Wednesday, 16 May 2012

What Not To Wear

Poppet and I were having a lovely shopping trip after school.  I thought she deserved a little treat in the middle of her Year 6 SAT test week so we did the usual places - Claire's, Clintons, charity shops - and she hinted, wheedled and downright bribed her way to quite a few treats.  I am such a sucker.

Though I'm feeling a bit down myself this week as Pickle is away from home on a school residential trip for the first time ever.  He had a teensy wobble about it the morning I schlepped his case into school for him, until he saw all his mates and the double decker coach and started planning all their shinnanigans.  I barely got a goodbye in the end, sniff.  Still, retail therapy is a powerful tool...

So, there we were, girlie shopping,  however Poppet did deign to accompany me into the Post Office, which was surprisingly kind of her.  Until she asked very loudly in the middle of a very long queue:

'Why are you wearing the same thing as yesterday?'

I gave her a loaded look, indicating she should kindly zip it, lock it, put it in her pocket.  But she went on to comment, at a similar volume and now accompanied by a huge grin,

'You'll really start to smell if you wear it again tomorrow.'

Yup.  Cheers shweetie.  Just my luck to go in at 4pm when there are only two windows open and I have to keep up the eye-contact-avoidance for a full ten minutes before being served.

Anyway, I suppose I should take the hint and rotate outfits a bit.  After all, I secured a new job this week (Hurrah!) and the 3 to 6 year olds I will be working with will no doubt be just as free with their opinions if 'Miss' keeps turning up in class wearing the same thing.

I went to the school for some practice last week, just a small reception class of 26... Oh boy, what a lively lot!  And very low chairs, I am going to have buns of steel after a term in that classroom.

Speaking of buns, I must add my new skills to my CV before I forget.  My lovely doggy had to have an operation on her knee this month.  She didn't get the full bionic replacement but there were pins and grafts and other unmentionables involved.  Plus some very extensive shaving.  I reckon the guy with the clippers was a frustrated sheep shearer in disguise because her entire leg was nude.  Naturally she had to wear the cone-collar for a fortnight to prevent her from pulling out the stitches but sadly it also meant she couldn't scratch the re-growth round her butt area.

But I could.

Mummy to the rescue.  Now there's something for the Post Office queue.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Dirty faces, dirty places

So my 11 year old just wandered casually into my bathroom and caught me applying an Enriched Mud Facial Mask to my poor, wrinkly old face.

 'Yuck! what on earth is that stuff?' she asked.

 'It's a special face mask which is supposed to draw out all the impurities,' I told her, loftily.

 'What are 'impurities'?' she said.

 'It's sort of the muck and dirt on your face, trapped in the pores,' I replied. 'This mud is supposed to suck it all out then you wash it off and your face is all glowing.'

 'Oh, I see,' she said, knowingly. 'So you clean the dirt off your face by putting on more dirt. Right.'

 Ah, the wisdom of youth, innit tho.

 Speaking of dirt, since I last blogged we had a wee schlepp over to Brussels to mooch about some wonderful city sights and show the children where we spent our first wedding anniversary. Poppet was in the oven cooking that time so I was looking forward to sampling some beer this trip and not having to waddle around the cobbles looking like a Teletubby. In fact, we went for a drink in the very bar where we finally decided on the baby names. It was everso nostalgic, sitting there with a Belgian beer each, and Pickle belching the alphabet for everyone's entertainment.
So proud.

 The break was very good, though majorly marred by the dirty apartment we rented. We used a web site called AirBNB which helps people rent out their places to fellow travellers for a sizeable fee. The place looked nice on the website but the offerings are not visited or vetted by AirBNB, pretty much anyone can plug their places and let the buyer beware, while the web operators sit nice and cosy in the USA not giving a flying toss what state they are in.

 The 'Class and Cosy' flat we paid for turned out to be filthy.

Now I don't mind making up my own bed when I go to stay somewhere, after all, the first thing my mother had to do every time she visited us in France or Hungary was wrestle with a duvet cover. But I DO object to having to remove someone else's soiled bedding first... Yes, seriously. We booked weeks in advance, the guy knew we were coming, but he didn't even vacuum the carpet.

When we complained AirBNB sent us some unnecessarily wordy explanations as to how this was regrettable but a bit of dirt didn't amount to a 'violation' or misrepresentation of the apartment since the furniture did actually look like what was on the photos. I took my own photos of the same furniture in close-up, especially the bathroom fittings and their covering of mould and pubes. I'll let you have the link it you like, but prepare a hanky first.

 After much emailing these guys would not back down and the owner went curiously quiet so I have had to content myself with a cutting review of the property which now sits on the guy's website, perhaps you'd like a read. Let this be a lesson to anyone I ever come to stay with!

