Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013

I'm squeezing a last post in before the guests start to arrive, just a chilled affair of a takeaway curry, some bubbles and chats with long lost friends. A perfect end to a perfectly good year.

I would say it has been a good year, not a stonkingly fantastic one - but certainly a calm, life reaffirming and happy year. You could say 'What more do you want?' out of a year. I guess I am greedy, I like big challenges, huge changes, scary decisions, life changing actions instead of everyday-niceness.

Two thousand and thirteen challenged my attitude to age, embracing 40 rather than fearing it. A big chestnut horse entered my life and changed it - pushing the boundaries and challenging my bravado. The children grew up and continued to fill every day with a lot of pleasure, I'm feeling very lucky to be part of their journey and just hoping I don't f**k them up too much. He changed jobs and had a blissful break in the middle of the summer where days were filled with barbeques and beaches, friends and much needed stress-relief. It gave us time to consider what we would really like to do, be and how we would like to live - plotting dreams into ever tangible realities.

A is going to do neater hand writing this year, P would like to learn to ride a bike and I would like to aim high and jump high. A change of career is near, long-haul travel booked and a new direction being pursued. We have such limited time on this earth why wouldn't I want 2014 to be a stonkingly fantastic one?

Happy New Year one and all, thank you so much for reading!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The in-between bit

Christmas came and went. I managed the food alarmingly well; with just a soggy tomato, a bag of salad and half a lemon tarte making it to the bin so far. We had not a brussel sprout or a pig-in-blanket in sight this year, instead I chose a Middle Eastern feast full of spicy lamb, falafels, stuffed aubergines, jewelled rice with dips and sauces galore. It required no less work than the turkey dinner but made me happy knowing everything was a little different than usual - the lack of waste was positively joyful.

It's not really a break, Christmas time. In fact this is the first time I've sat at my pooter in days - he's in bed with the flu #2 and the kids are watching the Cbeebies panto for the squillionth time. I just had a maniacal attack on the wrapping paper, tutting at the plastic, burning a load of cardboard and shoving all their stocking bits into a shoe box each. The house needs hoovering again. More food needs buying. The booze is depleted and we need fizz for New Year.

This in-between bit is itchy-scratchy. I can't quite get on with my resolutions so am carrying on with the bad habits. The tree is still up and moulting. The left over bits of stilton still might be eaten. I keep finding cracker debris. He even agreed that a big escape to somewhere hot next year might be a good idea. I think it's a great idea, I'm sure Santa would still visit us in the Caribbean.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Counting down the days

I'm counting down, it's so exciting and we all can't wait for a much needed break together as a family. No, not Christmas, that's one big stress ball, but our next family adventure.

We are going to India in 15 weeks and 4 days. Encouraged by our long haul trip to Cuba a couple of years ago, we've been frantically saving the pennies for another big one - finally deciding on India. Well, I decided on India, he is very accommodating when it comes to holidays.

We are off to Kerala actually, to wash elephants and live the real-life jungle book. We are staying in a fort, in tea plantations, on an old rice boat. We are going to meet some elephants and realise a life long 7 year olds dream - which started as a newborn with a stuffed toy called Flumpy. We will learn about religions, culture, cooking and yoga, go on jungle walks, fishing trips, bicycle rides and meet school children. These are the things I am hoping we will do and see and experience, but I'm sure there will be a lot, lot more.

Ooooh, I can't wait, I can't wait. 109 sleeps until India.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Trot on!

Horses are my passion, bordering on downright obsession. I am careful not to bring horses to the blog too much, or to mention them in the school playground and certainly not over a steak dinner with him. Horses seem to divide people a little like marmite, most not understanding the addiction. So I was very careful about introducing ponies to the littles. They have tried it a couple of times; cadging rides from friends, a trek in Corfu in the searing heat shouting "Yassu!" to Greek men with no teeth, they have had a couple of lessons with a bored instructor who kept looking at her phone and we left it there.
Now, A has been asking to ride. She enquires about Fletch, the great big ginger gelding I share, she is thrilled when I bring home a rosette and she has hinted that she would like to canter and jump like the big girls. So in the beautiful winter sun we tried a new family-run riding school, I grinned the whole lesson. Look! I have two Olympic potentials in the family!


And possibly the beginning of a lifetime love affair with horses.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Sweaty paws

It was after the fifth night in a row that I decided to take her to the vet. Waking us up each night, the retching, the heaving and then the depositing of thick brown fluid on our bedroom carpet had finally culminated into shoving the cat in a box and driving to the local surgery. The children were excited to come and meet the vet and to soothe Cleo in her hour of need.

She wailed and called all the way. A clamped her hands on her ears panicking at the strange and unheard noise the cat was making. She was utterly terrified, A was too.

"Mummmmmmy, I don't like it!" cried A, starting to sob.

"It's OK, it's OK..." P soothed and started to make up a very sweet song about how the vet was going to make Cleo better and that she would soon stop puking up brown goo.

She was very well behaved in the waiting room, staring out of her catty box at the puppy opposite and the Slinky Malinky style cat next to her.

"Cleo!" the vet called. Cute that they call the cats name and not ours. He was a nice man, calm and slight with an honest animal-loving face. I started to tell him of her ailments interjected by P's graphic description of the sick and the poo and the wee all over the utility room.

He gave her a couple of injections which had A gasp with terror and fear, clamping her eyes shut this time. Cleo left blood on the vet and the nurses arm when they shoved a thermometer up her bum and then wet the table. Mortified I apologised for my felines behaviour and the urine.

"Oh no, that'll be sweat," he said "Cats sweat from their paws when they are scared."

Well I never, bless her little cotton paws. And from this day forward the vets will now be known as The Sweaty Paw Shop.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Love in a box

Christmas is upon us, a time of year I struggle with but put on a brave face for the kids. The season starts with some charity, before the onslaught of greed, excess and plain over-eating. Every year a friend of mine encourages us to fill a shoe box with presents for children less fortunate than ours. The local project is called 'Love in a box' - lorries take these shoe boxes from Sussex to countries all over Eastern Europe, there are emotional videos of the kids opening their presents on their website. It feels like a more personal sense of giving, rather than a tenner via the internet.

Every year we have the same arguments. Two shoe boxes, which my two children are encouraged to fill with some of their toys to give to poorer children who may not even have a mummy or a daddy. One shoe box is over flowing with gifts, from A - and the other is, well, empty.

"C'mon P, what about this teddy - imagine a little girl opening this on Christmas morning, don't you think she would like this teddy?" I cajole.

"No, it's MIIIIIIIINE!" she wails, throwing herself and the teddy on her bed dramatically.

"What about this little bag? Or this dolly? Or a nice necklace?" I ask getting a little angry.

"NOooooooooooooooooo!" the sobs are loud and real, her cheeks streaked with tears.

We revisit the computer and show her all the children who have nothing and what this gift would mean to them. She doesn't get it. She's five. So I leave it at that. And when they are at school I do a mine sweep of their rooms and get a shoe box of goodies that any little girl would be happy to receive. I top the box up with some pens, sweets, hair accessories and stickers.


When they return from school they open the boxes, which I told them not to, and screamed and cried at the contents. The stuffed horse didn't make it to Romania, nor the plastic fairy, but we came to an agreement on the others.

