Tuesday 21 June 2011

The Birkenstocks' journey

They spent the first year of their life in London; frequenting the bars in Notting Hill, hanging out in the BBC canteen, and picnicking in Hyde Park. They were in their prime, and despite the wine stains, quite cool.

In 2003 they moved to the countryside, where the new terrain took a bit of getting used to. In their new environment they were something of a rarity, and although they relished being different, they missed their pals back in London.

It didn't take long for them to get back in their stride; they began walking up muddy mountains, wading through rivers, and frequenting the local pub. They happily started making new friends, and were delighted when others just like them started moving into town.

They went on to have many adventures; they went on a 15 mile trek in Cuba, they paddled in the sea in Italy, and they walked around many chateaus in France.

On a couple of occasions they were met with much hostility, once at a wedding, and once at a dinner/dance. But they stood tall and strong, and proudly danced for a good five hours, anyway.

In July 2005, they finally got the recognition they deserved, and although this time they were sadly not present (not for want of trying), they were mentioned in not one, but two speeches at the best, happiest wedding in the world, by two speakers who had become very used to having them around.

It was a sad day for them during the Summer of 2010; barely intact, they were begrudgingly put away, to make way for a much newer, shinier pair. Although they welcomed the much needed rest, they missed their trips to Sainsbury's, the playground, the soft play centre, and even the chicken coop, where the hens seemed to take exception to them being on their turf.

However, just three days later, they gleefully waved goodbye to the newer, shinier predator (who were now happily frolicking around on eBay), and they were back! And still to this day, although they are weary, they just keep on going.
Written for Josie's writing workshop

Sunday 19 June 2011

Crying in the playground

Betty went to school for a three hour induction session last Thursday morning, the first of five, in preparation for September. 

As I was walking back down the playground, having just dropped her off in her new classroom-to-be, I saw the Head Teacher.  'Is Betty OK about it all?' she asked me.  'Yes, she is absolutely fine  - really excited' I said. 

'Is the school uniform skirt, blue or grey?' I asked her, then burst into tears. 

Still whimpering, a barrage of questions then came out of my mouth:  'Will Betty have to wear black shoes?'  'Will she need to bring her own pencils?'  'What time does school start in the mornings?'  'Do the reception class have their playtimes on the big playground with the big kids?'  'Do they have homework at this age?'  'Does she really have to come to school?' 'Do parents often cry like this?'  The Head Teacher was warm, empathetic and reassuring in her response.

When I went back to pick Betty up at midday (after a fractious few hours of Dolly having a meltdown, and insisting that she too wanted to go to school), I asked Betty how she had got on.  'I played in the big playground, and I made a new friend, and I really like my teacher, but I really don't want to wear grey tights Mummy - please can I wear my gold sparkly ones?' she said. 

With a huge lump in my throat we drove home. We spent the rest of our Thursday making purple glittery play dough together, and then going to the playground, and having an ice-cream.

Friday 17 June 2011

No handbrake turns today

After a couple of hours at the supermarket with an unusually impeccably behaved Dolly, when we got to the top of our driveway, I rewarded her by letting her sit on my lap at the wheel, and 'drive' us the rest of the way home. I somehow knew she would relish this.

There she sat with two hands firmly on the steering wheel, she checked her rearview mirror, did some movement with the gear stick and then assertively said 'Go Mummy'.

I know that Dolly has only just turned two, but it took me right back to the days when I first learnt to drive. My brother, who is 18 months younger than me, taught me in a field when I was 14 (which made him about 12). This is what us country folk did back then - we didn't have anything else to do, other than terrorise sheep in fields by skidding and bombing around, doing handbrake turns, with windows down and some dodgy 90s track blasting out; 'All That She Wants' by Ace of Base springs to mind - I seem to remember listening to this song a lot in my Electric Blue Ford Escort car - the love of my life.

I very slowly took my foot off the brake and we began sedately meandering our way down the muddy track. 'GO FASTER MUMMY' Dolly bellowed. 'This is quite fast enough my darling' I said.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

I want to live in America Mummy

I sit at the kitchen table eating my toast, and look up at a picture on the wall of Dolly at around 7 months old - cute, and smiley, and relatively tame.  I reminisce fondly about her baby days; her being content with just a teaspoon to play with for hours on end, while gazing at me and Tom lovingly, and smiling sweetly at her sister.

'MUMMEEEEE' shakes me rudely from my thoughts.  I see Dolly, standing at the world map poster on the wall.  'I will live here' she says, pointing at North America.  'I will live here' she says again, as if labouring the point, and still pointing at America.

When I got to about 17 years of age, I had hankerings to move away from my hometown, onto to somewhere more exciting. Dolly has just turned two.

'And you, and Daddy, and Betty will live here' Dolly says, pointing to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Monday 13 June 2011

I don't care what the weatherman says...

Having camped many times in my life, I would describe myself as a pretty seasoned, unfazed camper.  I have experienced: being woken by a massive bird sitting on my chest, the car accidentally dragging the tent half way across the field by its guy ropes, not being able to remember which tent is mine, large bear-like animals poking their noses into the canvas in the dead of night, tent/music rage, being attacked by midges, tent burglary, and most weather conditions, including getting drenched, and getting half baked in the early morning sun.