Bugger, I'm never gonna be invited anywhere ever again am I?

'What a treat for your hard-earned trip to Brussels!! This apartment offers you the bona fide 'living like a student' experience from the moment you walk in the door! All the authentic touches of the classic adolescent males living away from Mum have been provided in nauseating detail! Bed linen that hasn't been changed in weeks! And in a nice dark colour to show up every stain! Dust so thick you can write your name in it! Dust bunnies so advanced they deliver Easter eggs! And that's just the bedroom! 

 But this apartment has fun in *every* room! You want to check out the local food? Take a look in the kitchen sink, its all there in the plughole for your examination! Traces of previous culinary endeavours can also be found on the work surfaces, floor and cutlery! No effort required to peruse the cooking utensils: several cupboard doors are missing so you can just lean right in! 

 Worried that the showers won't work? All the evidence you need that regular bathing has taken place is right there in the bathroom! Accumulated dirt and body hair from every ablution has been generously preserved both in and around the bath-tub and especially underneath the clever wooden floorboards! These, and the humidity from the stoic rejection of any form of ventilation, have given rise to an amazing display of mould and mildew in every corner, of a quality rarely seen outside of the average festering public toilet! Oh, and the toilet itself is no disappointment - evidence of its sustained heavy usage has been conserved on every surface! 

 To full immerse yourself in the realistic scruffy student experience, simply unpack your clothes into the generous storage spaces and watch your possessions become coated in weeks of carefully accumulated dust and dirt! Relax on the leather sofas and take in the ambiance of the bustling Turkish district outside, which never fails to entertain with regular commotion, day and night! (Which is fortunate because in true student digs style, the TV rarely has a signal, though the DVD player works fine.) 

 So book now and try for yourself the delights of living, eating, washing and sleeping in other people's dirt and grime! It's definitely THE way to take a break and reward yourself and your family for months of hard work!'

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Pups and paint

I've had the painters in for almost three weeks now. By the way, I mean it in a good way, these are actual painters applying gloss to my lovely new built-in shelves and cupboards. I don't think I'd be cheefully blogging if it was the other painters. Well, i might but I think the keys would have been rammed through to the desk by now :-)

Now, *someone* had to have an incident with some paint didn't they. I assumed it would be Pickle McWhirlwind who will fail to see the 'wet paint' sign and touch the luxurious, glossy surface with his grubby palm *before* asking 'Is this paint wet?' But no, it was the dog. Paw-plant straight in the roller tray, footprints all across the oak floor.

Thankfully the sharp-eyed painter caught her and cleaned her up. But later that evening she appeared in the lounge sporting two white patches down her back, clearly having taken the corner too fast and brushed up against a wet bit. Maybe she wanted go-faster stripes to prove the arthritis isn't slowing her down.

She certainly moved like lightning the other day when I was transferring the guinea pigs from their indoor cage to their outdoor cage. I thought little Eddie's number was up as she lunged towards him while I was coaxing Bobby to shift his butt (he gets very comfy does Bob and won't move till he's good and ready.) Luckily my Ninja training kicked in and blocked the wee fluffy snack from her slavering jaws. I'm not sure these animals are ever going to get on.

Tiggy seems to be showing a rebellious side at the moment. Maybe she's just following the general trend exhibited by my lovely offspring, the eldest of whom had a right cob on this morning, bless her. She said 'Mum, I don't know why I'm in a bad mood, I just am.' *Alarm bells* could this be hormones? Already?! Yikes-amundo she's only just out of nappies, in my Mumsy eyes.

So maybe the dog is picking up on the fact that they both do what they want despite me telling them otherwise and that is why she helps herself to my sofa every night when I've gone to bed. I wouldn't mind but I just took delivery of a new three piece suite and now the dog has languished on it longer than I have. The nerve.

Anyway, the painter is about to return so I've armed myself with dust sheets in case for an encore my four-legged teenager decides to step in the paint and then sample some sofa... ooh, I get cramps just joking about that one. Tiggy... outside!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Peeing into the wind

Eating beetroot makes your pee pink.

I didn't know this before, having always been a confirmed beet-hater, however my new weekly organic veg delivery box included 4 beetroots last week and I felt duty bound to discover something to do with them. We ended up with a gratin of sorts with lots of cream and garlic but it wasn't until bedtime I found out the full physiological effects.

It was the laugh I needed though to get over the crazy day I'd had. I'm not really sure who threw a gremlin at me as I got up but someone had it in for me.

First my brand new Next designer butter dish spontaneously broke in my hand, cutting my finger. I managed to glue it back together - the dish that is, the cut had to make do with a plaster which I managed not to glue onto it as well, which has happened in the past, but it will never be quite the same.

