, one to hold her gob out of the way, one to pass the instruments and one to translate to Mummy that they are worried all the wincing from Her Ladyship during the process means that the tooth is dying. It's not a great prospect that she's going to need root canal surgery but I'll keep you posted.

Another deep mystery: Is Gary a good name for a guinea pig?

Nobby thinks that George, Eric or Wayne would be more appropriate since the guinea pig is supposed to be his and he is determined at least one of our pets' names should reflect his football fanaticism. But let me back up a minute, what on earth is Nobby doing with a guinea pig?

Back in August I found a single sheet of A4 on my desk with a simple message:

'Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a guinea pig. Love from Poppet.'

Being a total softie when it comes to small furry creatures, and recalling the hilarity of watching my own guinea pigs from my childhood, Whisky and Soda, play follow-the-leader round and round the lounge, depositing a trail of 'chocolate drops' behind them as they went, I duly ensured Santa delivered a guinea pig voucher to Poppet on Christmas Day. She was delighted and as soon as we returned to Hungary we hot-footed it down to the pet shop to choose the perfect animal and all the associated paraphernalia.

And thus Peppermint, a tiny brown and white bundle of fur, joined our happy home. Only, in my softie opinion, he didn't seem very happy, spending his first 24 hours sitting perfectly still under a pile of hay in the corner of his cage. Of course it could have been nerves but I decided it was loneliness, given that until we turned up he was quite happy living with a friend in the pet shop.

Which is why we rushed back to the pet shop and bought his friend as well, passing it off as a New Years present for Nobby to try and soften the blow of finding out his wife had finally gone nuts. Still, the internet is on my side, several sites say these are social animals and ought to be kept in twos. And it has to be said that Peppermint greeted Gary like an old friend with a lot of squeaking and snuffling, which I translated as total delight of course, in my new found role of Dr Doolittle, and they were soon snuggled up together under the hay. Point proved, Nobby.

Okay, here is a real humdinger:
What is the worst place for an over-playful, maniac Vizsla pup to cut himself?

Whilst we were away, Boy-Next-Door and family went home to Portugal and we both left our doggies in the same kennels. Since we came home first we bravely volunteered to take on their mad mutt along with ours for one night only to save the guy from the kennels making two trips.

Ike is permanently happy and wags his tail so hard and fast that if it catches your legs the whip welts can take a couple of days to go down. However, it wasn't until he'd been here about 12 hours and engaged in some very enthusiastic wagging whilst trying to bite Tiggy's face off, that I noticed red splatters all over my kitchen and hall cupboards, doors, walls and floors. With much wrestling I managed to ascertain that he has a little cut on the very tip of his tail and had been blithely spray-painting my house while he mucked about. Bugger.

Luckily the neighbours came and got him soon afterwards and with a bit of spit and polish my house is more spick and span, and less abattoir. I do fear for their white three piece suite though...

More musings next time, very likely about the joys of returning to school after a three week break. I have INSET training tomorrow and Friday, with the kids in tow due to lack of babysitting; I'm sure there'll be loads to tell.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year and here's to an interesting 2011! At least I won't be a) studying, or b) turning 40 this year.