Love in a box? Reluctance in a box is perhaps a little more accurate.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Just a cold

I'm sorry for the break, I have been ill you see, just a cold. I feel I have to apologise for my lack of illness, it really wasn't the flu or a dramatic sick bug. Just a cold. But boy, did I feel ill. I really don't want to feel like that again for a very long time.

I felt as though I couldn't complain - being a stoical woman and all - with my head pounding, my sinuses bellowing and my nasal passages streaming, it's just a cold after all. No one has any sympathy with the cold, the poor men having 'man-flu' hurled at them if they even mutter a whine about their snottiness.

I am so very grateful that this cold is almost over, leaving me with an attractive crustiness around my nose and upper lip, with grey and sallow skin to start the winter and with a feeling I haven't achieved very much in the last week. I can't wait to start afresh, cold-free, with goals still to achieve before the year is out.

One thing is for certain, ill health makes you very appreciative of well-being - and how very important it is to make every moment of that wellness count.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Home school

It's that time of year, my sinuses are screaming as I type. What are sinuses anyway? Do we need them? I'd like mine to take a hike.

The children had filthy colds this week, well A was genuinely ill and P just needed a day off, persuading me by snorting through her nose so violently as if to validate her skive. I didn't leave the house all day, not even to put out some rubbish, we cosied up together and pretended we home-schooled.

We started the day late, all eating a good breakfast together. We read, A read her book upstairs and I helped P with her reading book in front of the fire - we took time to talk about the story, we took time to answer the questions in the back of the book, we discussed her favourite parts of the book. We took time and it was nice.

Next the girls researched on the computer, A looked up and wrote a paragraph about the Tudors and P looked up the toys in the 'olden days' ie the 1970's. They drew pictures, learnt how to print, used Google like a pro and helped each other when they got stuck.

We had some lunch, all together, and they finished what was on their plates as they had time to do so - unlike the amount of waste that comes home in their sandwich boxes when they are rushed to eat in school. We talked about what was on the news, the horrors that the people of the Philippines are experiencing, some politics and some sporting news which I struggled to explain.

We played catch with juggling balls after lunch - that was our PE, then they had some free time while I caught up with some emails and did the washing up. We played pelmanism, P thrashed us in the first game and sulked when she lost the second. We made some flapjacks, each taking it in turn to weigh and measure, and then they helped me with the dinner. School didn't finish that day, we carried on until bed time.


('Scuse the union jack napkins - a hangover from the jubilee!)

I liked it, home schooling for one day. Could I do it forever? I don't think so. The kids fought all the time, they bicker, they argue, they day dream, they don't listen, I have little patience, I want to ride, I need to work and they missed their friends. But for one day, home schooling was just fine.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Chance meeting

The journey back was blissful. The warm air on the coach and the smooth ride of the asphalt road had me dozing in a few minutes, my thoroughly relaxed body then slipped into a deep sleep as the grey, volcanic rock passed us by.

Iceland had proved to be a spectacular mix of curious and stunning, an unusual choice for us - usually preferring warmer climes and more exotic, spicier locations. We enjoyed the intimacy of Reykjavik. The bars and coffee shops were full of perfectly bilingual young people, wearing the heavy jumpers of their ancestors - thick, waterproof wool with diamond shaped patterns around the collar. You could almost smell the sheep as they walked past. We sipped ‘Gull’ beer, hung out because we could, ate strange and unacceptable foods. It was fun being wrapped up in coats in September, different.

With only four days of freedom we chanced the Blue Lagoon alongside the hoards of tourists alighting the coaches, most were Japanese, a few Brits and some Scandinavians. We queued with our stashed hotel towels in our rucksacks, as if we were backpackers, waiting for the wristbands with which we could order massages, coffee or beautifully packaged bottles of shampoo. We went our separate ways at the changing rooms to meet again shivering in our swimwear at the edge of the lagoon, three degrees outside and thirty-eight degrees in the water. The feeling was sensational, you could only but glide in gracefully and then bob around in the milky waters. A heavy mist hung over the pale blue liquid which hid mystical properties; to heal, to mend and to rid us of our wrinkles. We floated, walked slowly from one nook to another cranny, drank a beer and plastered white silica paste all over our faces, allowing it to dry and crack when we smiled. Three hours passed in this way.

My hair felt like straw from the minerals in the lagoon when I woke up at Reykjavik bus station. It was stiff, tangled and almost sticky even after three washings with conditioner. I felt dozy and sleepy as we stumbled off the bus to wait for a transfer to our hotel, waiting in the grey that is Iceland and the biting cold of the day.

A couple came striding towards us. The bearded man was looking at him, he was looking at the bearded man.

"Oh my god - it's the guy from accounts!" he said.

The bearded man walked up to my husband and shook him by the hand, he could have belonged to Iceland with his looks and outerwear. They chatted, my husband and him, laughing at the absurdity of meeting someone you know at Reykjavik bus station at five in the afternoon. We swapped tales of where we had been, how long we were here for, how we liked it and waved goodbye as our bus turned up.

"We should have arranged to meet up for a drink," I said.

"Didn't think of it," he replied, completely spun out.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Money money money

The realisation hit P when we were travelling back from Brighton. It started off as a whine, a low moan and soon developed into huge, full-blown sobs with salty, wet tears streaking her little doll face.

"I don't want to give you my pounds!" she screamed "Ooooohhhhh, I've only got two pounds and I don't want to give them to you!" she wailed.

"I don't mind," said the generous A "I will give you my money, I can give you P's too if you like?"

They had both wanted a little trinket from the delectable North Laine shops, shops so full of things you would like but rarely need. I don't give them pocket money, but the children seemed to have accumulated a few quid from teeth falling out, the odd 20p interest when I raid their piggy banks for school dinner money and from coins they have found around the house. A has saved up over ten of these elusive pounds (mind you, she has a gappy mouth right now) and P has two gold ones and a bit of shrapnel which includes a euro and a Kenyan shilling.

They wanted their gifts so badly, A a little elephant notebook and P a stuffed house with a tape measure inside, but it was neither a birthday or Christmas and I believe Father Christmas has sorted their stocking already.

"OK, girls you can have them but you need to pay me for them, OK?"

They agreed readily, very pleased with their loot. Except now, P was not pleased at all.

The crying lasted all the way home and reached new levels as we entered the house, A skipping upstairs immediately to give me her money.

"But I..I..I..don't want to give you my pounds, I only have two of them, ooooohhhh it's not fair..." and so it continued. She knew I wasn't going to give in - it was the stuffed house or the two quid little lady.

She did it eventually, it pained her, it cut deep, but she spent her money and has not put the stuffed house down since.

It's called Kerry and I believe will be with her forever. "How can I get two more pounds?" she asked over her Cheerios this morning.

"Ahhh, you'll have to work for it unless your teeth fall out!" I replied.

She took this information very seriously and in between mouthfuls of cereal wobbled those teeth so hard it looks like her money box will have been recuperated by the weekend.