Shortly afterwards as I was leaving the Great Park with a tired and muddy dog in the boot of the car I found the exit completely blocked by a jewson Jewson lorry unloading sacks of sand with its crane. (No, that's not a typo, I vote 'jewson' becomes the next swear word. I'll have the kids spread it about a bit, it'll soon catch on. Pickle told me this morning my idea of pizza for tea was 'sick' which apparently is a term of approval, so I reckon anything goes these days.)

Mr Crane man was having a right laugh holding up all the dog walkers and joggers trying to drive into the car park. I suppose if he was contemplating how we all congregate there for exercise though don't feel the need to do that little bit more and actually walk there then his chuckling was probably justified. If he was just thinking up rude repostes if anyone dared ask him why the jewson he couldn't have parked his jewson lorry at the side instead of the middle of the road then I think we had grounds to set the dogs on him.

Another revelation: my dog can make my whole car rock from side to side just by panting hard lying in the boot.

So I thought I'd pop into the not-too-busy-looking Total garage and fill up on my way to an appointment, which naturally I was running late for. Popped 20 litres in, holstered the nozzle, scurried into the shop to be greeted by a queue three people deep and the one at the front couldn't pay. Poor cow I did feel for her, it wasn't her fault her credit card was having a 'computer says no' day but I did really wish I'd driven the extra mile to BP where they have more than one person serving.

And yet I doubt that would have made a difference yesterday. Ironically the self same thing happened later in in Tesco when I had my pick of a dozen different cashiers: the little old lady in front of me had her card refused. Luckily this one had something very strange in her bag, small squares of paper called 'cash' which apparently lets you buy things too. Very strange, must find out where to get me some of that.

All day long I think the gremlin was perched on my nose - you know that feeling you get when either you've bashed yourself and forgotten all about it and shortly that particular place will come out with a bright green and yellow bruise, or you're about to have Mount Vesuvius erupt through your skin and make you the scorn of every spotty teenager you meet.

Well, no spot emerged and I haven't turned purple yet, just the pink wee wees for now, but this morning my eye was swollen and glued shut with something nasty. Perhaps my hand slipped with that superglue after all?? Anyway, I think it's not worth getting up tomorrow if life continues in this vein.

It always seems to happen when Nobby buggers off on business as well. This evening not only did I have to play bouncer at the school disco which was so loud my ears are still ringing 2 hours later, but I then had to bring two sugared-up monkeys home and try to crowbar them into bed single handed so they're not cranky for school in the morning. It's somewhat like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. I wonder if I can make them faint to sleep if I show em my beetroot pee??

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Body parts going cheap, slight wear and tear

My dog just tried to catch a Lurcher. You have to admire her optimism seeing as she's a medium mongrel with a gammy leg who couldn't catch a hamster if it decided to run.

The result was fairly predictable: Tiggy was Wile E. Coyote to the lurcher's Road Runner. She's now sitting, defeated, in her basket now, perusing the latest Acme catalogue.

Poor dog hasn't had many walks this week with Pickle being sick off school. He is also sick *of* school but by the end of day two when he was jumping all over his sister instead of climbing into bed I was sick of him.
'I thought you were supposed to be really ill?' I demanded as he squealed at the top of his voice.
'I am ill, ' he insisted, putting on a none-too-convincing croak and doing those Puss In Boots eyes.

He went back to school the next day.

As he left, in moved the contractors and I was on full tea and coffee alert for the day. One chap was painting the front door in lovely black gloss: 'Now, that should dry in about 5 or 6 hours,' he told me as he washed his brushes at 5pm, 'so leave the door open for as long as possible or it'll stick'. 'Yeah, cool,' I replied. And it bloody was. Our evening's TV viewing consisted of 'Cold Feet' and 'A Touch of Frost' from under a large blanket.

Another guy was fitting shelving units in the hall and lounge, monstrously huge things they are too, which will pay back the painter nicely as they all need glossing, ha. However he's putting beading on using a nail gun so the dog and I look like we've both got tourettes, jumping and twitching helplessly each time he fires it.

A couple of blokes who have clearly each had a sense-of-smell bypass came to unblock the drains. We knew they were blocked because the downstairs loo decided to fill-and-stir rather than empty-and-flush last week, just before we had visitors for the weekend. Nice timing. I was treated to an intimate tour of my drains and sewers by the power of cctv and a suspiciously brown long cable and so saw for myself how next door's ivy is not only trying to knock down my fence but is also trying to crawl up my u-bends. The solution was fairly straightforward and the smell of the chemicals nicely masked the smell of the doodies and as a clever feature it also drained my bank account of all remaining new-house decorating-budget to pay for it!

