Monday, 28 January 2013

You may say I'm a dreamer

Monday's are hard, they just are. Sometimes I work, sometimes I clean the house after the weekend, but very rarely do I do something nice. Fair enough, hardly anyone does nice things on a Monday. The monotony of hoovering gets me drifting off into far-off places, some exotic and full of spice, others bleak and wild. Sometimes I delve into the past, often wondering about the future but very rarely am I in the now of cleaning.

It's just so tedious keeping a house. Routine sends me batty. There must be an alternative way. All this work and little play.

I've booked the Corfu trip, hoping to emulate Gerald Durrell's world. I spent hours choosing two villas on each side of the island, squashing as much experience and memory into 7 days. The first, a place on a hillside  over looking the sea, next to a donkey and in front of a village with a monastery - apparently if we ask for Spiro, he will serve us chicken in brown paper. How wonderful! Imagine that! The other little place I have booked is a cottage right on the sea, I mean, we are on the beach - open the front door and there is the bay! I imagine him and I taking our coffee onto the pebbles as the children run up and down the beach looking for treasures of the sea. I imagine no one there, it's early season, maybe some fishermen and Greek locals slowly opening their tavernas ready for the tourists arriving in their hoards in June. I imagine I am not a tourist, but part of the island. We will buy a book and learn Greek words, try new foods, make brief friends and learn about a way of life a little different to ours.

I romanticise all of this and look forward to those 7 days with earnest and anticipation. It just makes the housework so much more bearable - to imagine, wonder and mind-travel.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Food (and kids)

Forget that last post about laughing. I do not feel like laughing very much at all today.

It goes something like this:

"What would you like for breakfast, P?" I bounce down the stairs joyous that another day has begun (OK, I exaggerated a little)

"Pops!" says P quite positively.

So I pour out a really small, just-about-acceptable-bowl of rice crispies.

"I hate pops!" says P and very dramatically puts head in her folded arms and refuses to eat them.

I gently remind her that she asked for pops, and that she loves pops and that we need to eat our breakfast to grow, so that we become big and strong - and so we don't feel hungry in school. I can see all you parents of small people nodding out there, yes I know it's happened to you to.

But this happens every single meal time. I mean every single, sodding meal time.

"You'll lose special Mummy time" I threaten (we go out on Thursdays for cake when A is at choir)
"You'll be hungry in school, " I remind her.
"Please eat your pops, I'll be so proud of you!" I plead.
"I'll give you a sticker!" I bribe.
"Chocolate? I'll give you chocolate if you eat your pops!" I bribe even further.
"Now look how sad Mummy is!"  *fakes cry*
" EAT YOUR F***ING POPS!" I know, it just popped out, pardon the pun.
"Now look what you made me say," I said feeling awful and then trying to blame her.

What a terrible parent I am.

So after school drop off, I examined my behaviour, talked it through with a friend and came up with some lovely peaceful solutions.

I pick up P today and it goes something like this:

"I'm hungry," whined P.

"Well, lets go home and have some fruit and I will cook your dinner really early," I say in my calmest, nicest, nurturing voice.

"I want cake! I want Thrilling Thursdays!" she squealed, referring to our Thursday cake time.

"No P, remember you can't have special cake and Mummy time because you didn't eat your breakfast," I said calmly but starting to bubble up inside.

"I WANT CAKE!" she shouted in full view of other parents.

So I walk ahead of her, disowning her, drawing in a nice, big, restorative breath.

"OK darling, hop into the car!" I spoke fairly jovially.

"I'm hungrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyy," moaned P. You know, in that really brain-grating whine.

"I know darling, I'll get you a little snack before I start dinner," I replied.

Breathe. I gave her a packet of mini-cheddar's. She broke me, she saw them in the bread bin and refused fruit from there on.

And at dinner, you guessed it.

"I hate salmon, I'm not hungry, I want mayonnaise....." the noise was breathtakingly loud.

So I left her screaming, can you hear her? No? Just bend in a little closer to your screen. There, told you it was loud. That's my daughters meal time wail.

Every single sodding time. Parenting answers in the box below please.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Bwah ha ha ha haaaaa ha ahhhaaaa ha

A good old belly aching chortle, guffaw, larf and side-splitting giggle is so good for the soul, it makes you feel fantastic and relieved at the same.  Give me some endorphins from laughing so hard, I say.This series 'Modern Family' is the funniest thing I've seen on a TV box set for a long, long time. It's bloody hilarious. Better than 'Sex and the City', rivalling 'Entourage' and makes me feel a whole lot lighter than 'The Wire' or 'Damages'.

Who knew I was a fan of the DVD box set? So, we don't have a telly, but that doesn't mean we can't cane a TV series from over the pond in a few nights.

Well, what else is there to do at  this time of year?

Monday, 21 January 2013

One about the snow I suppose

Time seems to stand still when it snows. Permission to stop, get cosy and simply eat and stay warm. And research holidays.

We made an obligatory snow person with sticky-up hair, fed the birds and watched the plethora of robins, blackbirds and thrushes (plus some I couldn't identify) feed on seed and leftover bread. We did a bit of sledging but not much, cold toes, wet hands and red noses prevented too much fun being had.

