Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Oy, washing machine repair man, just do yer job!

WARNING: This blog post contains disgusting, foul language which is entirely justified in it's use.

My washing machine is broken, my heart sank not because of the piles of washing and the money needed to repair it, but because I needed to call THAT guy. We have few repair people close by and he comes recommended around these parts. But he is a sexist pig and is a letch. Urgh.

I let him in the house and the banter began.

"Oh, your'e not naked then, this early in the morning!" he chippered, his blue-tooth thingy glued to his ear.

No, I'm not naked you prick, I thought.

"Tea?" I grinned and through clenched teeth.

Some other inane, plastic comment probably followed as he made his way into the utility. I left him to it. Dickhead.

The kids fascinated by strangers (need to batter that one out of them - fast) went down to have a chat. I quickly followed.

"You know what girls, I can fix these machines but if my life depended on it, all the clothes would come out Barbie size!" he started babbling.

"Pardon? What do you mean?" knowing full well what he bloody-well meant.

"Well, you girls just know how to do the washing, dontcha eh? Never shrink the clothes, but me I'm useless!"

"Mate," I said "If my life depended on it I would be able to fix this bloody washing machine, and my girls may not be doing the washing when they are adults, maybe their partner will, it's all about equality," I answered, my heart racing wanting to poke his eyes out with a shitty stick.

"Ahh, you women, just like machines......"

"NO, don't even go there with the punch line, we are not interested...!" I was getting fucking irate now.

So he gave the punch line anyway, saying some bullshit about how unpredictable and complicated we women are and how men are black and white and if men made cakes they would chuck it all in and we add the finesse. I kid you not. Just like that. A whole sentence of nonsense and without commas.

And it didn't stop there. He went on and on and on. And when he left, I put a load of washing on and the problem wasn't fixed. He has to come back tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The end is nigh

It is cold in the evenings and misty in the mornings. There are blackberries, spiders, darker evenings and the cats are spending even more time curled up asleep, in various imaginative places indoors. The summer is drawing to a close although we are still in August, the month which actually conjures up hot and sweaty images. The fire pit and barbeque have been stowed away, the lawnmower to the back of the shed so that the logs are accessible for the wood burner and I am also considering making a casserole. I even went school uniform shopping today and braved the shoe shop's number system.

But instead of thinking that the summer is over, I am believing that this is a new beginning. The children will be both in school and I am looking forward to the challenge of more work and diversifying, of getting better at riding and starting yoga. I am relishing painting the house to rid it of it's scuffs and scratches and I might even make the rhubarb chutney I promised myself in June.

I'm not ready to say 'goodbye' to the summer quite yet, just preparing myself mentally for it's gradual demise. Oh no, we have plenty of bike riding to do, brown signs to discover, a few beach trips left I'm sure - and we may even have to drag that fire pit into action again.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Notting Hill Carnival kiddie style

Gone are the days when we used to turn up to carnival at 4pm, down a few (several) Red Stripes, eat a quick curry goat, rice and peas, and then dance in front of the sound systems until they finished. And then hunted for the after party. And then partied some more as the following day is a Bank Holiday Monday. Yes, those days are gone.

Yesterday we enjoyed carnival with kids, age 4 and 6, and it was wonderful. Only a few hankerings for the old days but mainly we were ready to leave by mid afternoon, just as the crowds were getting intense and the police presence fierce. No, yesterday we saw a different side to carnival, we saw early morning in the sunshine and it made me proud once again to have London as our capital city.

We walked from Notting Hill gate tube through the beautiful streets watching the stalls set up for the day, we breathed in the pending excitement and coals for the jerk chicken. We bought whistles and considered horns.  And we waited for the floats with hundreds of young people following shaking their booty in a mesmeric and magnificent way. We hunted out our favourite sound systems and watched Norman J spin some early tunes, to a crowd like us. Thirty something, white, with kids, all remembering their party days on this street corner as if it were last week. Our excitement was infectious, little P stopping to dance jerkily at any drum n bass system, A fascinated by the people around her, drinking it all in, keeping quiet and internalising it all, as she does.

We reluctantly dragged ourselves away from the street party, just quicky stopping to drink a Supermalt and listen to some pumping Ragga.