Finally two landscaping experts rocked up to assess the muddy bog which is my back lawn thanks to some dodgy lawn-levelling by a former occupant. Somehow they managed to re-slope the sloping garden backwards so that with a bit more excavation we'd have a nice natural swimming pool to laze beside. Alternatively we could sell our kidneys to fund the five tonnes of top soil these chaps reckon we need to level it properly. Pass me the JCB someone.

So it was a bit like Picadilly Circus here, all to the strains of Radio 2 from the painter's little transistor and the occasional woof from the drain guy's Boxer dog. Today I am putting all my worldly goods on eBay to try to re-fill the coffers and I'm also going to attempt to claim the drain repair money back on the house insurance. I am not optimistic, given my recent luck I've more chance of catching a Lurcher.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Listening - that thing you do while you're waiting for your turn to speak

I don't think my kids are listening too well in school.

Yesterday Poppet's barnet was going crazy and she moaned 'My hair's full of plastic electricity!'

Pickle then told us how his science teacher was talking about how its possible to wiggle your pelvis and asked if anyone would like to demonstrate. Pickle expressed his total shock saying 'I didn't want anyone to see my willy!'

Uh, that's penis, my love, not pelvis.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Why I need to master online shopping

Shopping. A necessary evil unless you want to starve or walk around stark naked and something most normal women will attack with enthusiasm and relish. I, on the other hand, would rather eat my own eyeball than go shopping.

My difficulties locating my Joy of Shopping may have something to do with my advancing years as I find myself too baffled by the amount of choice lately. More often than not I am to be found uttering Victor Meldrew-esque exclamations on finding , for example, that electric toothbrushes not only clean teeth these days but will also put the kettle on, wash the dishes and make a passable lemon meringue.

I'm exaggerating of course but whilst I can just about handle my mobile phone taking photos, I just don't believe it that my sunglasses need to double up as a radio or I could possibly need a bag to put inside my handbag to make it easier to move the contents of my handbag to one of my other handbags. And who in the name of Satan's hairy armpit decided it was a good idea to put flashing lights inside kids shoes? As if I wasn't bombarded enough by the aisles and aisles of variations of small squares of soft paper that will just be wiped on an orifice and chucked away, why must I be subjected to the pleading requests of my advertising-seduced offspring?

But surely I should enjoy a good rummage round the clothes shops when I need something gorgeous for a special occasion? Wrong. I am happy to adhere to the adage of 'buy less, pay more' in order to restrict my wardrobe to quality pieces and minimise the amount of time I actually have to subject myself to the muzak of the high street but last week I desperately needed a 'smart casual' top to wear at a reunion with people I once worked with during my student days, some of whom I haven't seen for twenty years. Clearly the occasion required something suitably fashionable to fit in with the young and trendy crowd at the London bar we were meeting in, grown up enough to show I'm not languishing in the past but not so mumsy so they realise I haven't been out on the town in six years.

I've never been too confident in my ability to choose good clothes, in fact my eleven year old is already far superior in that regard and has perfected that subtle head shake coupled with a badly concealed smirk to indicate that I'm way off bat whenever I get it wrong. Sadly she was at school during my latest trip so I had to make do with Plan B which is to watch what everyone else is picking up and follow suit. Of course this can have damaging psychological repercussions when you watch the twenty-somethings notice a mumsy forty-something clutching an identical sparkly boob tube on their way to the changing room and perform a hasty body swerve to put theirs back on the rack and hurry out of the shop.

One thing I do know to avoid is horizontal stripes, of which there seems to be a lot in the Spring collections springing up at the moment. Whilst I am not averse to the Breton look, easy on the onions and beret, I would require significantly smaller tits to pull it off. Or at least I would need to find my personal holy grail of a bra that lifts and supports each of my mummy-boobs as individuals and doesn't try to squash them together so I look as though I only have the one. In my day the ads were all about 'lift and separate'. Nowadays finding a bra which doesn't contain a couple of silicone chicken fillets to produce the perfect 'plunge' is like finding a Per Una blouse without a gaudy plastic necklace attached.

After wondering aloud what the hell has been happening to Gap while I've been abroad, I am pleased to report I found the very thing in Monsoon, always a rare treat for me since normally I exit disappointed having either balked at the prices or been unable to accommodate my bosoms in a single item in the range.

As for making it through my evening out without spilling anything on myself, well that's another story.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Girl time

I abandoned my hectic schedule of cleaning and shopping to go visit my sister today. She had a day off and was supervising her own workmen at her new house. Ok, we all know that means she was on tea and coffee duty. We live slightly parallel lives at the moment except that she took on a bigger project than me and she has a real job to go to to escape the madness from time to time.

Quick aside, I handed in a job application today. See I am capable of extracting that finger so there.

