Friday 23 September 2011

Germ control

I am completely neurotic about germs. When out in public I will not touch the buttons on a pedestrian crossing, or shop door handles, or the keypad on cash machines, or anything else that the masses might have put their grubby mitts on. I will always use my sleeve. And I would certainly never touch the flush handle in a public toilet, or the taps, or the button on the hand dryer, without using a piece of loo paper.

I had mild panics about Betty starting school and the fact that my 'germ control' would be out of my hands. And sure enough, just two weeks into the term Betty, who is not a sickly child, got a sickness bug. This has only further fuelled my anxieties about all the grotty germs lurking at school. Lots of little people, clumsily wiping their bottoms, not washing their hands properly, holding hands, sticking their fingers up their noses, and into their mouths, and then sharing each others sandwiches.

The vomitting occured just before we were about to leave the house for school on Tuesday morning, when Betty complained of a stomach ache. I naturally thought she was making it up, and ushered her towards the front door. She then promptly projectile vomitted all over me. Meanwhile a bemused Dolly watched on from the car.

Betty sobbed and begged me not to send her to school. Crikey, she must have a really low opinion of me, I thought to myself. I calmed her down, mainly by helping her identify what was in her sick and why it was the colour it was, and soothingly assured her that I would not be sending her to school.

I naively imagined her staying in bed all day, with a flannel on her head, sipping water and watching DVDs, leaving me to get on with all the work I had planned on the only full child-free day I get a week.

After twenty minutes of lying tucked up in bed in her pyjamas, Betty had basically made a full recovery. I walked into the room expecting her to be ailing, but found her making a den, wearing nothing but her gold tights and ballet shoes, and eating her way through a packet of chocolate biscuits. And it wasn't even 9.30am.

By 10.00am, although relieved that she was suddenly better, I think both Betty and I were wishing she was back at school. 'You are driving me nuts,' Betty told me.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Hooves beat along the quiet lanes

'When I turn into a grown-up, can I ride a foal Mummy?' Betty asked me as we drove back from the pub along the narrow country roads. 'Yes of course you can learn to ride a horse when you are a little bit older,' I replied, through gritted teeth.

I have had many run-ins with horses in my time, and don't particulary like them very much now. The combination of the subject of horses and the fact we were driving along a remote country lane, took me right back to a Christmas when my best friend and I thought it would be fun to foster a horse over the holiday period. This meant proper responsibility - feeding, mucking out, and riding...

Weirdly I really didn't mind the feeding and mucking out bit, but was absolutely terrified of the riding part. The one thing that made it slightly more bearable was that my friend and I did it together; one would lead the horse and one would sit on it.

On Christmas morning my friend announced that she was far too busy opening presents for horse duties and that I had to go it alone. I was pretty annoyed about this. Not only was the whole looking after a horse for the Christmas holidays her idea, but also I was desperate to play with my new much anticipated midi hi-fi.

As I rode Simba, the horse, down the remote country lane, with not a single soul in sight, we began our decent down a fairly steep hill. A couple of seconds in I felt a very weird sensation, and one I hadn't experienced in my limited riding experience. I quickly realised, to my absolute horror, that we were now sliding down the icy hill on Simba's hooves. I glanced at him to see if he seemed in control of the situation, but his eyes looked big and frightened. I, in turn, was terrified.

Skidding down the hill, and landing in a heap at the bottom with a chestnut horse lying on top of me, possibly dead, and no one being around to rescue us (because they were all in their nice warm houses opening presents and drinking sherry), and dying of hypothermia, and all on Christmas morning, was what went through my head.

In fact, none of this happened.  We probably slid for all of a second before the horse regained control, and we turned around and slowly walked back to the paddock. But this, and many more subsequent horse incidents have put me off horses for life, and I have been dreading the day when my kids would bring up the whole 'I want a pony' thing.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Save the Children - No Child Born to Die campaign

Children are dying from causes we know how to prevent or treat. That’s why lots more doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers are needed in the poorest countries. We can stop millions of children dying. The No Child Born to Die campaign has helped secure a massive increase in funding for life-saving vaccines. Now we must take the next step to ensure children don’t die simply because they are too poor to see a doctor or nurse. Half of the 8 million children who die each year are in Africa, yet Africa has only 3% of the world’s doctors, nurses and midwives.