We lit a fire and watched a wonderful film called Alamar, about a Mayan man and his son fishing and living at sea. Nothing really happens in the film, there were subtitles, for it was in Spanish - but both children were glued to a life so unbelievably different to theirs. P was actually open-mouthed as men went diving with a snorkel off the side of the boat and speared lobsters.

And when they requested 'My Family and Other animals' for the fiftieth time since Christmas I decided we need to go to Corfu and retrace Gerald Durrell's steps. We must find the strawberry-pink villa, visit the island when the tortoises are waking up from their deep winter sleep and when the fire flies begin to dance. We must go at Greek Easter and learn about their orthodox religion, shout "Yassou!" to the locals and eat spinach pies delectable and filling. What is to stop us having a Corfiot adventure and imagining where Gerald captured the water snakes, acquired Alecko his vicious gull and where he might have met the rose-beetle man. The children are wild with excitement at the thought of running up and down deserted beaches and going in a boat, maybe even called the 'Bootle Bum Trinket'.

Just got to get the school to agree that this is a really brilliant idea.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Between the ears

The really cold weather has returned, chilling me right to the core, making me tense and my back start to ache in protest. My lips have become dry, chapped and sore while the biting wind strips another layer of skin cells off my cheeks, ageing me by a few months. My hands are dry and papery, flaky and red raw and the ends of my toes no longer exist - in their place are painful, hot stones screaming as I take steps through the frosty grass. Dear God, winter is hard.

You may find it very strange that even though the weather conditions are unfavorable, being part of the outdoors is the only way to stay sane throughout the chilly time. Albeit, on the back of the horse.

Pulling on jodhpurs, over tights, adding two pairs of socks, a thermal vest, two tops, a fleece and a windproof jacket - I am cursing to myself. Why do I do it? I could stay inside, the central heating on, stay warm and stroke the cats, maybe. I curse as I defrost the car, I curse under my breath removing the three rugs off the horse (they're damn heavy you know), I tack up, leap on and walk out of the yard, the horse as fresh as the air itself. 

And then I calm, my body eases itself into the saddle and heaves a sigh of relief, for this is where I feel right, looking in between the ears of a horse. The rhythmic clip-clopping down the country lanes undoes all the pent up emotions and  I uncoil slowly, taking in the surrounding countryside, breathing deeply. 

And after I dismount, I feel whole again, ready to face what may lay ahead in the rest of the week.

As Winston Churchill once said:

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man!"

Friday, 11 January 2013

Mozart and sunrise

There is nothing more uplifting than drawing back the curtains in January to be greeted with this:

Which requires this, loudly:

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Elephants and burglars

The children went back to school yesterday, always a sad day. They had had a nice holiday break (apart from a violent sickness bug) with lots of play and family. We went on country walks, watched wildlife programmes together and we taught A maths. I guess if the school isn't going to do it then we must take it upon ourselves - and what improvement she made and what new found confidence she has! While packing their school bags, PE kits, swimming stuff and packed lunches, I asked the girls what they had for Christmas, sure that the teachers would ask. With a little prompting they could name some of their favourite gifts.

I volunteer to read with the Reception kids every other week, it not only allows me to help the school out but gives me a chance to ear wig on what is happening in the classroom. The teacher predictably asked the little ones what they received for Christmas - waiting their turn to speak, each child described a fairy castle,  a DS, a mini ipad.....and then I heard the whole class laugh when P had her turn. She told them she had a burglar for Christmas.

"What an unusual present P, it had what? some tools and ropes to get into the house? well, now, now children, don't laugh at P - perhaps you would like to bring it in P and show everyone!" the teacher commented.

Oh. My. Goodness. The school already thinks we are left-field, gobby, atheists - now we are encouraging burglary.

"Darling, did your teacher ask you what you received for Christmas this year?" I asked A when the school day was over.

"Yeah, so-and-so got an ipad, and someone got a car and someone else went to actual-real-Lapland!" A exclaimed excitedly.

"What did you tell the class you had?" thinking of a number of suitable presents she could've shared.

"Elephants on a string!"

Stingy, Christmas-hating, thieving, left-field, gobby, atheists!

We are doing so well to fit in.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Corfu dreaming

The sea is azure as you would expect from a Greek island. The beaches are pebbled and uncomfortable and sometimes hard to access. The surrounding flora is dotted with proud, dark Cypress trees and greener-than-you-would-imagine woodland. Gnarled olive groves with cruel and ugly faces entwined in the bark, which get more twisted with age, exist in the hills behind the coast. People still use donkeys, live in tumbling down villas or half-constructed new ones. Time is slow away from the resorts. In fact, Corfu is a really nice place.

I am being reminded of this while watching My family and other animals, the 1987 version, of Gerald Durrel as a little boy discovering the world of fauna on the idyllic island of Corfu in the 1930's.

It's utterly mesmeric, funny, charming and full of character. I bought it for A for Christmas, along with the book, as I knew she would giggle at the puppies called Widdle and Puke. I knew she would delight in the magenpies and Gerry's fascination with giant toads and ferocious hering gulls. And that's just what we have done these holidays, all snuggled up on the sofa together, dreaming of Corfu.

It very much makes me want to live abroad again.