Both sisters have had new front doors but while I'm already putting up curtains she's knocking walls out, fitting RSJs and posting suggestive status updates on Facebook about all the stripping she's doing. (Wallpaper, mucky brain!)

They've nicknamed the house 'The Money Pit' possibly because when they tackle one seemingly simple job, a couple of extra ones pop up and sky-rocket the bill. Such as when the electrician came in to move a single light switch and discovered that behind the plaster and under the floorboards the whole place was a death trap having been wired by a DIY enthusiast with as much clue about wiring as I have about open heart surgery. Apparently there were live wires just sitting in the open next to pipe work; they were lucky not to get fritzed across the room when they went to turn on the taps.

We had a nice little jaunt to the local cafe to escape the dust and noise before I had to head back to reality and go collect the squids from their Street Dance after-school class. They're pretty good at it now, Pickle is learning how to stand on his head in preparation for some head spinning, once he's stopped falling over. Poppet has a new move which she says is 'like putting your guns in their holsters.' ... Yup, my head was spinning right there without the aid of a crash mat.

So I'm off into town tomorrow to have a word with the officious person at a well known jewelry shop who reckons that the only possible reason my necklace has not made it through its warranty period unscathed - the crystals have been falling out - is because I must be wearing it wrong. Right, we'll see about that. I'll let you know how this pans out.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Roaringly Random

I think my day starting sliding sideways first thing when I tried to tip my tea bag onto the remains of my now defunct Poinsettia - I've heard teabags make good fertiliser and I would be interested to see if this one can come back from the dead - but the teabag decided to fall onto the windowsill with a squelch instead. It took me mere moments to put down the teaspoon and grab a cloth but before you could say 'monkey' there was already a light brown splat-shaped stain on the snow-white windowsill. Continued rubbing with ever coarser cleaning implements only served to take off the paint. Bugger. Still at least the splat's gone. Hmm, white Dulux immulsion on a kitchen windowsill, who said the previous owners spared no expense doing this place up?

There followed a major tantrum from Poppet who I generously allowed to lie-in through the school run after none of us slept until 2 this morning on account of her uncontrollable night-coughs. Actually, I lie: Pickle slept. That boy could probably sleep through an earthquake once he's off, unless the earthquake hits at 7am on a non-school day in which case he'd already be half an hour into his first game of Minecraft :-)

Apparently my generosity was all wrong, though, and I ended up with a door-slamming, arm waving, Mother-hating, 'It's not fair' Kevin the Teenager soundalike instead. The joy... was deep.

So I took her to school.

One rather dull day of housewifing later - I think I lost the will to live on aisle 5 in my local Tesco midway through the afternoon. Not sure why I bothered when Nobby's staying out at a two-day meeting tonight. But it was handy parking for the post office, another energy-sapping mind-numbing dreadful place where I always seem to be only person actually wanting to *post* something. All too soon the brats were back and that's when the bewildering string of randomness continued.

Apparently Poppet is now 'back on' CocoPops. She declared herself 'off' them just after she opened the last packet some weeks ago but I kept the box for some brave and optimistic vision of future family Crispy Cake making which naturally never materialised since my kids only enter the kitchen when the sound of their grumbling tummies is drowning out the television. When she finally tired of waiting for me to serve her food and drinks on the sofa (what did her last slave die of? Oh, I remember - disobedience) she actually hauled her butt of the sofa, pretty random in itself, and went and looked in a cupboard. She found the CocoPops, poured out a large bowl, and happily troughed away.

Pickle came to chat to me in the study later on and spied my stack of Billy Connolly videos. (They emerged from the same box as the Star Trek collection; I'm sure Billy is happy to boldly go where no-one has gone before...)

'That's that Bob Connolly from Garfield,' Pickle exclaimed, 'he's Scottish isn't he?' He then stunned me by putting on an impressive Scots brogue and shouting,

'My bottom's incredibly itchy!!!'.

I was so taken aback he had to do it again. Now I'm using it as my ringtone.

So then came one of those not so random moments, like those ones in French shops when the whole aisle is deserted until you stop to examine something that catches your eye and suddenly three professionally-sharpened French elbows are in your ribs to beat you to the treasure. It may seem random but it is actually a measurable phenomenon; try it. I was on the Skype to Rose, who is in Paris funnily enough and could keep you entertained for hours with the elbow thing, when simultaeously someone knocked at the front door, the phone rang, a text beeped and Poppet announced she was still hungry.

Poppet helpfully picked up the phone in spite of my dramatic and I thought rather convincing mime of drawing a finger across my throat to warn her to leave it. No-one who knows me uses that number and sure enough, when she handed over the receiver and headed off to answer the door some random Indian voice on the end of the line asked me,

'Have there been any accidents in the last three years?'
'Excuse me?' I said, 'what accidents? Who is this?'
'Have there been any accidents in the last three years?'
'Er, I have no idea what you're on about but hang on a minute there's someone at my door' I said as I flung the phone onto the table and chased after Poppet before she started serving tea and biscuits to any Jehovah's Witnesses.