"I love this music," said A "I can feel it in my chest!"

Friday, 24 August 2012

Strawberries and babies

We were down the allotment yesterday, just to water my three pumpkins and one courgette plant really. Everything else looked like it had been in a nuclear disaster -  I have put it aside for this year and instead appreciated the small mercies which made it through and beat the elements and the slugs. Soon it will be time to dig the whole plot over, manure and leave for the winter to start anew in the Spring. I am looking forward to that, a clean slate.

After tipping a a few watering cans of water over the plants which needed it, the thirsty, cracked earth drinking it in eagerly, I noticed in the strawberry patch a few glistening red jewels. They certainly weren't there a few days ago.

"Wow, girls, come and look at this...we have hundreds of strawberries....and raspberries.." I screeched excitedly.

Hundreds may have been an exaggeration but we managed to fill a fairly decent sized plant pot with the succulent fruits.

"Gosh, these strawberries are late!" I exclaimed, to myself really.

P piped up " Late for what Mummy?"

And we all giggled about the strawberries being late for our tummies.

But it got me thinking that nature knows no time, the strawberries will be ready when they are ready.

Just as those mothers waiting for their babies to arrive when they are late - 'past their due date' - are coerced into induction of labour because the clock says the babies should be here by now. The baby will come when he or she is ready, as the strawberry plant, they do not have watches.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

School uniform

I have kind of been sticking my fingers in my ears and singing la-la-la-la-la very loudly when people start talking to me about school uniform and school shoe buying. There are four reasons for this:

1) I never want the holidays to end
2) The weather is too good here in Sussex to be queuing in Clarks
3) It's going to be very expensive with two little girls to buy for this year

There, I said it.

The thought of little P in a school uniform fills me with dread, gone will be the days when she wears blue and gold dresses with wellie boots and a dinosaur mask. When she puts 10 clips in her hair, none of which are doing a job of keeping her hair out of her eyes. No more getting up in the morning and deciding what she fancies today and changing it 5 times throughout the day to suit her ever-changing needs and mood.

Of course I am sad that 6 year old A has to wear a uniform too, but she's already been doing it for 2 years and is institutionalised, just how they like them to be.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Welcome Bubble and Dizzy

We have two new additions to our family, and it's great.

Introducing Bubble and Dizzy, our new goldfish.

Gone are the days when goldfish were won at the fun fair and tipped unceremoniously into a bowl of sorts. No, goldfish keeping nowadays seems to be more complicated than looking after my beloved cats and has taken me weeks to sort out. The tank, pump, plants, ornamental bridge and stuff you put in the water were enough to keep me occupied for a few days, preparing for their arrival. Once the fish were bought they were placed in a plastic bag and inside a brown bag with strict instructions to get them home within the hour otherwise they will DIE, then to place the bag and fish on top of the water in their tank (which has to be prepared 3 days in advance) for 20 minutes before letting them out otherwise they will DIE, and not to feed them too much because of the nitrogen cycle otherwise they will DIE. And if they do DIE within 48 hours we can go get new ones.

So far, about 41 hours of being in our family they are still alive.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Greek Salad

We have just eaten a really delicious Greek Salad, seriously yummy with hot pitta and a Cambodian Wedding  Day dip. As you do on the weekend. The Cambodian Wedding day dip tasted exactly as one would imagine it to, sort of dippy and wedding day-ish, and most definitely Cambodian. But the Greek Salad just did not taste like it used to during the years I spent in Corfu. The tomatoes weren't tasty enough, the feta not crumbly or salty enough, the red onion not sweet enough, the olives not rich and purple enough and the olive oil not green and thick as it should be. It wasn't a bad attempt, just not the same.

It still managed to transport me back to my days as a Groom on the stunningly verdant island of Corfu. The summers would be spent looking after a menagerie of animals, not unlike Gerald Durrell's when he was a boy, as well as the show jumping horses who were on their holiday from the show circuit on the mainland. My job involved recovering from enormous all night partying in Corfu's 18-30 hot spots, jumping in the Fiat 500 with the dogs and chugging my way up the mountains deep into the Greek countryside. Past gnarled olive groves, tortoises ambling across the roads and waving to locals who knew me as the crazy English horse girl. I would feed Hoffy, the 45 year old gelding with one eye, before opening up the gates to the yard where I would be greeted by a gaggle of hissing and spitting geese, way more effective than any dog.

