Friday, 31 January 2014

Walking with sunshine

We came home in the cold and dark, and in pouring rain tonight. It was the sideways rain that soaks you. The porch was flooded again, and by the back door was impassable due to the water: the highest I have ever seen it. The trip out had been unsuccessful too. It was for Gertie's swimming lesson. She has changed groups and we got the time wrong and so she had missed the lesson anyway and the whole thing was therefore an unnecessary waste of time, and needless additional soaking. Are you getting a sense of my mood?

So heading for the car, with the damp permeating my skin (well, ok, just my boots then) and after another stressful day of work, I was muttering various unrepeatable phrases under my breath.

And here is why I want to be six again. Because what Gertie said, in contrast, was this:

"Mummy, I wish I could have my very own sun to take around with me. On a string though, so I didn't burn my hands. Then I could always walk in sunshine."

Currently Reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Sleepover, Sigh.

Gertie has just experienced what by a rough calculation must be her tenth sleepover. Her fifth birthday was the turning point, and then it somehow became acceptable over night. Literally. She has two 'best' friends and they take it in turns. Last night Jessie came to stay with us. There was nail-painting, brother-baiting and hair-plaiting.

There were also some strange requests. Some things that she wouldn't dare to ask normally. Like, "Mummy, can we go and play with your make-up as Jessie's here?" And, "Mummy, is it ok if we take some food up into the bedroom while Jessie's here?" Um. Let me think about both those things for not very long. NO. And I managed to skirt the staying up late and watching a DVD issue by happily not being able to get the DVD player to work.

By midnight they were still talking. I was a little bit grumpy. This morning I have found the remnants of the feast stuffed under pillows - tell tale chocolate wrappers and crisp packets (so much for no food in the bedroom).

They then had the audacity to come running into our room at too-early o'clock because the brothers had woken them up too early in the morning. I don't think they fully appreciated the irony. Now that Jessie has gone home, Gertie is curled up on the complaining about being too tired.

Gilby is five in a few months time. He's too dependent to really enjoy a sleepover yet, I think. He got excited about it, and then when I mentioned that it would be his turn soon he quickly found lots of reasons why it shouldn't happen. I think I agree with him. I certainly don't remember sleepovers as a regular thing at that age.

As a child, sleepovers fell into two categories. The first meant staying at my grandparents' house as a matter of necessity because my parents needed childcare. This was a fairly regular occurrence, good fun, and is associated in my mind with plenty of treats, a change of books and toys, and some privileges appropriately afforded to being the eldest child. (Like being able to stay up a bit later than my siblings.)

The second kind, with friends, were rare and precious. I can remember only about five occasions, although I'm sure there must have been more. I recall late nights with my friend Liz, stashed food, the intimacy of whispered conversations, the strange noises of the fabric of someone else's house. Scary stories and giggled secrets. I must have been twelve or thirteen, I think. And I suspect that I asked of my parents things that were usually not allowed on the off-chance that they might be because Liz was there.

On my fifteenth birthday I had tickets for Bon Jovi for myself and a bunch of friends. Mum drove us up to London in a minibus, and there must have been at least eight of us. Because we would get home so late, everyone had brought sleeping bags for a sleepover on my bedroom floor. Bundles of bodies arranged haphazardly all over the room. 'Sleepover' was a misnomer, because in the adrenalin-fueled aftermath of the concert very little sleep happened. But I have never forgotten it. Come to think of it, I think my mum might have come in slightly crossly at about 2am because there was too much noise.

So perhaps the only thing that's changed about sleepovers is indeed the frequency. And perhaps not even that; maybe these magical nights seem far fewer in my own childhood just because they were so special. Sigh. And what would I do on a sleepover now? Probably catch up on some sleep...

Currently reading: Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Thursday, 9 January 2014

On God and Merkins

Under what circumstances might a four-year-old boy run round his sitting room shouting "I'm a merkin, I'm a merkin, I'm a merkin!"?