Luckily it was Pickle's guitar teacher and in another totally out of character act for him, he came right off the computer unbidden and bounded into the front room for his lesson. My gob was well and truly smacked.

After I'd picked my chin up off the floor and returned to the phone I was greeted by a dial tone. Finally a cold caller who knows when she's flogging a dead horse. I wonder if she believed me about there being someone at the door?

So I returned to the kitchen and merely Skype-texted with Rose whilst at the same time cooking a sausage casserole, burning a cheese sauce and mopping up a puddle of water that randomly weeshted out of one end of my hand mixer and onto my new Ugg boot.

Consequently I had to quickly wipe off my Ugg boot and check the hand mixer was still working. Of course it wasn't working. Well, not until I switched on the plug at the wall. Der. Though I reckon I can be forgiven for slipping out of the habit while I've been residing outside of the Nanny state. I'm still adjusting to the good old British belt-and-braces approach to safety. In France and Hungary they are quite happy for you to operate all things electrical without the aid of a wall switch and I suppose I grew accustomed to it. After all, neither child managed to fritz themselves by inserting a knitting needle into a socket - you may think they'd be hard pushed to find a knitting needle in my house but trust me, they're capable.

All the while my newly updated i-pod was blaring tunes out of the stereo I've had for ten years without realising I could hook an i-pod up to it until last week. The final random act before I reached for the gin bottle was some song coming on called 'Cowboy Dreams' which I have no memory of ever buying. Interesting song though, with a random 'Yippy-ki-yay' chucked in about halfway, to which my spontaneous, pavlovian response was something obscene that rhymes with 'brother-pucker.' After that I had an overwhelming urge to settle down with a Gordon's and watch Die Hard.

Maybe lack of sleep is to blame for such a wacky day. Tonight's plan is kids down by 8, bum on sofa by 8.30. Surely, bar the dog offering to scratch my back for a change, no more strangeness will follow??? Hope springs eternal.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Work and play

I've had a man in today. He's been doing shelves. It's nothing to worry about, poor chap had to listen to almost my entire i-pod which includes a nauseating amount of 80s throwback tunes and some dark Depeche Mode so I guess I'm lucky all my new storage is actually straight.

He's coming back tomorrow to replace the front door. I'd better learn how to tune my radio and fast.

We booked a family Easter break to Brussels with Nobby's airmiles. Found a lovely apartment to rent near to the Grand Place - last time we were there Poppet was just a large bump under my jumper and I wasn't permitted to indulge in any beer, blond or otherwise. I think I may have to do something about that this time.

We told the Pickle he can get mussels in Brussels. He flexed both his arms and asked, breathlessly, 'Really?!!'

Boys to Men

My kids love sleepovers. They've been doing them since they were quite small because we've always been a little short on babysitters while we lived abroad and sometimes farming them out to stay with their friends was the easiest solution for nabbing a night out with Nobby. Easiest for me of course, I think Rose did the first one and ended up with all the kids in one room as they were too excited to be separated and she felt obliged to sleep with them in case of any trouble in the night. I'm amazed she ever offered again.

Of course palming your own kids off on others means you have to return the favour and we certainly do our bit. Though Nobby still greets the news that we have small guests with a little bit of head holding, some shoulder-sagging and a couple of 'oh no's. I can't say I blame him; despite the up side of being banned from all contact with the child in question in case I embarrass them in front of their mate, there is the down side of the endless showing off when they emerge in search of refreshments and the inevitably very late night.

One time Poppet was still up chatting at 3am, but of course it was all her friend's idea , probably had a gun to her head, or at least a 'stay awake or I'll tell everyone at school you still wear Hello Kitty Pjs'. As a parent you're torn between the usual bellowing 'Go To Sleep' across the landing or more polite interjection, just in case little friend has a sensitive countenance. I once looked after the daughter of a friend of mine who never, ever raises her voice and is as unhurried and placid as a sloth on Valium. One of mine did something typically spectacular to raise my ardour, probably something either dangerous involving pillows or messy involving chocolate knowing my two, and caused me to shout. The poor little lamb burst into tears of fear and bewilderment until her big sister informed me 'My mother never shouts.' I'm not sure I'd truly believed it until then. Whatever she's got I want some.

