Monday, 21 February 2011

All dressed up and snow-where to go

So, we made it through another skiing holiday without breaking anything, other than the bank. Oh. My. God. How expensive is it to buy a benign-looking lift pass which enables you to be dragged up a hill perched on a t-shaped sliver of plastic, trying to chat casually to your loved one whilst hanging on for grim death, before the inevitable Tom and Jerry style wipeout when you both try to get off at the top and tangle your skis?

200 smackers that's how much.

If you fancy a sit down you can also brave the eight-man chair lifts which either try to take you out at the knees as they whip round and under your butt at the bottom of the ride or narrowly miss decapitation of the entire group if you're too slow off the mark jumping off at the top.

At the resort we went to there was also a wonderful 'scenic train' where you can bundle on with 100 or so of your most distant acquaintances, skis in one hand, poles in the other, elbows in your back and fluffy hats in your face, and all rock in unison up the mountain for the most claustrophobic three minutes of your life, ears popping all the way.

Pickle really didn't like that one but managed to amuse himself by head-butting his sister in the face with his ski helmet to pass the time whilst I entertained the entire passenger list with a loud rendition of 'how many times do you need to be told...'

Anyway, I am painting a grim picture but in actual fact, ski lifts and extortionate prices aside, it was the best ski break we've had yet. The kids enjoyed their ski-school so much they started staying for lunch so Nobby and Me got a whole FIVE HOURS to ourselves!! Of course we used the time wisely, fitting in at least one morning hot chocolate break and an afternoon gluhwein stopover in addition to lunch.

Well, it gets chilly up there zooming down mountain trying to keep up with Speedy Gonzales on skis. I think Nobby forgets I do very little exercise apart from bending over and kneeling down to five-year-old height all day long while he still goes crazy on the footie field once a week.

The hotel was one we've been to before - look back about two years ago and you'll find my Catherine Tate style lamentations about the 'peas in aspic' incident and the fluorescent sour cream debacle. I have a sneaky feeling they've taken on a new chef since then as there was mercifully no jellied veg in sight this time. There was a questionable 'strawberry-pepper sorbet' at one point - literally a strawberry sorbet containing whole peppercorns, served in a whisky tumbler filled with something vaguely alcoholic. ???

On the very first night Pickle had a falling out with the spotty teen running the 'kids club'. We had soooo been looking forward to packing the brats off to a babysitter who promised in the paperwork to feed and entertain them for two hours while we adults relaxed over a candlelit, wine soaked dinner. Especially since the day we arrived, after six hours festering in the car together, was my birthday. (I quite like this new found tradition of travelling to celebrate my advancing years - last year currying it up in Reading, this year whizzing off to the Alps... though I think I might aim for a flight to Tuscany next year if its all the same to Nobby.)

Yet we hadn't even made it past apperitifs in the bar before Pickle came running in wailing loudly and declaring 'I am NOT going back to that club EVER AGAIN!!!' By all accounts it all seemed to come down to a misfire during a pillow fight which resulted in Pickle's head ricocheting off a nearby wall, I'm not sure we'll ever know who really started it, though I did send the hotel manager in for a quiet word with Mr Spotty to remind him which one was supposed to be the responsible adult in the room and to suggest taking a deep breathe when the coca-cola powered eight year olds get a little busy with the furniture instead of returning fire.

Poppet made quite a few friends, particularly several little girls who spent the entire evenings hero-worshipping her. During the day her skiing came on a treat and she has abandoned the 'pizza' position for parallel skiing like a true pro. 17.5 seconds coming down the ski-school slalom race secured her 5th place and a cool medal. We are very proud parents.

So we all came back down to earth with a bump on Saturday after another 6 hour drive back to the laundry and homework. I have washed just about everything we own since then whilst learning some fascinating facts about the Thames for Poppet's river project. Nobby and Pickle decided to raid the cupboards for Pickle's tea project and had a great time sellotaping samples to a piece of A4.

Meanwhile Tiggy and Lucky returned from their pet-sitters, well fed and well exercised. Lucky managed to instigate a full maintenance check of the entire heating system at his sitter's house. No, he didn't escape, thank goodness. He just arrived while the man of the house was out of town then made some very loud noise on his wheel when he came back and was relaxing in front of the TV. Poor bloke thought the boiler was coming apart and spent a good half an hour examining its inner workings in the basement before discovering Lucky and his pneumatic drill-sounding wheel in the laundry room when he popped upstairs for a spanner. The spanner.

Today we were all back to school and work after the lovely break, refreshed and ready to get on with the next eight weeks of term until Easter. I've bundled all the thermals, ski socks and salopettes away in the basement and rounded up all my Easter Bunny and cute little chick stencils and stickers in preparation for this term's arts and crafts frenzies...

... and this morning it snowed.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Ranting and Randoming

I have a few ponderings on this fine, Thursday evening.

Is a bad cleaner really better than nothing when you've a new job and a mucky pair of kids and a big hairy dog?
Until the other week I was happy to answer 'yes.' However I am now ready to remove the word 'MUG' from my forehead after two years of my crap cleaner and say emphatically 'NO.' I fired her on Monday and I can honestly say, no cleaning this week has left my house just as clean as her tickling it with a tissue twice a week and charging me 5 quid an hour for the privelage.

I haven't left it entirely untouched of course; Anthea would never stand for it and she'd be straight round to snaffle my golden loo-brush. And as a result of my efforts I have found places in my house which have spent so long without seeing the business end of a vacuum cleaner, duster or mop they visibly flinched when I came at them with the Dyson. My ornaments and furniture are acclimatising to the new sensation of being lifted, dusted and replaced onto a freshly wiped surface rather than the usual frustration of the duster whizzing past faster than light speed.

