Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas According to Gertie

It began a few weeks ago with the raised eyebrows, mocking tone of voice and fingers making inverted commas around the word 'Santa'. For Gertie, aged eight, some of the magic of Christmas seemed to have been lost.

And yet it has been something of a social whirl since she broke up from school. There have been parties and play dates and sleepovers. In fact, she has barely spent a night at home and when she has it has usually been accompanied by a friend. And many of them seem to be just that little bit less cynical and worldly wise than Gertie; and I imagine that over those late night bonding gossips and midnight feasts (the sweet wrappers and orange peel beneath her bed is a sight to behold) the question of the man in red must have come up.

And there has been a definite shift in attitude in these final few days. So, whether it is posturing for the sake of her younger brothers, a kind of 'Santa agnosticism', or a last ditch attempt to make sure that her stocking was filled - more magical discussion and less eye-rolling has taken place (the Santa-tracker app was also instrumental) and all is well.


Currently reading: The Road That Led To Where by Sally Gardner
Currently driving: Triumph Spitfire in Pageant Blue.  Clever Hearth-Father in his choice of Christmas present! Who needs Santa?


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Feel the Force

I'm all nativitied out, now.

Gilby was a shepherd in his school production: A shepherd dressed in black with sunglasses and a walkie-talkie, but we love a cheeky anachronism or ten.

Eddie was a king (of course, again) in his nursery version.

Both delivered their lines beautifully, knew all the words and actions of their songs, made their mother cry and generally did what nursery and primary school nativity productions are supposed to do - including providing those moments of sublime but unintentional comedy through missed cues and prop-handling (poor baby Jesus slung mercilessly into his cradle is perennially amusing.)

Gertie's class do the Easter production (unless this is her way of letting me down gently with the news that she didn't get a part this year) but she watched her brothers in their different shows patiently and supportively.

And all three were on parade again this morning. It was the advent 'family mass' where the children took responsibility for all the key moments of the service.  Gertie led the opening prayer and lit the advent candle and Gilby wrote and shared his bidding prayer. They both had 'acting' roles in the gospel.

Eddie played with his lightsaber, mostly - and after some cajoling took part in the offertory procession.

But his main, unscripted contribution took place during the contemplative calm of the Eucharistic prayer. He took himself off to stand in front of the kneeling congregation and demanded, loudly, 'When are you all going to stop BEING LIKE STATUES?'

It had the desired effect, since some of the assembled worshippers were, indeed, unable to maintain their stillness; there was some definite shoulder-shaking.




Currently reading: Remember Me by Melvyn Bragg

Friday, 4 December 2015

Snapshot Review of Children

I feel as though I have known, from earliest days, the personalities of the little people in my household.

Among the zillion wonders of parenthood is the one about bringing up siblings in ostensibly the same environment, (alas, income hasn't changed dramatically in the last nine years) with the same genetic 'ingredients' and the same routines and values - only to find that, in spite of looking like peas in a pod, they couldn't be more different.

I have made predictions about the futures of Eddie, Gilbert and Gertie and, in the interests of not creating a self-fulfilling prophecy I shall elect not to repeat them. I merely offer a little snapshot as we near the end of 2015.

Gertie has come home from school today pleased with the carol-singing performance she gave at the old people's home. She practised her flute for a bit, intermittently lamented the immaturity of her brothers and then settled down with one of her new (read 'second-hand') books from the Lyons books store (10p each - ever a bargain).

Gilby (having blackened his fifth clean shirt of the week and lost his bookbag) was musing on the way to the Lyons book store about whether the Arsenal book he had his eye on last time would still be there (a weighty pictorial history at 30p; I love this charity shop).  On considering the awful possibility that someone else may have bought it, he consoled himself with the notion that if someone else had indeed made the purchase, that would mean that at least there was another Arsenal fan like him close by.

Eddie had a twinkle in his eye when I collected him from nursery.  'It's official,' explained one of the teachers. 'Eddie has a girlfriend. At this afternoon's nativity rehearsal he was found backstage kissing her.'

He's four.



Currently reading: The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse and Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien (Two on the go due to December book-club clash)

Sunday, 8 November 2015

On Dressing Up...And Underestimating Dad


October and November have been turbulent and travel-filled.

I returned last weekend from ten days in Uganda, where I was 'on duty' over half term with a group of Year 11 students.  The trip itself was amazing, but the logistical arrangements to enable it to happen - over a period of holiday for the kids with Hearth-father working - were quite spectacular.

Shaded into the shared google-spreadsheet(!) were the swimming lessons, football club, Irish dancing workshops and nursery sessions with clear instructions about who was picking up whom and when.  Secreted into last weekend with little discussion or preparation was a Halloween Party in fancy dress.

Above is what he pulled off! Most impressive was the make-up. Clearly my services were not required. Note to self: go away more often...


 What a fearsome trio they make!

Eddie insisted on coming to meet me in his full 'bat' gear - which look slightly less devilish at 9am on a bright November morning.