Anyway, Pickle had a sleepover this past Friday night. All went well and they spent the obligatory 5 hours between home-time and bedtime ensconced in a game in his bedroom, only coming out for a bit of sister-baiting and grub-munching. I often find the guest is incredibly well behaved when they come here. Perhaps that's because I have the word 'ogre' tattooed on my forehead? Or Pickle's wound them up with stories of how I reduce small children to tears with my shouting. Naturally he'll have embellished and totally left out the part where he sat on the dog, chucked half his breakfast on the floor, mislaid each and every essential part of his uniform and THEN decided to tell me about the homework he'd forgotten to do.

They even went to bed quite easily and I only had to re inflate the airbed twice. The drop-off next morning was another matter though. This is what was supposed to happen:

I text Mummy and check what time she wants her son back and can we save her some time by dropping him off on our way into town. She texts me back yes, 1pm at his grandparent's house would be great. I do the drop-off at the agreed time and we all gaily drive off to town for a mooch.

Now here's what actually happened when you take the women out of the equation and add a couple of curve balls:

I text Mummy to check when and where to drop her son. She confirms 1pm at his nan's as Mummy herself is away for the weekend.

Suddenly Poppet announces she's not feeling well and I find out she has a temperature of 101 degrees and won't be going anywhere. Poppet starts to wail that she really is well enough to go to New Look and can't possibly take nasty medicine and go back to bed.

Nobby valiantly steps up and loads the boys into the car at 12.55 with much 'have you got everything?' checks and heads for the drop-off.

Little friend's Dad arrives on my doorstep at 1pm to collect now absent son. I tell him he'll be at his nan's in about 30 seconds, he says 'Good because he's being picked up there at 1 pm for a day out.'

Nobby texts me at 1.15pm to say they are in the queue for the car wash, still with little friend in the car because he wanted to see what it was like. I have no numbers for Nan, Dad or person sitting waiting at Nan's house so desperately text Mummy to let people know there is a delay.

Nobby delivers little friend to his nan's at 1.35pm, person picking him up is cold and distant.

Nobby texts me at 1.45pm to say he's discovered little friend's coat, school bag and lunch box in the back seat of his car.

Next evening Mummy texts me to ask if I've seen her boy's school shirt and jumper.

Still, it would have been a boring weekend without all the shenanigans, at least you can rely on the men to entertain.

And in that vein here is the joke from the lovely Mr Pickle (all his own work apparently):

A teddy bear turns to his mate and says 'Are you hungry?' and the other bear says, 'No thanks mate, I'm stuffed.'

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Barbies and Borstal

Ah, Saturday at last. And a clear weekend with no running around for once. Lots of tea and pottering about is on the cards. Since its finally warm enough to stay outdoors without needing to be wrapped in more layers than a royal wedding cake.

Poppet has today presented me with two things. First a cough with accompanying fever, making her entry into the school singing contest next week rather questionable. But at least it meant I had to skip shopping today for which my bank manager will be grateful.

Secondly I now have 4 of her Barbies that she has dressed up in their best outfits. I am not sure why. During my relentless clearings out whilst we've been moving I've been trying to surreptitiously chuck out all things Barbie to try and reclaim the space under her bed. Actually, I've never really warmed to the collection of leggy, blonde party girls with gravity defying tits and a wardrobe to die for. I think Rose had the right idea all along when she banned them from her house. I'm not sure how I got sucked in to buying so many of them and decking them out with enough plastic furniture and accessories to rival ToysRUs. She managed to part with a few bits to a friend's little girl but there's still a veritable sorority house going on taking up two crates. Still, she's putting in good practice for her career in fashion design and we have named my new dollies Pandora, Florence, Titania and Amelia. They are currently having a girlie sleepover on my windowsill, watching the world go by.

Tiggy is also watching the world go by, and intermittently trying to chase it down and catch it. She is driving us mad at the moment, constantly creeping upstairs while we're not looking to lie on the bathroom floor gazing at the guinea pigs... and drooling. Once she's been shooed downstairs with her tail so far between her legs she could use it as a scarf, she waits till we're out of sight again then helps herself to a bit of sofa. I thought the kids were naughty but this dog is seriously taking the mickey. Bring back Dog Borstal I say and hand me the choke chain.

So I embarked on a massive spring clean yesterday to tackle the puddles of dog hair collecting on my soft furnishings and the trail of sawdust across the bathroom floor, landing and children's rooms. And Nobby is on hutch-erecting duty so we can move our newest family members outside now the sun finally put on an appearance. Nobby doesn't mind: he had a new cordless drill and screwdriver for Christmas so any opportunity to make like Handy Andy and he's well happy. We are planning to take on the garden tomorrow since we haven't actually been in it for more than five minutes since we bought the place. Tiggy's been busy there though and first order of the day will be flipping a coin for dog-poo duty. Nice. I reckon I've done my bit having scrubbed out four toilets and the far reaches of the bin-cupboard yesterday but I know that won't hold much water with his lordship.