Thursday, 7 November 2013

When I grow up

When I grow up I would like to be a writer and drink coffee by the cafetierre. I would smoke if it was fashionable, cross my legs and ponder. I would look out of my window which would perhaps be in Tuscany, or Seville, or somewhere remote sounding like the Peak District. I would have a dog who rests at my feet and a couple of cats, we would walk to the local shop to buy bread and I might even go to the pub in the day. I see myself spinning yarns with the locals, seeing stories in the trees, imagining complicated novels while eating olives, to then return to write some fabulous prose. Yes, when I grow up I would like to be a writer.

"But you're already grown up!" whined P when I told her of my aspirations. "Shush...." whispered A  "Mummy doesn't like being told she is old!"

I'm not old A, I'm just ready for my next goal. Or career.

Paper round
Dish washing
Waitress
Cook
Shop assistant
Early years worker
Play scheme play worker
Picture framer
Bar maid
Groom - riding schools, show jumping year, dealing yard, private yards, private schools..
Equine laboratory assistant
Organic gardener
Cold caller
Farm shop and cafe assistant
Project coordinator on a city farm
Community gardener
Antenatal teacher

Because after this crazy C.V it's time for a change.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Grey

It has been grey for a couple of weeks now, but this morning has hit a new level of grey-ness. The rain has flooded the fields, the fox has been at our bins creating unnecessary work at seven o'clock this morning, the grey cat pissed outside its litter tray (again) and the kids are getting dressed into their winter grey uniforms - which they will emerge from once again in the summer.

Tell me what is good about this time of year. My heart feels grey and heavy knowing that this weather is here until May. Some call me a dreamer, always plotting ways out of this heaviness, but if you have to live seven months of the year in grey it is no surprise really.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Tea time questions

During a slurpy spaghetti dinner, two particularly hungry children were wolfing down their food.


In between enormous mouthfuls, P asked a very serious question with a furrowed brow.

"Mummy, when you were a kid, were you in the olden times?"

Yes, my darling, I was.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Red Tent

I was dubious about the red tent. Curious but dubious, and perhaps a little apprehensive about what might emerge once I had entered. The welcome email preparing me for the day stated I should probably like to bring some crochet or knitting to occupy my hands while we talked, to bring some nutritious snacks while we shared stories and to do some yoga stretches to keep supple throughout the day. We were asked to wear something gorgeous and red, to bring objects which meant something to us, to read poems and tell tales which were meaningful - for the group to learn from.

Yes, it was a big 'hippy' women's group. The red tent refers to the place, according to ancient law, that women gather while menstruating or giving birth. A place where women once found mutual support and encouragement from their mothers, sisters and aunts.

A good percentage of you are probably groaning or rolling your eyes, or spitting your tea out at the computer in hilarity. In fact, I made fun of it before I had attended, in the way that you do when you are nervous or unsure.

The reality was the most amazing experience which blew me away. A safe space to share, comfort, learn, love, hold, cry, grow. I feel very privileged to have had this chance to be with some incredible women, to have exposed deep thoughts and feelings, to emerge a better person for it even if emotionally exhausted.

Perhaps every community should have a Red Tent.

Good morning!


Sunday, 20 October 2013

If at first you don't succeed...

A looked glum as she came out of school on Friday, all pale and tired from another week at school.

"I'm not a Maths legend, I'm not an English legend and I'm not a penguin legend," she exclaimed. I guessed she meant that she neither got all her spellings correct or her times tables. Or her penguins.

"Don't worry darling, I'm sure you did brilliantly, I make spelling mistakes all the time. We can try again next week!" I said encouragingly, not giving a toss that she didn't get them all right but caring very much that she was so upset about it.

"Let's go for a cake!"  - we all smiled and agreed that this seemed a very good idea indeed. Just like that, the tests and mistakes were forgotten with a toffee covered brownie - I only wish I could heal so quickly through cake, for my mistake lies heavy on my chest, plaguing me, gnawing at me...

I rose at the unfeasibly early hour of 4.30am to plait Fletch, the great big ginger horse I ride. I had been given the chance to ride in the team dressage this weekend and I was very, very nervous. He looked beautiful, all shiny with sparkly white socks and an air of knowledge about him for he knew he was going to a competition. You see, Fletch has been there and got the battle scars to show, he has jumped higher than me, raced against the finest thoroughbreds and ponced about dressage arenas with the best. He is my teacher and I, his very eager student. And I let him down so very badly this weekend. As I entered the arena my heart was thumping and the wind was gusty as I listened for the bell to begin, enter at 'A' proceed in working trot down the centre line. Then my mind went completely blank. Vacant. Lost. I had no idea what to do. I had completely forgotten my movements.

Mortified, I returned home, my head unable to throw the feeling away.

"Don't worry Mummy, you can try again and if you still don't get it right you can just try again!" commented the wise A.

So I feel we are in it together A and I, learning together and being tested together. Sometimes we get it right, most often we don't. And there is always cake.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The three times table

I doubt many of you can tell me what '8 x 9' is or '12 x 7' or that little bugger of '8 x 7 ?'

You might have to trawl through the whole times table to get there, or it might be imprinted on your brain from primary school days or you may have counted on from the last times table you know. Or you used a calculator. Or you couldn't give a shit.

A now has the delight of learning her times tables, starting from the 3's. This is done as a test every week, if she gets 10/10 every week for three weeks in a row, she has the privilege of moving up to her 4's. If she fails to get them all right, I guess she stays on the three times table forever.

So we started trying to reason with her, to use logic, to use her already accumulated mathematics to try and see the patterns. Everyday a little nudging and cajoling. You could see the cogs working in her tiny brain.

"7 times 3, A?" I would ask her, cutting up the fruit for breakfast.

"24, no 18, 24, yes it's 24. No no no, it's 21!" she remembered. The numbers were in there somewhere, just not in the right order.

I figured she could remember the key numbers, she had the answers but just didn't know which questions to marry them with. So we made up little ditties, rhymes, silly expressions and jokey voices.

"Eight times three - knock on the door - twenty four!"

"Seven times three is Mummy's favourite - twenty one!"

"Six times three, bra's on your head - eighteen!"

No idea where the last one came from but it worked, she remembered all her three times tables, with zero amount of logic and absolutely no maths applied.

So now we are on to the fours.


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Iceland

It was the very last treat of the year, one before he starts his new job, a treat without the children and one last chance of travel in my 40th birthday year. Lucky us, we went to Iceland. A last minute thought, a wonderfully weird country with stunning scenery which could not have been imagined.

A trip starts at the airport, excited glasses of wine watching the planes take off to distant lands. No children needing a poo, no one saying they didn't like their dinner or wanting to look in the toy shop. Instead a bar, full of adults, being civilised and thrilled at the same time. Sometimes the airport is the most exciting part - the anticipation, the thought of being somewhere completely different in a few hours, the no-mans land feeling, the people, the wondering and the watching.

Reykjavik is small. Perfectly formed, cold but really small. Incredible views from the harbour, where imagined whales are hauled ashore after their unfortunate harpooning, over to the mountainous parts of the craggy archipelago. Christmas-like houses dotted the city with their red walls and white corrugated roofs. The shops sold thick Icelandic wool jumpers, itchy and scratchy but warm and waterproof. We went around museums without anyone shouting "I'm BOOOOORED!" and learnt about the Vikings who settled on this strange but intriguing island. We had coffees which costed a small fortune, beers which broke the bank and he even tried smoked puffin. Sorry.