The days were spent alone with the animals. Riding through dried scrub land scented with oregano and rosemary, green snakes weaving their way across our paths making me squeal and the horses shy, over olive nets, across the height of the hills with magnificent views to Albania with a deep turquoise sea separating the island from the mainland. These are very happy memories. I was 24 or so, no responsibilities other than to keep myself alive - and I tested that often enough. I would love my children to have the opportunity of freedom and adventure before life gets too serious. These experiences shape your life and will provide me with brain fodder as I rock aimlessly in the nursing home.

I remember when the tomatoes used to taste of tomatoes, the red wine was bought by the 5 litre plastic container and the days were spent riding bareback without a hat. 

Ah yes, I hope my children have plenty of 'I-remember-when's'.

Friday, 17 August 2012


Why wait until Winter to spin yarns around a log fire?

We have found the dream answer to all the joys of camping but with a double bed, clean duvet and breakfast with ceramic plates. Its the Fire Pit. For about £40 our fire pit has provided us with huge amounts of fun, kept us warm and outside until midnight listening to the owls, as well as teaching the children one or two things about fire. We have cooked sausages beautifully with charcoal first, and then when the eating has finished, add kindling and logs to create a real camping feel in the garden, toasting marshmallows and toasting our feet whilst listening to stories.

Poking and fiddling with a fire is one of the most satisfying past times, chatting and drinking beer at the same time and listening to all the night time noises which elude us in the safety of our homes. Our fire has created another room, the camping room, the adventure room, the outdoorsy nature room. And when we wake up the next morning in our clean white sheets, our hair is alive with bonfire smoke and the discarded jeans need washing for the third time this week.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Fomo at the festival

We can't recommend this festival highly enough. Croissant Neuf in Usk, Wales, was fabulous from start to finish. It was absolutely perfect for families and even the loo's were acceptable. We are going back next year most definitely. Maybe see you there?

The weekend started with sun, blistering sun, which was just lovely once the tent had been erected. Wandering around the small but vibrant festival site, a warm beer in hand, we didn't know where to start. There was a trapeze to try out, some Goan curry to eat, children's theatre to watch, two bands playing at the same time, lanterns to make, trampolines to bounce on, stalls to rummage through and a beautiful field to sit back, relax and take it all in. We had fomo. And we had it bad. Fear. Of. Missing. Out.

When there is all this festival fun to be had, it's hard to know what to do and when. So we mostly sat back, relaxed and took it all in from the beautiful field.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

What do you call yours?

"Put your chumey away P, please!" I asked politely.

What? I hear you ask.

Chumey. Chume. Choom. It's what we call your bottom in our family. And now it's so normal that I believe it is part of the English language. Where does it come from?

When P was a baby, or 18 months or so, I really can't remember, she would say:

"My bot-chume hurts/itchies/sore!"

And it started from there really. Chume. Choom. Chumey. I think it's a great word for your bum.

We have just spent a fantastic weekend deep in the Black Mountains, camping and festivalling once again (more of that later) with dear friends. My throat is sore from talking and my cheeks ache from laughing. Spending 3 solid days in close company with friends we realised that they have plenty of pet family names for all sorts of words.

My favourite being 'tanti-larti' - which means naked obviously.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Just one more

It's been a wonderful day. The sun was glorious, the allotment uplifting, a coffee in the gorgeous King John's Nursery and I even mowed the lawn. Any one of these events could have been a blog post. I could have written about the fabulously gaudy colours of the gladioli, the audible hum of the bees, the children's never-ending games of Mum's, Dad's, sister's and babies or even about my impending trip to Wales and another festival.

But no. I'm afraid it is another one about the Olympics. Last one, I promise.

Today was the individual dressage competition when the horse appears to dance to music. Rider and beast are in complete unison and (hopefully) in time to the music. Even the most heathen of equestrians will appreciate the beauty of the horses and sheer power and training that has gone into this sport.