So there we were on Saturday night, us Buttons, all lined up in a tired, snug, little row, in our tent, listening to the sound of the waves, our faces glowing from the cider, and the sunny warm day spent on the beach, playing in the sand dunes.  And I couldn't help but feel a little bit smug that we had ignored the weatherman's warnings, and made a last minute dash to the coast.  All was perfect.  And off we all went to sleep, in sandy, cosy, slopey airbed heaven.

At 3am I woke to the sound of rain lashing against the tent, and the wind ripping through it, blowing and bending it this way and that - rather vigorously I have to say.  And I could hear the waves crashing against the rocks just 50 yards away.  Tom and Dolly were snoring soundly.  I looked over at Betty and her eyes were wide open, not blinking.  'Betty' I whispered 'Are you ok?'  'I'm a bit scared' she replied.  'It's ok my darling, it's just a bit of wind and rain' I told her.  My heart was pounding, I was sweating like a pig, I was terrified.  I kept thinking about my friend's 12 ft trampoline, and how just a few weeks ago, the wind managed to blow it clean over her garden fence and onto the main road some distance away.  I imagined our tent being the trampoline (with us in it) and the main road being the sea.

I lay there, holding Betty's hand, and trying to think of a survival plan, if the tent indeed took off and landed in the sea, or collapsed and suffocated us all, or if the tent poles came free and knocked us unconscious.  I had just accomplished the first part of my plan, which was to find a form of light (my trusty mobile phone) in order to be able to see during the rescue operation, when a huge gust of wind swept under the tent and lifted us a couple of inches into the air.  Now convinced we were in a hurricane, I shook Tom awake, and told him he was to transport our children to the car.  'Don't be so ridiculous' he said, and promptly started snoring again.  I shook him again and aggressively whispered in his ear 'We are in severe danger, we need to get out'.

While Betty got more frightened, and I pretended not to be, Dolly slept on, and Tom was outside whacking tent pegs back in.  When Tom reappeared he coolly said 'It's all fine, go back to sleep'.

As we drove out of the campsite at 4am, with a befuddled Dolly, and a shell-shocked Betty, up to their ears in wet tent parts/sleeping bags etc, we saw many battered tents and campers dotted about the place.  We also saw that one family had given up on their tent completely and hurled it into the bins as they made a dash for cover.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Doctors and nurses

Betty's doctor's kit has been getting an airing recently, and she has spent many a happy hour fixing us all.

Betty to me:

'What have you hurt? Your ankle? Did you hurt your ankle in the desert or the woods? Is it the ankle on your arm or your foot? Did you fall over, or get a splinter from a tree? Right, take Calpol tonight and when you wake up. Stick this in your mouth and bite it [a thermometer] it will make you much better. I just need to count your teeth before you go. You have nine teeth, that is great. That's lovely, thank you - can you go home now please - go on off you go. N-E-X-T'.

Tom has also been treated by Dr Betty. They spoke intently for a while as Betty took Tom through the diagnosis: He had been doing Tai Chi balanced on the side of a boat and fallen into the sea, where 100 crabs had attacked him on the head and the knees.  Apparently Betty had treated his knees but said that his head would take a while longer to heal up.

Meanwhile 'Nurse Dolly', who was supposed to be assisting the doctor, was wandering around with an unidentified piece of furniture that looked like it had been ripped off a chair, and was bashing it against anything in her path.

Sunday 5 June 2011

One out of five

I have talked a lot on this blog about 'Duckie', Betty's longstanding cuddly friend.  I have written about the stresses of only having one Duckie, with no back-up to be found anywhere on the planet, despite my best efforts.  I have guarded that duck with my life for over four years, and despite a few minor mishaps, he has remained safe.  Half the Button household breathed a large sigh of relief recently when the duck went into semi-retirement, and was no longer a key player in Betty's life.

Determined not to make the same mistake twice, I watched Dolly like a hawk when she was a small baby, to see which of her cuddly friends she was forming a bond with.  It turned out to be Rabbit (pictured right).  I was thrilled as I knew exactly where I could buy more rabbits who were exactly the same, and I did just that.  We now have five identical rabbits in our possession.  One would think that this would solve all the problems and disperse the usual anxieties of Rabbit either getting: lost, covered in food or chicken shit, singed by the fire, mangled by the lawn mower, painted blue, left out in the rain in the back of a toy tractor, or stolen by a bird of prey.

Things inevitably failed to go to plan. I think it all went wrong when she discovered that there was more than one rabbit knocking around the place - she spotted three lone rabbits whizzing around in the washing machine on a 90 degree wash one fatal breakfast time (this was not very well executed on my part). She refused to go to sleep with fewer than two rabbits in her cot, then upped the stakes to three, until I sat her down and gave her a stern talking-to.

Things continued OK for a while until Dolly decided that there was only one particular rabbit that she was happy with.  She can tell from a million miles away if I am enthusiastically wielding the wrong one at her.  You might be forgiven for thinking that THE rabbit would be the original rabbit that she formed that bond with in the first place, but it's not. She is inseparable from her rabbit of choice (it is the most-used, worn one, the one that most resembles a rag).

So, it turns out that I continue on this journey of guarding a child's comforter with my life, and have four redundant rabbits, all of which permanently live in the washing machine in an attempt to wear them out.