Sunday, 29 April 2012

Ice Cream, Dad Screams and Bees Stink

With a two year old, inevitably a large proportion of conversation concerns 'poo'.  It crops up everywhere, so to speak.  For example, I might say, "What would you like for dinner?"  "Poo!" might come the unprompted (and undesired) response. I try to ignore it and not make a fuss, hoping that it is a phase that will pass. 

But I was surprised by a recent conversation that went like this:

Gilby: Mummy, do you like bees?
Me: (Slightly thrown by question, but anxious not to communicate any fear of anything creepy-crawlie) Yes, of course."
Gilby: But you mustn't touch them, Mummy, must you?"
Me: (Pleased at self-preservation instinct displayed by usually accident-prone toddler) That's right, Gilby, you mustn't touch them, because they might sting.
Gilby: Yes. (Firmly)  Like poo.

I puzzled over this for a moment, before he continued, "And skunks are very smelly too, aren't they?"

Ah, so bees stink, which is why they mustn't be touched.   I have some explaining to do...  Except that there wasn't time. Because whilst I was working that out, Gilby and his sister were pretending that their ice-creams were sun-creams and had smeared them all over their faces. Which is the point at which Daddy joined in the conversation.

Daddy: (In tone of despair slightly disproportionate to situation) No, no, no, no, no, NO!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Books, Bookcases and World Book Night

I have new bookcases.

Lots of them.

Joy unparalleled.

Who knew, a decade ago, that an item of bespoke furniture, costing more than our annual holiday, was capable of giving such pleasure? Finished on Friday, they now need painting, and since they line the entire length of the dining room wall I suspect that this will not be a quick job. So I will sit amongst the piles of books and general chaos a little while longer yet. Why do towering stacks of books look stylish and trendy in magazines but manage to give my house the appearance of a landfill site?

Daddy is not convinced by the 'home improvement', particularly not the expense or being roped into the painting, so they are going to have to work hard to prove their worth.

Helping to add to the mounds of books without a home, I have been selected as a 'giver' for World Book Night: tomorrow evening as it happens. My book is The Take by Martina Cole, and I have 24 copies to give away. So I am planning a rare trip to the local to begin distribution. They each have a unique identifying number, so if 'receivers' enter into the spirit of it I will be able to track their journeys. Where will they end up? Hopefully not on a rubbish tip...

Currently Reading: A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Trials of Chicken-Keeping

We lost two of our chickens on Saturday, waking up in the morning to a vortex of dark feathers blowing around the garden: a sure sign that we had been visited by Mr Fox. Thankfully the evidence was nothing more grisly.

The children were delighted to see so many feathers (Gilby the naturalist has amassed a not-insignificant collection of feathers over his two-and-a-half-years on this earth). I didn't have the heart to explain why they were there, and have yet to make reference to the untimely demise of Gwinny and Nimue, a pair of black cochins who have been laying for about six months. They are survived by Cecily (a pretty Partridge Wyandotte bantam) who doesn't seem in the least bit bothered and is delighted to rule the roost once again.

We generally, though not exclusively, have 'Arthurian' named pets. Vivien (a Rhode Island Red stray rescued by Daddy) and Isolde (another Partridge Wyandotte), met a more dignified end last summer, dying 'peacefully' within a few days of each other.

This was in stark contrast to our first pair: Gertie (a Buff Orpington bantam) and Guinevere (our first Wyandotte). Guinevere came to a very sorry end when she was pecked to death by her 'friend' after just a few days. That was our not-so-happy introduction to smallholding, and a reminder of nature's cruelty. We took Guinevere back from whence she came (to a poultry farmer a few villages away) and swapped her for a pair of Wyandottes. One of whom is the still-surviving Cecily, but the other didn't make it through the first night, as 'something' (a stoat?) tunnelled beneath their little run and got her. We nearly didn't carry on after that.

But I do love the hens running round the garden and the eggs, of course, so we reinforced the run with concrete and chicken-wire beneath, and tried again. The black cochins were the best layers, but they unfortunately insisted on roosting in the trees above the henhouse rather than returning to the henhouse itself of an evening. There seemed to be nothing we could do about it, but we've learned our unhappy lesson and will ensure that any future birds are better trained.

RIP: Gwinny and Nimue

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Gilby the Boring and Gina the Cleaner

Today we were heading off to a birthday party late-morning, so I negotiated a 'deal' with Gertie and Gilby. They had to tidy their rooms and play 'nicely' for an hour, enabling me to get all the housework done. We could then all troop off happily to the party.

I should point out that since my return to work last month we have employed a cleaner - Gina - who is a marvel. She comes on a Wednesday and my house is beautiful for an entire evening. We usually return home late on a Wednesday because Gertie goes Irish dancing after school, so there is no chance to mess it up. Of course, by Saturday, especially in a 'holiday' week, it is its usual chaotic self again, requiring significant intervention on my part.

After briefly offering to help with the vacuuming, which he enjoys for all of about ten seconds, Gilby starting huffing unhelpfully around the place. "I am so boring," he kept repeating, clearly not realising the implications of his words. I chose not to correct him because it made me laugh.

Gertie the Good sat quietly reading in her bedroom, whilst Eddie helpfully took a nap, and all was well. We duly went off to the party, returning three hours later to an exceptionally clean and tidy house (even if I do say so myself.)

"Oh look, Mummy, Gina must have been while we were out!" observed Gertie, cheerfully, as we came through the front door.



Friday, 6 April 2012

Slinky Malinki

Slinky Malinki, for anyone unacquainted with this shady character, is a cat belonging to series of books by New Zealand author Lynley Dodd, first published in the 1990s. They employ alliteration and assonance addictively, and my children love the rhythmic quality of the stories - of whom the most well-known is probably Hairy Maclary. As well as being chased by Hairy Maclary, Slinky Malinki is also a feline leading a dubious double-life, forced eventually to change his ways.

So, for World Book Day last month, Gertie chose to go to school dressed as this literary cat. I was delighted, as the costume was an awful lot simpler to create (ears on a hairband, fur-fabric tail, bit of eye-liner) than 'Mr Bump', which was her other suggestion. It also proved to be unique: she stood out from the dozen or so Cinderellas and Rapunzels in her class.