The scenery was wild and desolate, volcanic, grey and smoking with hot pools, fumeroles and geysirs which erupted to the delight of onlookers. Waterfalls cascaded dramatically, glaciers spotted in the distance and horses wandered about rugged and pure. The weather changed in minutes making us feel vulnerable and adventurous, the Northern Lights were pursued and not found and I felt I could live here, just for year - to see if I could do a winter.

But I really wanted to show the kids this land, we might have to go back so they can bob in the waters of the Blue Lagoon, so they can find the Northern Lights with us, so we can trek over a glacier together and ride a horse through the volcanic desert. 



It was really fun by ourselves, but would be different and possibly better with the children.


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Flower Show

Nursing a minor headache from the obligatory red wine of a Friday night, my Saturday morning was spent washing potatoes, tying up onions and giggling over googly eyes. For Saturday was the annual village flower show, a country affair, an English tradition with large amounts of competitive spirit.

During the last few months some parents and I have dug, toiled, sweated, watered, weeded and tended to a plot at our local allotment site. On Friday afternoons, groups of little people have trooped down from the school to get their hands mucky, to plant runner bean seeds, courgettes, onion sets and peas. They created an enormous bug hotel out of pallets and pots, they squealed in delight in finding insects and butterflies and they fed all the grubs to the neighbours chickens - some were keen to get involved while others hung around on the peripheries, maybe shy, but usually afraid of the dirt. But there is always a job for everyone, writing the labels, sorting the seeds and discussing the names of the plants and animal life we find in the garden. The hour of gardening at the allotment always goes quickly, the children love it and have pride in their doings - some even came up in their summer holidays to water and weed.



Of course the harvesting is the most fun. Children gasped in awe at the size of the courgettes, overgrown to some eyes but just perfect to theirs. We dug for potatoes like jewels in the cloddy brown earth, we picked long and nobbly runner beans and we pulled up onions bigger than their fists. It was a true delight. A soup was made with some of the older children, a real 'plot to plate' recipe in under an hour - how delicious vegetable soup tastes when you have grown the vegetables yourself!




The children were rewarded for all their efforts, a second for the runner beans, a third prize for the herbs and a fourth plus 'highly commended' for the 'Master Gardener' section. I could see some people looking around very scared - who were these supreme gardeners? If the children put as much enthusiasm down the allotment next year as they did this year, then who knows - we may just be taking home the cup!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Teenagers

"In the game, my name is Daisy and I'm like, 15!" I over-hear P telling A.

P is fascinated with teenagers, they are like a different breed of people to her. She admires them, copies them and so desperately wants to be one. P was born a teenager, a frustrated baby who always wanted to be bigger, an angry toddler ready for the world and now, scorning her 5 year old self - wishing her life away.

"Look Mummy, there are some teenagers!" she will squeal and point out.

She then dives into her best teenage impression. P carefully places a bag over her arm, combs all her hair to one side and tilts it provocatively, she slouches on one hip bone and continues:

"I'm liiiiike, a teenager like and I go to Uplands, liiiike..." Uplands being the local comprehensive school.

"Where on earth did you get those ideas from?" I ask, giggling at her insanely accurate depiction.

P observes. She watches closely at how people act. She emulates and strives to be older. She loathes being little and cute and the youngest.

I just hope 15 is all you hope it to be, but please enjoy the 10 years leading up to it little P!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

It's coming

I have a swelling in my throat, it hurts to swallow and an ulcer on my tongue making chewing unpleasant. Eating is an all round chore at the moment. A did the most violent puke watching cbeebies last night - there was a little warning of tummy aches but I put it down to her needing a poo. I guess I should trust her by now that she knows the difference.

So we are all a bit icky in our house. The germs have arrived after a blissful summer. The clouds are descending and I'm even considering putting on the heating tonight - it's slowly creeping up on us. Winter. We've had a fire, started making casseroles and lasagne's, harvested all the veggies down the allotment apart from a pumpkin and some sorry-looking sprouts. The cats hardly venture out, I've brought the litter tray indoors so their fluffy little bottoms don't get cold.

I should welcome the colder months when we have had such a fantastic summer, but it's so hard to say goodbye to something so nice. I don't like the winter and all it has to offer. Stuff your hot chocolates, snow days and cosy moments watching family films...I want bikini's, barbecues, late evenings and vest tops, give me chilled white wine and light salads.

But it's coming, coming thick and fast. Brace yourself people, this ones going to be a chilly one.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

School photo

It's time for a rant. I haven't ranted for a while, it's been too darn nice to moan. A sure fire way to start me off is ...school. In fact I'm surprised I've lasted until day 5 without even a mention of it.

I can't bear the uniform our school uses. It's a village state school but insists on a tie, a logo on the cardigan, a matching book bag and P.E kit, all at great expense. The tie is a particular unnecessary item in the rigmarole that is uniform.

"I can't breathe, I hate this tie....GET OFF ME!" shouted A this morning, as I wrestled with her top button.

Today is school photo day and the school insists on 'Winter Uniform' for this event - instead of the pleasant and easy gingham dresses of the summer term. The children felt constrained for the first time in months, gone are the t-shirts and crocs, gone are the swimming costumes and naked garden days - along with the change in the weather, everything is closing in!

I never buy the school photo anyway. I hate the fake smile, slightly sitting sideways and prim nature of the picture. Today's photo would only remind me of our particularly unpleasant morning of getting ready for it.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Last day

"Another drink anyone?" he asked and we all grinned at each other cheekily.

Surely one last lager wouldn't hurt. It was edging towards 7pm but the sun had yet to disappear behind the hedge and we were all determined to squeeze the last delicious drop out of the day, out of the summer holidays - for the next day was school.

The children delighted in another half an hour at the pub as we supped our ales, filthy from the beach and slightly smelling of fish from both the rock pools and the fish 'n' chip pub dinner. P's blue chipped nail varnish sat ugly on her fingers, A's wonky haircut yet to be rectified at the hairdressers in favour of days out and nothing had been labelled on their school uniform. I was even considering cutting the tangles and dreadlocks out of P's hair.

That extra half an hour drinking beer and rebelling the night before school felt good. The hair could be tied back in a ponytail and there is always biro to label school dresses, for it really didn't matter. The summer won't be here for much longer and childhood memories are made of these moments.




Saturday, 31 August 2013

Fat Boy

He had an unfortunate name, Fat Boy, deemed fat and ugly by his owner. The saving grace was that he was a Spanish horse and unable to understand the meaning of his own name. For me, Fat Boy was a highlight of Extremadura, an unrelenting part of Spain which you can only surrender to once there.

"Is everything OK, with the house?" the English woman asked, who managed the casa we had rented for a week. 

"Yes, absolutely, can I ride the horses next door?" I asked with unbridled enthusiasm, a kid on holiday.

And the following day Fat Boy turned up early in the morning, to avoid the heat of the day. He was dressed in a military saddle, like concrete to the bum.

" You turn left here, right by the olive tree, cross the road, go straight straight straight where you can gallop him and ride through the fig plantations...."

"What, you're not coming with me?" I asked the owner of Fat Boy.