Join the No Child Born to Die campaign to ensure that no child dies because they can't see a health worker - help to save children's lives by signing this petition.

The world leaders are meeting at the UN in New York on 20th September - please support the campaign by calling on David Cameron to play his full part in solving the health worker crisis.

Take a few moments to sign the petition, blog about it, put it out on Facebook and Twitter (#healthworkers), anything to help spread the word.

Monday 12 September 2011

Housework confession

The low autumn sun really shows up the dust and dirt and cobwebs in my house.  And then when the sun goes down, the dirt seems to disappear with it.  So in the evenings I slump onto the sofa with my wine and kid myself into thinking that just because I have thrown a hoover around for a bit that my house is immaculate.

Due to the nature of my job (raising children) I find my cleaning standards have slipped somewhat.  After a day spent washing up, sweeping food off the kitchen floor, wiping all the surfaces, picking up toys and random objects up off every floor in the house, cooking, looking after my kids, making beds, and hanging washing out, seventeen times over, I have no remaining energy to do any actual cleaning.

So this is the bare-minimum-cleaning routine I have found myself slipping into, I am ashamed to say:
  • I only clean the downstairs bathroom when I know we are going to have visitors, who might need to use it (I am highly embarrassed on the occasions when I get caught out with a surprise visit)
  • I only clean the the upstairs bathroom when I know people are staying the night, as they will need to use the shower
  • I only hoover the downstairs rooms about once a week - normally on a Thursday night after Tom and I have had a takeaway curry and spilt pilau rice and poppadom crumbs all over the carpet
  • I only hoover the upstairs bedrooms when I am in a bad mood, as I find it is a good way to let off steam
  • I only clean Tom's office when I know that he has a business meeting in there, or a piano lesson, or a Tai Chi drinks reunion (although in actual fact Tom should clean his bloody room himself)
  • I only mop the kitchen floor when our feet are actually sticking to the tiles or when Betty tells me it is looking 'disgusting'
  • I only dust the TV and the windowsills about twice a year
  • I never clean skirting boards or windows or door ledges or under the beds
I am currently sitting back with my glass of wine in the darkness and congratulating myself on a clean house.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Starting school and the Gurgle blog awards

Betty started school on Tuesday, and survived the week without a hitch.  She even picked up a little certificate in the Praising Assembly on Friday for 'her enthusiasm about school life and being a pleasure to have in the classroom'.  And while Betty was very cool about it, I was jumping up and down with uncontrollable joy and insisted we went out for a celebratory dinner.  I had to stop myself from framing the certificate (it is now stuck on the fridge instead).

However, I felt a neglectful mother, because during Betty's first week at school, I went to London to attend the Gurgle blog awards on Thursday, which meant I wouldn't be around on Thursday afternoon/Friday morning.  Again, Betty was very cool about this, but I was not, and I thought about her constantly while I was away. I couldn't wait to get home and see her and Dolly. Tom told me later that Dolly had taken my absence pretty hard and asked him a couple of times 'Where's my best friend mummy?' Which just about broke my heart.

But, the Gurgle awards were great fun.  I took one of my best friends, who lives in London, and we had a fab time.  Having gone for dinner in Pizza Express, we wandered up and down Dean Street in our ridiculous shoes, and could not find the Soho Hotel anywhere (which is where the awards were being held).  Finally we rocked up, about an hour late, sweating like pigs, just in time to down some wine and miniature burgers. And before the ceremony had even begun I had no choice but to change into flip flops which I happened to have in my bag, much to my friend's combined disappointment and embarrassment.