I only ask because this is exactly what you might have heard had you been at our place last weekend.

Before you cast aspersions on the kind of household we have created, allow me to explain.

Last Sunday was 'Epiphany', and, as part of celebrating the journey of the magi, Gilby was asked to be a king at church. He was representing Caspar, and we had a jolly old time making his crown. Cereal box, bandage, and some of Gertie's sequins from her Christmas nail art set all came in very handy. Mister Maker wouldn't have been that impressed, but Gilby was, and that was the main thing.

And what did Caspar have to do? Well, as we discovered, he had to give the gift of myrrh to the baby Jesus in a procession at the end of the service. Which is simply what Gilby was explaining to anyone who might listen.

And therein lies the explanation.

Currently reading: And the Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseini. Wow.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Traditional Dress

I went out dressed in my new Christmas poncho, feeling both snug and smug.

Daddy and I were enjoying a rare night out at a local Indian restaurant. It was a lovely meal, and as the time came to pay the bill, the remains of the Scottish banknotes came out.

When the waiter looked slightly aghast we had to explain that they were legal tender and we only had them because we'd just been staying in Scotland with friends and family.

I nipped off to the loo as the bill was being settled, so I didn't hear the next comment first hand:

"And your wife? Is she wearing traditional dress?"

Still snug, not quite so smug!

Currently reading: Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2013: The Highs, the Lows

Happy new year to all my friends and family, readers and fellow bloggers; and during this time of reflection and resolution, a very quick, if self-indulgent, look back at 2013.

For the family, the biggest moment was Eddie finally taking his first steps back at the end of July. Looking at him running round after his siblings now you'd never guess it had been in any doubt. It quite brought a tear to his mother's eye. In September Gilby started school and has shone ever since. How cute did he look in his little school uniform, just a month after his fourth birthday? It...brought a tear to his mother's eye. After one term he can read and write and loves it. And Gertie becoming the Under-5 Celtic National Irish Dancing Champion in November brought, yes, a little tear or two to her mother's eye. A month later she had the lead in the school play. A star all round.

2013 was the year that I turned 40 and I had the most fantastic weekend for this milestone birthday as well as taking a long-held dream trip to Venice (just my husband and I, no kids!) to celebrate later in the year.

I think I have to count diving into the pool in Cabrieres for the first time at the start of our summer holiday as one of my top moments, and arriving at Harburn House in Scotland for Christmas as another. We can't travel the world in the same way as I once did, but clearly those little short trips and family holidays are just as special and important. Learning to ballroom dance is up there too, though we won't be troubling Strictly any time soon. We celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary very happily; where did those years go?

2013 had some professional highs: passing what I thought was my penultimate MA module last January with a merit, being accepted to present a seminar at the NATE conference in June, beginning a National Writing Project Group in Sussex in July, gaining an OFSTED outstanding at school in November. (I know that last one shouldn't count, but it does!)

There were some writing successes: Completing NanoWriMo with a 50,000 word draft of On Sudden Ground was a major achievement and now just that lengthy revision and editing process to go before securing that lucrative publishing deal in 2014. (When I will, also, finally complete my MA.) I won and was placed in a number of different short story competitions through the year; more writing to come in 2014, beginning with an educational article to be published in January.

The lows were thankfully few and far between. We lost my uncle last January. He was relatively young but it wasn't unexpected. Still very sad, though, especially for my mother. The beginning of March was plagued with illness, and I didn't enjoy going to work with an eye-patch during a severe eye-infection. On the upside, Gilby thought it was quite cool. Discovering that my final MA module wasn't was a bit of a bore (20,000 words still to go), and finding another 'suspicious' breast lump was more than a little scary, though thankfully now all fine once more. Being able to count those 'down' things on one hand reminds me of how very much I have to be grateful for.

It remains the family, of course, that is most important. We begin 2014 with a family day out and lunch with some dear friends, and that is the way that I mean to carry on.

Currently Reading: 72 Virgins by Boris Johnson. Not entirely sure why.