"No!" he replied incredulously "You can ride can't you?"

"Yes, yes..." I replied keen as mustard

"Then you will not fall off, will you?" he said, a little curtly.



Off we trotted, turning left as we had been told, to do my favourite thing in the whole wide world - discovering strange lands by horseback. As the sun threatened to melt us if we were not back by 10, I had just one hour all by myself, shouting "hola!" to the farmers and letting him gallop just a little.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Supermercado

Part of the fun of going abroad is the food. The deciphering of menu's, the local delicacies, the bizarre dishes and teaching the children not to shout "Urrrrrrrrgggggghhh" when bowls of snails or unrecognisable parts of animals are carried to the next door table. Even better than that however, are the local supermarkets - they provide the most entertainment and are deemed far more superior than any museum, by both myself and the children.

The waft of salt cod hits you strongly as you enter any supermarket in Spain or Portugal, a strong fishy pungency which faintly makes everything we bought stink of fish, or it was in our nostrils for hours afterwards. The rows of familiar, but very foreign, crisps and biscuits. No 'salt and vinegar' flavours here but 'jamon and cheese' or 'paprika'. Same, same but different as was once said to me in India.

The vegetables still have soil and bugs in between the leaves, cheese is to be bought by the kilo, only 8 pints of fresh milk was available while a whole aisle was dedicated to UHT - as well silly-priced booze which made the adults ridiculously excited, and our livers groan in anticipation.

But the highlight of this cavern of surprises was a vacuum packed suckling pig  - a piglet in a packet. Oh, we laughed and how the children screamed!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Back safe, rested, inspired and ready to go again...

I truly love Spain. Not the Costa Brava-Malaga style Spain, although those places have their own beauty as well; I mean real, raw, harsh Spain.

Extremadura in August was always going to be a challenge. Searing temperatures, bleached swathes of nothingness dotted with only a few olive trees or oaks, whose acorns feed the revered black pigs. Long straight roads all to ourselves for it was two in the afternoon when we arrived, a time when everyone was sensibly asleep. Eagles soared on the thermals, creating beautiful arcs in slow motion, spying the ground for a tasty rodent, but nothing else was occurring. Nothing at all.



Life slowed to a manageable pace, of eating little, drinking a lot, lazing in and out of sleep by the pool and summoning up the energy to visit ruins and architecture left by the conquistadores. A week passed in this fashion, with a story or two to tell, before moving on to Portugal - a country surprisingly beautiful, green, mountainous and puzzling. It was here I passed into my 41st year without a bump or a glitch, a smooth transition aided by lunching on a precipice, swimming in an icy cold river and barbequeing at the yurt, washed down with unmentionable amounts of Portugal's finest fizzies.

We swam in rivers, lakes, the high side of dams and the municipal swimming pools feeling very foreign, not a word of Portuguese between us - and Spanish does not help at all. With a splash of English, a try of French and a fair amount of pointing and international signing, we got about, had fun, got laughed at and laughed it off. We were certainly outsiders in this part of the world.

We drove back through Spain, stayed in castles, wondered about cathedrals, walked the cities battlements, and ate oniony gazpacho which stayed with us all day. We taught the kids how to siesta, to eat jamon, to try out their newly acquired Spanish words and to swim. They learnt about scorpions and gecko's, Romans and medieval towns, they spotted stork nests perched on top of religious buildings and spiders the size of their hands, they moaned about the towns and revelled in the space and cool waters. They drew pictures, collected stones, rated the serviette holders of various bars, tried lollies and ice creams alien to them and watched intently at the boys and girls of their own age.



They learnt, we learnt, I relaxed while he is still horizontal - and we are planning our way back, maybe one day forever.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Too much fun - it's only just begun!

Holey moley, are we having a corker of a summer.

The weather is great, he has 3 months off 'gardening leave' before starting a new job, the children are being fantastic and are at the wonderful ages of 5 and 7. I'm feeling very lucky indeed, what a way to start being 40.

As soon as school was out we motored down the familiar M4 to Somerset, enjoyed beers in Mum's garden - a crumbling, fading wall gave view to a sea of nettles. The children adore the place, full of interesting junk, hidey holes in the garden, stuff to fiddle with and wander about as well as a dog whom they love - he is not so keen, preferring adult company and a quiet time.

On to a dear friends wedding when for the first time in weeks it rained, really rained. But just like the Bacardi advert, when the party gets going because there's nothing else for it, everyone was in the beautifully decorated marquee, mingling, mixing, remembering, hugging and appreciating the detail of the effort that weddings are. It was one of those evenings that when we ate at 6pm it was suddenly 1.30am, just like that. A fair amount of booze, silly dancing, giggling about the past, promising to be in touch more, poncing a malboro light for old times sake and flopping into a hotel room, which was hardly appreciated at all. Oh boy, what a hangover.

And on to Wales, for castles and dramatic skies, belly aches and liver aches with friends. I like living on the road, out of a bag. The children are completely adaptable, having done it from birth. Sleeping in strange beds, no routine, playing with other children only faintly recognised - we didn't see them for days, such was the absorbency of their intricate games.

And finally back to Sussex with a mountain of chores, work and lists to complete before flying to Spain tomorrow. To be 40. I can't bloody wait!


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Lambeth Country Show

Where else can you get racing camels, jousting contests, face painting, some heavy dub and jerk chicken, with a strong waft of the herb throughout?

Lambeth Country Show of course. A melting pot of fun, cultures, family, music and Red Stripe. The irony is that we travel from the countryside each year to hang out in Brockwell Park's answer to a country show. There is a nod to British farming, a few animals to pet who have come from the local city farms, a flower show, plenty of exorbitantly priced fairground rides as well as some extremely patient donkeys who walk around in circles for hours, allowing city kids to try the thrill of riding. The vibe is more like a festival with stalls selling foods from around the world, but mainly the Caribbean. Families bring picnics, teenagers sneak vodka into coke bottles, toddlers clutch helium balloons and Jamaican patties.



It's up there as one of the best days out of the year.




Oh, and did I tell you it is free?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Royal baby

Can you imagine the intense pressure that Kate and William are under?

I'm not a royalist by any means but have been thinking about Kate all day today, since I heard on the news this morning that she had gone in to labour.

I wonder how it started. Did she spend the night wondering if this was it? Did she get William to time her contractions and run her a bath? Did she stay at home as long as she could to give her body a chance to flood with oxytocin, which will help her labour? I hope she was calm and remembering to relax her jaw, drop her shoulders, to visualise each contraction and imagine her baby working his or her way out into the world. I hope she managed to put the world press out of her mind, the millions awaiting her news. I hope she feels safe with those around her and that William is offering her words of encouragement. I hope she's not scared.

I hope for a few moments, even hours, there is only the three of them. I hope that they spend time skin to skin, staring in awe at their beautiful baby - just Mum, Dad and newborn, before the world knows.

For all the mamas out there labouring on this very hot Monday, gain strength from all the women who have birthed before you.

Friday, 19 July 2013

You can rely on Bob

The sun is shining for what feels like the 15th day in a row. The children break up school on Tuesday - I aim to drive them straight to the beach for a swim, singing (shouting) "Schooooooooooooools, out for the Summer!". Then eat fish n chips. And go to bed late. Dirty.