But it was rapid change into the Ugandan away kit, so that the 'Uganda Boys' can continue to train this season:


And later that afternoon, Nano returned from her even more far-flung travels - with some pyjamas from Hong Kong:


 So, my return had a rather theatrical feel to it all.  I wonder where they get it from?




Currently reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Today's Little Treat

There's a photo doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment. Some company have created t-shirts for three siblings. I don't wish to promote them, nor would I ever suggest that my children wore them, but I do agree with the sentiment, which basically goes along the lines of: Oldest child makes the rules, middle child is the reason we have rules and youngest child knows that the rules don't apply.

I may have mentioned some or all of the following before in relation to Eddie:

  • Eddie doesn't understand consequences
  • The word 'no' is something of an enigma when he is on the receiving end of it (though definite when he delivers it)
  • He can go from grinning cutie to fiendish horror quicker than a new Porsche gets to 60mph.
So, what was today's little treat for mummy?

Pushing the 'Emergency Stop' button on the supermarket trolley escalator.

Sigh. As you were.





Currently reading: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

How Not To See Your First Football Match

Gilby is a football fiend.

He can't walk past anything that doesn't have foundations without kicking it to try and score. His first love is Arsenal. He has the kit; he has the pyjamas; he has the Arsenal football.

His sixth birthday was a football party - complete with full size pitch and coach.

He has begun playing for a local club, and his school coaching is done by the Albion in the Community team from Brighton and Hove Albion football club.

But he had, until last weekend, never been to a 'real' game.  (Sorry, Hearth-Father, Sunday morning veterans doesn't count...)

At the final cricket game of the season (a tense few weekends when the cricket and football seasons overlap) I happened to mention that I was trying to get tickets for a local game.

'Why don't you and Gilby come and enjoy the hospitality of my private box for the next Brighton and Hove Albion home game?' offered the president of the cricket club.  Now, there's an offer you can't refuse.

So, off we went - for my first visit to the magnificent AMEX Stadium (saw a few games at the Withdean, but it's been a while), and Gilby's first Championship game.


Now - there were a few rules. It's smart in them there private boxes, so no team shirts and no trainers.  And we had to arrive two and a half hours early in order to enjoy the three course meal...

We were presented with a complimentary programme on arrival.  Waitresses brought drinks directly to us,  and the view from the table was magnificent.


What's more, Brighton's Hemed scored in the opening five minutes after a shot by Dale Stephens was blocked just before. For the first fifteen minutes Brighton dominated and it was all very exciting.  Bobby Zamora came on right at the end for his first appearance at home for his old club in twelve years. The crowd were suitably appreciative, and Gilby was well aware of Zamora as a player from his premiership days. Brighton won 1-0, and whilst the rest of the game didn't quite live up to the pace and promise of the start, the sun shone and it was a fantastic afternoon.

For Brighton it was always going to be a special day - tinged with sadness as the club paid tribute to two of their own lost in the Shoreham air disaster three weeks before.


It was moving and fitting - both solemn and celebratory.

And the Brighton win meant that the club were four points clear at the top of the table. And what did Gilby do at the final whistle? Phone his father, breathless with excitement, to proclaim that, 'We won!'. What happened to my little gooner?

For one six year old boy, a truly unforgettable day. (Even if he did think the mascot looked more like a duck than a seagull.)


And he's in for a shock the next time he goes to game and has to make do with a seat in the stand and a pie...


Currently reading: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Eddie the Gangster

The holiday period has made me look at my youngest son in a new light.

In France we were entertained by French friends who invited us 'A la  Bonne Franquette' which, loosely translated (we thought)  is a simple supper, not standing on ceremony.

So we were agreeably surprised to discover that in reality this meant an al fresco five courses of fine food with different wines served at each course.  (Exactly like the simple suppers we have at home...) Conversation was entirely in French which meant much nodding and pointing as far as I was concerned, though my fluency seemed to increase directly in proportion to the amount of wine consumed. Hearth-Father lead the international-relations charge.

It was five hours from start to finish - how splendidly French.  The kids, however, were not as impressed as the adults with the timescale, and were restless after a couple of hours.  Ice cream perked them up for a bit, as did some French television.  Then one of our hosts, Kevin, seeing Gilby in his Arsenal shirt and recognising a kindred footballing spirit, presented him with an Olympic Marseilles teddy bear to play with. 'Say 'merci' to Kevin' chorused the adults. Delighted with his new toy, Gilby marched off to find the others. One can only imagine the scene that took place in the next room.

Eddie, all three years and several teddy-deprived hours of him, marched back outside a few minutes later - to a group of nine adults speaking an entirely foreign language. He stood framed in the doorway, chiaroscuro lighting, hands wrapped around his body, every muscle quietly and dangerously accusing. With a pitch that Marlon Brando would have been proud of, he rasped,

Which one of you out here is Kevin? 

whilst flinging his arms outwards to encompass the gathered diners.

