Tuesday, 31 December 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.