With a stonking weekend of festivals and Pirate Day ahead, Bob is there all the way. Everything feels right with the world, with Bob.


Have a brilliant Friday - and a better weekend.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Sports day

We've carb loaded this morning, stretch and warmed up muscles in the bath, gone for a gentle walk and hoped that the year long training will pay off this afternoon.

It's school sports day.

Just WHO is going to win the Mothers Race this year?

(Remember this?)


Monday, 15 July 2013

Happy Birthday little P

Happy, happy birthday darling girl, so very nearly as big as you want to be. Five years ago to the minute, I was swaying on a birth ball, looking out over the fields from our house - not having the ability to tell him to turn off the bloody ambient music, which was driving me insane. You took your time coming but you were most pleased with the world once you were here.

P you are the funniest little girl, cheeky, strong-willed and always in a hurry to be bigger. A little actress, a speedy runner with a fiercely competitive nature - when you want to. P, you will never conform, which I am secretly proud about. You can be kind and generous when you want to be but are the most affectionate child, always up for a cuddle and a kiss. I love it when I wake up in the morning and you have snuck in between me and daddy.

And of all the thoughtful and lovely gifts you have received this morning, your sisters card was by far the best, bringing a genuine lump to my throat. I had no idea she had made one for you.




Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Nearly there...

We are thankfully nearing the end of term. P is out of control, grouchy, cross and so sick of reading that she is desperate for the six week break. She doesn't know she is desperate for the summer holidays, I can see it. She has yet to reach 5 years old.  I feel we need to reconnect, P and I, we have lost our way with each other. I have been battered by the system to conform, forcing her to read, do her homework and we even had an argument about socks this morning - she insisting that odd socks were OK, me getting wound up that they had to be the same. We all need some time to get grounded and rediscover what really matters. And of course odd socks doesn't matter one jot.

If we had reduced holidays for children I really think we are going to see some stressed, burnt out kids before they even start secondary school. They need this break so badly, the relative freedom from sitting on the carpet in a certain way, dressing like clones and repeating rote fashion their numbers or the days of the week.

Roll on the summer holidays, only 2 weeks to go, when we can paint our nails orange and wear sticker tattoos. Let's go to bed when it gets dark, have camp fires, eat sweets for breakfast, have long walks and big lie ins. Let's get to know each other again A and P.

I can't bloody wait.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Safari

The sun was blazing, it was only about nine in the morning but already the oppressive heat of the savannah was making my temples throb. A fine trickle of salty sweat passed my ear and down my cheek. The velvet on my crash helmet feeling very out of place. My skin prickled and my eyes squinted, for now we were on the plains where there was no shade from the thorn trees or baobabs. I was thirsty so reached into the saddle bag to find a cool drink. My eyes seemed to burn but the horses necks yet to break into a sweat, for they were used to this.

"We make long canter? Look out for jackal holes!" said the guide.

And we were off, allowing the horses to pick their way, watching herds of zebra and impala scatter as we approached. Four horses thundered in unison over the hard ground heading for the distance, there seemed to be no end. My legs were screaming, the muscles working hard to keep me balanced and forward out of the saddle, to help my horse. He was called Zulu. The froth began to appear on his neck and waft that intoxicating smell so addictive to horse-lovers. Maasai walked hundreds of head of cattle in the distance, always on the move to find better grazing. I grinned, E grinned, this was good, this was very good. I wanted to remember this forever.



Just as I thought my legs could not carry on, there in the distance was a table with a white linen cloth, being laid under the cool of an acacia tree. We slowed our horses to a walk, allowing them to stretch their necks and reach down. Was this really for us? A table of breakfast overlooking the plains of Africa. Tears rolled down and mixed with the sweat on my cheeks.



"Karibu!" the waiters called to us, someone took our horses. We were relieved to rid ourselves of the necessary hats, our hair stuck attractively to our skulls, soaked.

"Wash your hands here and take a seat!" said the waiter in a soothing African lilt.

"Asante!" I replied in my limited Swahili. And sat down to the best breakfast of my life.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Camping 2013

I moaned when I saw the weather forecast this weekend; rain on Friday, dull on Saturday and the promise of a peek at the sun on Sunday. I had expected it this way because we were camping. Memories came metaphorically flooding back - of soggy tents, mouldy socks, damp sleeping bags and the ever present worry our tent was not going to hold this storm out.

It happened to be a fabulous weekend, of sunshine, meadows, marshmallows on sticks, flying kites and playing frisbee, walks to country pubs to sample the ciders and ales, bbq'd meat never tasted so fine - and nobody even put their socks on at night. It was a warm June weekend with even a few red shoulders and peeling noses. It was a heavenly bucolic weekend that childhood memories and those camping book photo shoots are made of. This years camping has healed the raw wounds of 2012 camping.


Tent with a view


Walk to the pub


Through the corn


Toasted Tunnocks Teacakes


Grass filtered coffee

We are planning on going again, and soon, and extending our camping kit - part of the fun of camp sites is kit envy. So Summer 2013, you had better keep this performance up as we have all decided we like this under-canvas-camp-fire malarkey. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

No man's land

It's a funny time, odd, not hilarious. I feel in limbo and at a loss. Everything is neither here nor there, one thing or another.

The weather is dull, not sunny and bright as it should be, just day after day of grey. The lettuces have simply stopped growing, the chilli plants died off and hardly any seeds have germinated at all. I try to persuade the children not to wear tights as it's June, the month of strawberries and long evenings, of school fĂȘtes and Glastonbury festival, the time of roses and high teas as well as awesome shades and R&B. But I let them wear tights because it's cold.

It's not the end of term but it feels like it. The school show has been and gone, which was fabulous - the kids still singing the songs every morning with the dawn chorus. One day they will sleep in until 7am. The teaching has slacked off a bit, sports day will soon be upon us but really it feels like the holidays should start sooner - not in 4 weeks time.

Fletch is still lame. Well he's not, he is on the mend. Just not quite sound enough to gallop around and jump fences yet. A 'walk and trot' sort-of-well.

The allotment needs attention, to water or not to water? Decisions to be made whether the downpours are enough for the newly emergent runner beans or the wild flower meadow.

And me? I just don't know what to do. I am going around in circles chasing my tail wandering what is next. Change is in the air - and only I can force that.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Clothes hangers and taxi's

Standing outside the school gates waiting for A and P, which is always a slightly uncomfortable feeling, P comes charging out and dumps her cardi, her paintings, her book bag and sandwich box on me. I try to instil some manners and ask her to carry some of it herself, when a fellow mother laughs and says:

"Clothes hangers and taxi's - that's all we are!"

And for some reason this has stayed with me and given me a rather niggling feeling about motherhood. Am I really just a mother? We all know how important that job is, how precious it is and how wonderful it is being a parent, but what else am I?

The very same day, I was asked what I wanted to do when I was 16 years old - by a 16 year old making her exciting life decisions. It got me thinking and wondering.