We met the lovely Gurgle team and Mothercare staff, and some lovely bloggers.  I wish I had got to meet more bloggers, but it all seemed to go so fast. I was absolutely thrilled to win the 'Mothercare Loves...' Gurgle blog award, but I was far less thrilled at having to stand next to the lovely Myleene Klass and have my picture taken.  It really knocks the confidence, standing next to someone so immaculate, beautiful, thin, funny etc.  When I got home I tried to do a bit of tinkering on Photoshop to make the photo look better - I changed it to black and white for a start, to disguise my red shiny glow, and I tried to get rid of my double chin using some blurring out tool.

Anyway, all in all this week has been very emotional, nerve-wracking, hectic, and fantastic. Now we are about to go to an Onion Fayre, which I am told is the place to be, of a grey drizzly Saturday, and I get to spend some quality time with my girls.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Not just a one-off

Today, having:
  • not slept all night
  • deliberated over blue v grey school tights between 2am and 4am
  • woken up to the alarm (for the first time in years) having just got to sleep
  • considered whether to phone the kids in sick and get more sleep
  • woken the kids up
  • meticulously packed their lunch boxes with an array of impressive food items
  • given them a proper hearty breakfast, as opposed to their usual Cheerios
  • got them dressed
  • felt surges of pride towards them
  • taken hundreds of photos of them in their uniform
  • bribed them with sweets to stand still, hold hands, and say 'cheese' while smiling nicely
  • joined the scrum in the school car park, trying to find somewhere to park
  • nervously walked Betty into her new classroom
  • stopped myself from bawling
  • stopped myself from begging Betty to come back home with me
  • clocked that I was fatter than all the other mums
  • realised that I had forgotten to brush in all the Batiste dry shampoo on my hair
  • walked Dolly into her pre-school
  • stopped myself from bawling
  • clocked that I was fatter than all the other mums
  • taken some paracetamol
  • moped around, hoping that my kids were ok and having a nice time
  • ran to the loo a lot
  • re-joined the scrum in the car park, and made an embarrassing hash of trying to reverse the new people carrier
  • cursed Tom for not removing the attention-grabbing pod from the roof
  • tried to extract information, in vain, out of both girls about what they had been doing all day
  • eavesdropped on a conversation between Betty and Dolly about what they had been doing all day
  • carefully removed school uniform and folded it up neatly
  • uploaded a photo onto Facebook of the girls in their uniform
  • unpacked bags and lunch boxes, and washed flasks
  • prepared a special celebratory 'first day of school' supper
  • taken some paracetamol
  • got the kids to bed
  • wondered whether wine with a banging headache was a good idea...

I slumped into a chair, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and thought 'thank goodness that's all over with'.  I have been so focused on 'the first day' that I think I subconsiously thought that that is all it was, one day, before getting back to staying in bed for as long as we liked, and having tea and toast in front of CBeebies, wearing nothing but gold sparkly tights and tiaras all day (the kids not me) and all meals casually merging into one.

It slowly dawned on me, as I lay in an exhausted and emotional heap, that we had to do the whole thing again tomorrow... and the next day... and the next...

Sunday 4 September 2011

Thank you for the summer of 1990

Who would have thought that exactly 21 years later, I would be writing about an ex-boyfriend (who I will call R) on this blog - an ex-boyfriend who I hadn't seen since our summer teenage fling back in 1990 - one of the most memorable summers of my youth.

It was the summer that I left school. The sun shone a lot, and my friends and I, and R, spent most of our time at the river having bbqs, swimming and laughing a lot.  I will always remember that summer.  I will always remember being besotted with R - the new boy in town... the boy that I bagged... the charming, confident, funny boy from away, the boy who told me that he would love me forever.

He then broke my heart, but in a very kind and gentlemanly way, in a way that made it impossible to hate him.  He had had a profound effect on me during that summer, and then it was over and he had run off with a school friend of mine.  And being a fickle teenager, I quickly moved on to somebody else too, and all was forgiven and forgotten.

I didn't see him again, or so I thought. Unknown to me he grew metre long dreads (having always been a short back and sides kind of guy) and so, without realising it, I probably bumped into him on countless occasions during my visits back from London.