See, I did get a treat this week, a night out with my brother to watch Star Wars in 3D. Since it wasn't actually filmed with 3D in mind it wasn't quite as exciting as I'd hoped, but then my previous experience includes all things Pixar animations where stuff flies out of the screen so you feel you can touch it. Sadly Ewan McGregor stayed firmly on the screen , though I wouldn't have minded a feel. (!) But it was good to watch one of my fave flicks again, despite being unable to regard Queen Amidala in a regal light since I discovered her name is French for tonsils. My bruv had only previously seen one film in 3D so he was far more impressed. His first child is still cooking so he's not had my opportunities.

Well its time to take Poppet's temperature again; she's watched two episodes of Dr Who, the film Robots (only 2D, she hates 3D specs), painted my nails turquoise and now declared herself bored. Those Barbies may come in handy after all - some lessons in hair-dressing might pep her up... (insert evil laugh and sound of snipping scissors, mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Back on the blog

I have been inspired by Emily Carlisle who blogs her 'extreme parenting' on More Than Just A Mother. She could have nicked her last post straight out of my brain. So it's time for me to start making the effort to blog again, bringing you a glimpse of my view of the world and the delights of coping with repatriating a family that's been travelling for seven years.

Better watch the Nobby-bashing though. I've only been updating Facebook recently, which he doesn't subscribe to (both literally and conceptually: 'Its just gossip. I don't do gossip.') and he's unwittingly copped a load. For today I'll let Emily Carlisle do it for me.

So quick update since last blog roughly 4 months ago. We've moved house again - despite my endless clearing out and best efforts with a crowbar and a monkey wrench, we couldn't wedge anything else into the old place. So we packed it all up again and moved a mile up the road to somewhere bigger. Aren't we flash. We also buy a new car once the ashtrays are full. (!)

Yesterday I unpacked the last box which I guess means we are officially and terminally moved in. I just can't think where the last 6 months went. Or my bank balance. If anyone finds either of them can you pop them in the mail please?

Tiggy the dog has now developed arthritis and instigated our initiation into the world of UK vet bills and pet insurance, both of them being eye-wateringly costly though the latter will find whatever excuse it can not to pay out making it also fist-clenchingly annoying. Hopefully she'll only need one £550 x-ray.

But since we like chancing our luck we've added Bob and Eddie to the menagerie, just for sh*ts and giggles. And let me assure you, they produce a shedload of sh*t. At least with them being guinea pigs it's a lot simpler to scoop than Tiggy's. I'm still not sure why I caved to Poppets relentless pleading for more guinea pigs, given our appalling track record with the species, I hope I'm not going to regret this.

Dog and guineas met for the first time yesterday - luckily through metal bars or else I think there may have been carnage given how the dog went rigid and started quivering, much the same as when she spots a squirrel blithely hopping across the lawn. She's become obsessed with worldwide extermination of anything smaller, cuter and furrier than herself. (We still haven't had a squirrel pie yet but she put in a good chase after a rabbit the other day). I really hope I'm not going to regret this.

Pickle is now the proud owner of a shiny red electric guitar, with amp. If past experience is anything to go by, he will shortly announce his early retirement from super-stardom to concentrate on his Minecraft inventions, so I have taken pre-emptive action and engaged a home tutor so he can't 'forget' to go to the lessons. They were thumping out 'Wild Thing' by the end of their first jam last night and Pickle has declared his teacher 'cool' so I am optimistic.

I'm still housewifing, though I have been to a job interview thank you very much. Sadly unsuccessful. I think I blew it with Mrs Sock the sock-puppet which may have been too babyish for Year 4; I need to get with the vibe - British kids seem to be a whole lot more streetwise a whole lot younger compared to where I've been teaching. I've noticed some changes in my own kids. Pickle isn't so cuddly on school premises, preferring a nonchalant 'yo' as greeting rather than a fifty yard run up followed by a leap into a koala grip. And Poppet is developing an interest in boys... uh-oh.

Nobby is happy and just got promoted, hurrah! so our travels are well and truly over, hurrooh :( I took a wee jaunt over to Paris last weekend to catch up with Rose and Peony and see how many Frenchies I can offend with my rapidly declining language skills. Just to be different though, Rose and I were given a carafe of red wine by a French couple sitting next to us at our favourite sushi bar when they realised they couldn't finish it. Extraordinary. Later on I was witness to some blatant queue-jumping, classic body-shrugging and pointless road-rage so I soon felt at home again.

I'll leave you with a lovely picture of my final unpacking.

Average price of a VHS cassette when the Star Trek collection began: £14. Current value of all tapes, each containing 2 whole episodes of Start Trek: £0. Look on Nobby's face when he came home and saw it again after 3 years safely boxed up in the basement: priceless.