When I was 16, I was going to save all the animals and all the people in the world. I was going to be a vet, and volunteer with VSO. I wanted to end apartheid, inequality, poverty and war. I travelled to Africa when I was 18 and this confirmed what I wanted to do, to help animals to help people. I started donating to Brooke Hospital when I was very young and found their practices in Luxor and Cairo whilst on a backpacking trip - the vet even let me look around and encouraged me to stay for an afternoon, watching all the horses and donkeys being brought in for treatment so that they could have more fruitful years working hard for their owners.

That's what I wanted to do, to make a difference.

Am I really just a clothes hanger and a taxi? Maybe something has to change.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Fish keeping

I'm not being funny, right, but looking after a goldfish is blooming hard work. Every week we seem to have a near-death. Bubble is now almost one year old and I think I have done very well indeed to get this far - even the pet shop owner seemed to think so.

"Muuuuuuuum, I think Bubble is dead!" screams A, not with too much emotion in her voice though. A sort of matter-of-fact scream, like we have been here before.

I take a look at Bubble lying upside down among the plants completely still and he certainly looks very poorly. A splash on the surface of the water soon sees him right and I am reminded it is Monday, fish tank cleaning day. He is very sensitive this fish, if his water parameters are wrong he lets me know by playing dead on the bottom, swimming on his side, lying upside down or gasping for air at the surface. I have spent a few hours on fish forums trying to work out how best to look after him and boy, what riveting places fish forums are.

But he is our fish, and we have a duty to look after him well. That included a £25 trip to the pet shop recently for his ammonia testing kit, his water conditioner, some new plants and stuff to put in his filter. And I think he really appreciates it - we have a little bond growing, Bubble and me.


Upside down playing-dead goldfish

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Surprise me!

"Mummmmmmy! Mummy! You've only kissed me goodnight once..." shouted A, clearly in distress. I don't remember when double kissing came in.

I bound up the stairs, two at a time (I like doing that) and kiss A lovingly for the second time, stroking her forehead and smiling at her honest face.

"Mummy, can you also put a surprise note in my sandwich box tomorrow, please?" she asked.

"Oh, OK darling, " I grinned.

A continued, "It could say 'I love you' or something..."

"OK sweetie,"  I agreed, "Night night, love you!" I said leaving the bedroom.

"Remind me about the surprise note in the morning, won't you A?"

"Okay!" she replied drifting off to sleep. And she did.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Superstition

No matter how hard I try, I can't help being ridiculously superstitious. Don't cross me on the stairs, put new shoes on the table or stir the pots cooking on the hob with a knife. Logically, of course, I know this makes no difference at all to my day, the world is not about to implode - but what if it was, I might as well avoid it.

My most recent nightmare is a family of magpies which live near the stables. On my drive over to see Fletch, I often see one magpie going about his daily business. I am all a frenzy searching out the other little bugger so I can safely ride that day - you know, one for sorrow, two for joy and all that. It's just a magpie, it's just a magpie I repeat to myself and then heave a sigh of relief when I see another one. I am then safe in the knowledge that there will only be joy.


Happy Friday!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Fletch



He's not mine, this great, big ginger horse - but I have started to love him as though he is. I share him and pay towards his keep. He's huge, talented but naughty, and has me regularly wondering whether I can cope with his strength, his leaps, his spooks and his almighty bucks. I think I am going through some sort of mid-life crisis, hoping that I have the bravery of a 16 year old and the talent of a 3 day event rider - in reality I have neither. Turning 40 in August is proving to be such a liberating feeling though, making me more determined, more hard-working and even competitive - I want to do this to the best of my abilities while I can, while I am well, while I can afford to, so all in all this could be a really small window of opportunity.

It was all going well with me and Fletch. We have little conversations before I get on, about how nice it would be if he could keep me safe and how I have carrots for him afterwards if I stay on board. He seems to understand this, nodding and nuzzling in agreement but having his own agenda when I climb the enormous 17hh (that's a BIG horse for those of you not acquainted with the hand measurements of horses) - you never know what you are going to get with Fletch - quirky and cheeky or beautiful and composed. Keeps me on my toes you could say.

We have tried dressage together, Fletch and I, and have even been successful at a small local level. He is less than impressed with trotting in circles and would rather be flying over solid fences cross country, galloping and remembering his days as a race horse - but he does the dressage, reluctantly, putting in a spook when he feels like it to make sure we know who's in charge.

And now he is poorly with an infected leg, feeling really sorry for himself watching all the other horses going out for a hack or dancing around the school. The look on his face is one of jealousy, he actually wants to be ridden, to be entertained, to have fun - horses really do love it , all this running and jumping.

It's been 6 days of antibiotics and not much sign of recovery yet - c'mon Fletch. We need to go running and jumping together. The clock is ticking - we need to do this before it's too late.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Lottie

The lottie! The whatie?

The Lottie is the pet name for our allotment. She's a good old egg, churning out weeds and vegetables in that order, but we love her so and don't find much greater pleasures than a couple of hours tilling, weeding and planting on our hired piece of land. She was a complete and utter disaster last year, not her fault admittedly, due to rain and slugs. I think we had three leeks, a small bunch of chard, one courgette and some odd curly-wurly pumpkins which had no flavour at all.

I've been ignoring The Lottie this season, mainly due to the darn weather again and also a great, big, chestnut horse has been occupying my time and thoughts. But this half term break we managed a couple of days digging, she's looking quite trim and ready to accept some plants onto her plot.

Celariac

We planted some celeriac and it's still there the last time I checked. We sprinkled some wild flower seeds and have taken out all the buttercups no matter how gloriously yellow they are. We crumbled the heavy clay soil, as well as we could, in readiness for beans, chard, fennel, sprouts and leeks which are all growing in pots at home. The apple tree has a promising amount of blossom, the horseradish good and strong, while the blueberries, currants, strawberries and raspberries are lush and floriferous promising good pickings later on.

Happy gardening all - here's to a fruitful Summer!


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Brilliant Bank holidays

Bank holidays! Half term! Brilliant!

You know I love the holidays, the chance to wind down and for the children to play. P left her book bag at school last week, I'm half thinking on purpose, so she doesn't have to do any reading or homework. All this forced reading everyday is putting her off entirely - imagine a world without books and stories - so we will break from the 'Chip and Kipper' saga for a while, and concentrate on nothing in particular.

Monday was glorious. Sunshine pouring through the window at dawn, waking the kids at a godearthly hour and enticing us out from the duvet. And what better way to spend a day in the warmth but floating down a river, being rowed very gently with nothing around but bird song, riverside wildlife and the giggles of children.


We just loved messing about in boats.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Don't do ill

A woke up with some tears and a tummy ache this morning, I suggested she should sit on the loo, do a poo and see if that made it better. It did a bit. I gave her some probiotic yoghurt and claimed 'She'd be alright!' to which A replied "You ALWAYS say that Mummy!"

I do. It's the first retort when they say they feel poorly. You'll be alright. So I sent her to school as usual and it turned out she wasn't alright at all and is now in bed with a fever, looking very poorly indeed. The worst thing about the whole debacle was that A endured a complete day at school feeling like shite, even doing 2 laps of the playing field in PE, because she thought the teachers would just say 'Oh you'll be alright!' - oops. Bad parenting. Bad uncaring Mummy. The thing is, I just don't do ill - not mine, not friends and not even those really close to me.