I'm still undecided about getting a replacement cleaner in. I actually quite like the break from frantic tidying two nights a week so that there are no obstacles that might impede progress or lead to another shitty note either asking me to tidy up or requesting more money for the inconvenience of having to dodge a stray piece of Lego.

Pickle has offered to help me out for a couple of hours every weekend, having expertly hoovered up a year's worth of dust bunnies and dog hair from underneath the sofa this evening. He's clearly heard me ranting because although he did demand payment, he offered 'not to be greedy and only ask for half what the cleaner got.'

Oooh, can you detect some bitterness coming off me?! Let it go, girl. Nasty text messages accusing me of treating her 'like a criminal' notwithstanding (how on earth can giving her two weeks money as a pay-off be construed as bad treatment?) the deed is done and I can sigh with relief, leaving my possessions wherever I ruddy well choose.

Moving on, how did I come to have such amazing neighbours?
I must have done something good once because the family next door to us are such diamonds. We were all invited to tea on Sunday where they served up Earl Grey and freshly baked scones and a huge chocolate cake. It was like a scene out of the Famous Five, only without the lashings of lettuce and buckets of ginger beer.

One other neighbour rang at our gate the other evening to tell me 'I've rescued your bicycle.' It took me a second or two to work out what she was on about. She was referring to the old, clapped out BMX bicycle I found in the shed last weekend and had left out on the road to be 'recycled'. I don't mean by the recycling lorry, I mean by someone walking past, seeing an abandoned, saleable item and nicking it. It's worked several times before with old shoes, another old bike, piles of wood etc. I thought it was understood that whatever was left unattended in the road was ripe for a swipe.

But I didn't factor in my generous neighbour who walked me down the road to her house to retrieve my precious pile of junk telling me 'it's a miracle it wasn't stolen,' and I didn't have the heart to tell that was exactly why I left it in the road in the first place. That really wouldn't have done after all her trouble but I do wonder where all the thieves have gone to.

So, tell me. When you're knackered after five weeks solid teaching and you've a week-long holiday from your class of little darlings, will six days of throwing yourself down mountains with long planks strapped to your feet really help you unwind?
Yes, we are off skiing. And I am wondering if we shouldn't have traded in the snazzy ski-suits and crazy bobble hats for a bikini and a kiddy club at Center Parcs instead. I know, we'll have a great time; after all I won't have to cook or clean for seven days and the hotel has a pool, jacuzzi and sauna. It's just the packing blues talking.

Despite a very thorough Holiday Packing List which we've used for many years now, removing the kids' obsolete items (nappies, potties, pushchairs) and adding new essentials (i-pods, Nintendos, hair straighteners) as we go, I always manage to forget something and I am a total bear for the first ten minutes of any holiday journey while I run through a mental checklist trying to work out what the hell it is this time. I'll let you know in a couple of weeks, I just hope it's not the hamster.

Also this week: could my kid BE and cooler as Prince Charming in the school production of Cinderella?
His entrance was to saunter on stage in a leather jacket and sunglasses, flick his collar up a la Eric Cantona, pause in front of a girl in the audience and give her a quick 'Hey!' before grabbing Cinders for a tango. What a heart-breaker! He even sang a solo - 'The Smelly Feet Blues' - during the search for the owner of the glass slipper and I swear I heard a wee sniff from Nobby who was watching proudly beside me.

Poppet also had a part to play. Small but essential - she was a door. When Princey-boy goes banging doors across town, rounding up all the totty to try on the shoe, several helpers held up cardboard doors for the full effect. Every so often a little face peeked out from behind door number one - that's my girl. I did a tiny bit: making-up the ugly sisters. Poor lads. I don't think they really knew what they were signing up for when they agreed to play a part in the show. One nearly bolted when he realised he had to wear a dress and seeing me coming at him with a rack of face-paints, lipstick and mascara did not help the stage fright. But I think I made a decent pair of horrors out of them and they totally stole the show.

Finally, are there any better bands out there than The Australian Pink Floyd Show?
Because I think not. Lovely Nobby earned himself a pasting on my Facebook page last week by calling me at 4pm on Thursday telling me to get a babysitter for Friday night. Yeah... OK. Does he not know by now, if it was that simple we'd be out every Friday night.

The babysitter was busy of course, but free on Saturday. 'No, it has to be tomorrow night,' was Nobby's reply.

Luckily I managed to flog the children to friends for a rare 'double sleepover' instead, though it didn't stop me dissing my man big style on my FB profile and getting a lot of agreement from my friends that men always book the romantic night out first and childcare second (or not at all). A whole Blog entry could have been devoted to exploring that one, had he not thrust two tickets to see TAPFS, as they are tongue-twistingly known, at me when he arrived home.

I never made it to a Pink Floyd concert when they were still going strong. My brother was treated to The Wall back when we were younger but I am quite pleased to be able to report I was too young to go too. (There aren't many things I am too young for so I take my kicks where I can, so there.)

I can only imagine it was something like the total frontal assault on the eyes and ears that we experienced at the Budapest Arena on Friday night. What an AMAZING show!! Despite Nobby's heavily barbed comments on the age and dress sense of the crowds pouring through the doors with us when we arrived, he also had a great time. And it wasn't just because they blew up a giant inflatable teacher for 'Another Brick In The Wall' or a giant inflatable red-eyed Pig for 'Run Like Hell'.

It was probably the giant inflatable kangaroo that did it...

In the words of my ten-year-old, whatever. They were totally awesome. Nuff said.
Thanks Nobby x