And when Charlotte Dujardin entered the ring, on her stunning horse Valegro, known as Blueberry in the stable, the tears started streaming down the cheeks. Extended canter to 'Land of Hope and Glory' across the arena and pirouettes to the chimes of Big Ben tugged harder at the heart. I couldn't quite understand why I was sobbing so much and so loudly. Was it the admiration of her riding and accuracy, as I know how difficult it is to ride in a simple circle? Was it the beauty of the horse and the ease of the rider? Was it her age and the fact she was so young? Was it London? Was it Great Britain? The patriotic choice of music? Was it because she won GOLD?

All of the above.

Once it was over and the medals awarded I felt a sense of relief, that life can resume some sort of normality. Zooming straight to the nearest store for an emergency pair of children's wellies for the festival this weekend, there before me was a beautiful, black, velvet riding hat in exactly A's size. She tried it on and grinned as it fit her, then proceeded to do a perfect piaffe around the shop.

"I want to be like Anky van Grunsven riding Salinero in the dressage," she said, enjoying the way the foreign names rolled off her tongue.

I had no idea she had been taking this all in. So we bought the hat.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

"It's alright once you get in!"

I never go in the sea. It always looks so tempting glistening in the sunlight but I just can't get beyond my big toe. Cold water makes me squeal, I hate the feeling. The last time I fully immersed myself in the sea was in Malaysia 8 years ago, and was bitten regularly by feeder fish which kind of put me off. The last time I fully immersed myself, I mean shoulders and all, in the British sea was, well, when I was a kid probably.

Sunday was one of those unexpected glorious days. Turning up in jeans and coats to treat friends to our trademark sausages-on-the-beach, the sun made a welcome appearance, and then it started to get hot - really hot. Everyone who had been in the sea exclaimed all that 'it's OK once you're in' malarkey which quite frankly I have never cared to believe or wanted to find out.

Then, out of nowhere, I found myself taking off my watch and wedding ring and walking towards the crashing waves, I was doing this for Team GB. If they could win three gold medals on Super Saturday then I could jolly well get in the sea.

And people are right you know. I couldn't breathe for about 3 minutes. The water was so cold and I was heaving for oxygen, but then slowly after thrashing around a bit, the water felt restorative and fantastic. Thank you Jess Ennis, Mo and Greg for being such an inspiration, because once you're in, the sea is wonderful.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Front row, baby!

It was persistence, determination, blood, sweat, tears, grit and a whole load of luck which landed me three tickets to the Olympics yesterday. I refreshed the screen like a maniac and there, out of the blue, up came dressage tickets available at a reasonable cost of £40 for me and £6 and £4 for the kids, paying a pound per year they have been on this earth. Swept up in the excitement, adrenaline surging as I paid on line, I didn't give too much thought to how boring dressage is to children, they are not interested in horses particularly, even I have to put it third on my list of all equestrian disciplines. If polo was in the Olympics, dressage may even be relegated to fourth place.

The journey to Greenwich park was fantastic. London 2012 volunteers made the process of getting from the train to the stadium, efficient, easy and pleasurable. Everyone was happy! London was smiling! I felt so proud to be part of this occasion, tears welling up in my eyes frequently until I saw the stadium and then they actually began to pour down my cheeks. What an emotional idiot, the kids had no clue what was going on, thousands of people, everyone saying hello to them, telling them to wave their flags and their mother in tears. Actually, I've just wiped away a few now just remembering the emotion.

And then we found our seats. The official looked at our tickets, looked at me, looked at the kids and looked at our tickets again.

"Wow, you've got front row seats, " she said surprised at my unkempt, red blotchy face and two dishevelled children.

And there we were, at the Olympics, London 2012 in the middle of the front row, beneath the Olympic family and just above the riders and press.

We were so close we could hear the horses snort, we could see the expressions on the riders faces, I could see the movements in detail and hear the riders pat their horses neck after the test. The enormous roar of the crowd after British riders was overwhelming, it was also the time when the children were allowed to be noisy and wave their flags.

How I entertained the children in the front row of the Olympics through 5 hours of dressage? - well that's another story indeed.