I had a bad cough a couple of years ago, ended up breaking a rib, getting pneumonia and pleurisy  Took 8 weeks to clear it - ill me? Nah, carried on as normal, looking after two pre-schoolers, kept house, took him to the station and picked him up every night and even delivered an antenatal course. Didn't have time to be ill.

I'm sure my Mum is reading this and remembering the time in India when she had a bad case of the Delhi Belly. I threw her a couple of bananas in her bed, placed her immodium and water on the bedside table and stated I was going out for the day to discover the delights of the hill station, Simla. Not a very caring daughter either, obviously.

So tomorrow, I am going to pour ALL my love, devotion and attention on A, to try and make up for my serious fail today. She will have a day off school and I will nurse her, mop her brow and kiss her often.

Not at all miffed that I am going to miss cross-country training on Fletch, a great big chestnut gelding, at silly speeds over excitingly high fences. Not miffed at all.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The tao of P

After a difficult day at school, the still 4 year old P told me she didn't feel like doing her reading today, because she wasn't really in the mood. We had a little chat in the car about how important reading is, and she told me she didn't actually want to talk about this subject any more. So I left it at that. Dear little P, she knows her own mind.

Dressed in a bindi, a Japanese skirt, some bright pink tights and a hijab - all influenced by our recent trip to Tooting in London - P solemnly told me her thoughts, as I fiddled and farted on the computer.

"Mummy, sometimes you feel angry because you are angry, and sometimes you are happy......coz you're happy....and sometimes you are sad because you feel sad. And sometimes you cry, sometimes you feel joy...because you've got to be something." said P, shrugging her shoulders and using great hand gestures.

"That's very true," I agreed, grinning at her.

"....and some people are big, and some people are small and some people are medium!" she finished, greatly pleased with the wisdom she had just imparted.

So I gave her a great, big, squishy four-year-old hug. The reading will wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Photo shoot

                          


 



                               

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Weird weekend

It's been quiet on the blog of late, not because there has been a lack of material to write about, rather that I have been so busy having a lovely time that sussexmama has been neglected. All this gadding about is in celebration of being alive 40 years, but now I'm pooped and think I will take a little break and enjoy what my home and family has to offer.

Tollard Royal. Have you been there?

The weekend just passed was to be one of bonding with my sister, of giggles, riding, pub lunches and long walks. I guess we ticked all the boxes but the place left me feeling sour, never to return. It may be near to Stonehenge and Avebury but by jove, this is one village that fell off the ley lines - in fact, I think if I looked on a road map it may not even be there, such was the exclusiveness and tardis-like feel it gave me. It was a weekend break in perfection, mowed grass verges, manicured bluebell woods, estates so large and private and horses grazing their million-pound-arses off in the fields all around. The local pub was the unfriendliest establishment I have visited, with hunting, polo, and shooting pictures adorning the walls. The lager was £4.90 a pint - to keep the riff raff out no doubt.

Don't worry Tollard Royal, I won't be back to mess up your immaculate reputation, I will leave it to those who deserve it and hope they all stay in one place and don't pollute our lovely, varied, cultured society.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The reunion

Corfu was magical last week, the island as beautiful as I remembered it all those years ago. The sea a stunning azure, unreal to the eyes, the landscape still punctuated with dark pointed cypress trees and twisted olive groves. It was a heavenly holiday with family, a pre-season amble before the crowds arrive to crisp their bodies and pickle their livers. It was also a trip down memory lane, a blast from the past and a wander back in time to a place where I was very happy.

Before I left, I told you a little story of a horse whom I loved a great deal when working as a groom on the verdant isle of Corfu, back in 1996. After some research for a trekking centre for the kids to have a pony ride, there he was, Simba in all his maned glory staring right back at me out of the computer, he was still alive and well and in Corfu. Just simply writing this story had me all emotional, it seems to have had some of you choked up as well. I was to see a little gelding 18 years on, would he remember me? Would we recognise each other? Would it be like the Budweiser commercial, which has me in tears every goddamn time?


The yard was found after a wonderful drive at the base of Mount Pantokrator, through sleepy little villages with shutters firmly closed, a few stray kittens wobbling across the road in search of some food and some love, around hair-pin bends exhilarating and terrifying and past fields of fresh, wild spring flowers. Corfu in all its glory.

I was nervous when we got to the stables. A nice young woman showed the kids which was to be their pony and I nervously asked if Rebel (his name for 18 years) was here. "Yes, yes," she replied, "just around the corner!" pointing me in the direction of his stable. And there he was, all dipped back, grey around the muzzle and sleepy with the early morning sun. An old man who didn't want to be bothered. He barely raised his heavy lids to contemplate me, or sniff me in recognition. He was enjoying the peace of the day before the tourists arrived to trek him through the Corfiot countryside for the umpteenth time in his life. 


So I stroked his muscled neck, took his forelock out of his eyes and understood his wishes, glad to have found him again and to know that he has been looked after well.



Just a tiny part of me wished he had whinneyed at my return, blown sweet warm breath in my face and encouraged me to leap on to his back, bare back of course, to gallop around the countryside together once more.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A nice little story

Many years ago, when I was young, fresh and had no responsibilities of such, I found myself working as a groom in Corfu. A yard nestled away among the olive groves and cypress trees. There were many horses to look after, young ones, old ones, completely ancient ones, ones without an eye and ones who were worth thousands. It was a busy day feeding, cleaning tack, putting escaped horses back into their field, mucking out  and riding. And it was the riding that was completely unpredictable - some needed breaking, some needed bringing on and some needed retraining altogether.

Simba was my favourite, he had a long, curly flowing mane and deep, chocolate eyes. He had a compact little body and arrived as a stallion - which the vet soon sorted out, but Simba still thought he was a stallion. What he lacked in height Simba made up for in beauty, prowess and showy paces, making sure that everyone was looking at him. He came to be trained for the carriage so he could pull fat tourists around Corfu town, but he was terrified of traffic so that put an end to that career, much to Jackos and Stomatis's disappointment. So he became my fun horse for months, we discovered trails all over the island together, we jumped hedges in the way and galloped along the Ropa Valley floor, we stepped over snakes and were careful not to run over the tortoises who pottered about the place. We made friends with the locals calling "Yiassu!" as we passed their adorable and simple homes.

And then he got sold to an English woman who owned a trekking centre where I assumed he would be taking tourists (sometimes fat ones) on rides over the Corfiot terrain. He left my heart soon to be filled by Roger who was an altogether much more sane animal.

It is four and a half sleeps until I revisit Corfu. I don't think I have ever been so excited about a holiday and my excitement is infectious - A thinks of nothing else and our Gerald Durrell obsession is reaching fever pitch.

So I had a little mooch on the Internet to find us a place to ride when we are there, the girls now riding every now and then and enjoying the experience. As I browsed the trekking centres available, there he was, Simba staring out at me from the page. His chocolatey eyes as deep as before with grey hairs showing his age all around his muzzle. The website said he is now called Rebel, a spirited horse  - he must be 22 years old, or older. An email to the owner confirmed that Rebel is indeed the Simba I knew and discovered the island with.

17 years later I am going to see him again, my excitement is palpable. Four and a half sleeps.