Then last week I found out that in July, he was in a fatal motorcycle accident not far from here, and died at the scene of the accident.  I haven't been able to stop thinking about him ever since.  I find it hard to articulate why I can't stop thinking about him, specially as I haven't really given him a second thought for the last 21 years.  Perhaps it is because although I don't often think of that summer, I never forgot, and I held the memories firm, and now I feel that part of me and my past has been altered, and will never be the same again.

After some Googling, I found a Facebook page that has been set up for everyone to post up pictures, video clips and memories of R. This is how I found out about the dreads.  And apart from the dreads, he looked exactly the same; the same sparkly face, just 21 years older.  The comments were unbelievably touching, and utterly heartbreaking to read. He was obviously very well loved by his family and all his friends, and he was still the charismatic and funny boy I remember all those years ago.

If only I had known about the dreads, I may have recognised him in the local Co-op and sparked up a conversation with him.  And I would have been sure to point out to him his very dodgy hair.  It makes me feel very sad that I will now never get the chance, but perhaps if he hadn't died, I wouldn't have thought about him for another 21 years.  Who knows.

I am raising a glass to you R, thanks for the summer of 1990. May you rest in peace.  x

Friday 2 September 2011

A place of my own

When we lived and worked in London, in dreary, crowded offices, Tom had romantic ideas of living in the countryside, and having an office in our house that looked out over rolling hills, a winding river, and apple trees. A room that would be his sanctuary, his quiet space, where he would sit at his late grandfather's old antique desk and write his first novel about the end of the world. The walls would be lined with his vast book collection, and a piano would sit along the far wall, along with his array of guitars.

Tom fulfilled his dream, and he now has this office, where he works from home, plays his piano, and listens to weird music.  And before we had children he began his first novel.

Two children later, the novel is still unfinished, and his room has slightly changed form.  Despite having a playroom in our house, his space now has toy shopping trolleys, ride-on bugs, and glittery fairy pictures lining the walls, and plastic tea sets and lego strewn across the floor. It also has two miniature beings whizzing across its long wooden floor on scooters and bikes, and bashing at his beloved piano, at will, with no consideration that 'Daddy has to work'. The kids aren't totally to blame though, as I too have now claimed part of his room, and have planted my own desk in there, because I also wanted to sit in a nice place and write, while staring out at the fields.

Despite all this, I believed that the set-up of Tom and I sharing an office was working, and felt a little bit smug that we seemed to be the ultimate, modern day, cool couple, who could sit and write/work together in harmony, while the kids were at preschool/school.

However, Tom recently announced that he finds my presence off-putting, that I tap the keyboard too loudly, that I sigh and tut a lot, that I make him feel self-conscious with my comments about his telephone conversations with his work colleagues, and that he indeed needs to work alone.

I coolly suggested that he invest in a garden office, where he could sit in peace once more, and watch his pumpkins grow, and gaze adoringly at his chickens, while getting some work done, and finishing that novel.

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Thursday 1 September 2011

Blowing dandelion clocks in slow motion

Tom thinks he sometimes gets a bit of a raw deal on this blog.  I tell him that it is all in jest.  But in his honour, I wanted to document what he got up to with his girls last weekend...

He took them on long walks with big bags, and collected hundreds of blackberries.  He spent hours with them at the chicken coop, collecting eggs and letting the chicken run free so that the girls could chase them.  He spent an afternoon with Betty putting about a billion miniature foam balls back into a washed bean bag.  He picked bunches and bunches of Sweet Peas with them and got them to place them in vases all around the house. He did loads of cooking with them: they made blackberry and apple crumble, plum jam and a big roast dinner using all our veg from the garden that they picked themselves. He prepared breakfast for them using the jam that they had made together. He took them out in the rain with their umbrellas because that's what they love to do.  He did some gardening with them, drew pictures, made up stories, took them shopping, and tended to them in the middle of the night. 

He danced barefoot through sun-dappled meadows with them, blowing dandelion clocks in slow motion, with the sounds of 'Why do birds suddenly appear' drifting through the air.

Meanwhile, I spent time putting up shelves, cleaning windows, clearing out the shed, and taking stuff to the rubbish dump.