Poor Kevin, with his limited understanding of English, needed no translation to send him scuttling off to find a second OM teddy bear - for the godfather twenty years his junior.

A fait accompli, to borrow a phrase from the French.  Fearless and ready to fight for what he wants. Never shall I worry about the youngest and smallest fending for himself again.

Which one of you out here is Kevin?



Currently reading: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (better late than never)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Carry on Camping

We've bailed out of a camping trip in Dorset because the weather's too terrible and I wasn't born to camp.

We're going to return tomorrow, but I needed a night of hot bath, clean children and just not being damp for a little while.

GCSE results day tomorrow, too, so I have the perfect excuse: I need to be home. So, whilst here, I thought we'd better start on the holiday homework.  I was a good mother; Gilby is researching the Victorians, and we took a visit to the Lyons bookstore and the local library. We worked on how to use an index and created a template for his project together. He has a total of six books, including the Horrible Histories. Sorted. Plenty to keep him busy. Gertie was also busy doing her homework and Eddie was engrossed in Lego. Perfect. Some time for me.  I set them off.  A few minutes later, prompted by Gertie's giggling, I came back to find this:


I think the Victorians probably made me feel like this too until my thirties, so I can't blame the little chap. And he's been sleeping in a tent for the last few nights, so probably a little short of kip...but I strongly suspect he won't win any prizes for this particular assignment.



Currently reading: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Tables Turning

We've just returned from our summer holiday in the south of France.  For the fifth consecutive year we've been to the same place - a practice that I previously believed, given that big wide world out there, existed as the preserve of the old and the boring. But the house is beautiful, the restaurants and local markets endearingly familiar, the pool is perfect and the kids have everything they need. The house is also large enough for lots of people and so there are a different cast of characters each time. And so we keep going back.

Swinging in Uzes

While we were there Gilby turned six, and, to celebrate, we went to Aqualand (just as we did last year, but don't judge...).  Having traversed all the slides before, I was quite happy to swap the adrenaline rush for a sun-lounger and a book this year. (Who said old and boring?) I could 'plot up' in peace, and be the repository for bags and towels, and the supplier of sunscreen as required.

My sis and Gertie on 'The Wave'. Been there, done that.
At lunch, I mentioned that I might like to go on something before the day was out.  At which Gilby slung a protective arm around my shoulders, conspiratorially whispering that he thought I'd like the 'Surf Rider' and the 'Tornado'. "Yep, you'll love them, Mum. I'll take you on there. Follow me, I'll show you what to do..." He may even have patted my arm.

It was lovely to see him so confident and assured and grown up.

And yet, bittersweet.

I can't help thinking that this is the beginning of the end in a gradual process of role reversal as he begins to lead me rather than the other way round.

Gilby standing tall
So it was a relief when he was dependent on me to steer and paddle and generally get us out of trouble kayaking on the Gard a few days later.

He does need Mummy for a little while longer, after all.



Currently reading: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

In the Swim of Things

Eddie has a weekly swimming lesson, and has done since he was about six weeks old. The word 'lesson' here is used in its loosest possible sense, and it's fair to say that he hasn't taken to the water like the proverbial duck. Thursday mornings have the potential to be a very stressful affair.

So, when he announced last Thursday that he wanted to get himself ready for swimming in advance, the suggestion was greeted enthusiastically by Hearth-father. Perhaps this might be a 'good' swimming day.

All was quiet upstairs for a while before Eddie marched down proudly, fully dressed but pulling his shirt buttons apart in the manner of Superman (Eddie is obsessed with superheroes; Batman and Spiderman are his current favourites) so that it was plain to see that he was already sporting his all-in-one swimsuit beneath.

Behaviour was bordering on enthusiastic, and it meant that exit from the changing rooms to poolside was unusually speedy and hassle-free. The chickens were lining themselves up to be counted.  The lesson passed without a tantrum, and Eddie even did some of the things that his teacher told him to.

But there was a problem. Hearth-father realised that, following Eddie's self-selected sartorial arrangements, he had neglected to bring along a pair of pants for Eddie to change back into after his lesson.

"Don't worry, Daddy," Eddie piped up unperturbed, "I kept my pants on underneath my swimsuit..."

Perhaps it's a superhero thing.




Currently reading: The Book of You by Claire Kendal

Friday, 29 May 2015

Festival Fever

The summer of festival fun has begun. First stop was the Hay Festival.


"There's no such thing as fun for all the family," is, I believe, a Jerry Seinfeld quote, and something I have thus far held to be true.

Going to the Hay Literary Festival was a twenty year ambition of mine and when I finally  made it last year, I determined to bring the family back to experience it as soon as I could.  Accommodation is at a premium in the little town during festival time and we found ourselves with no option but to camp. Our few family camping forays have proved...somewhat challenging, so when I was offered an upgrade to a 'yurt', I seized it.





The first day passed in a frenzy of activity. There was face-painting and cartwheel-turning and letters to climb and dinosaur stories and and books to be bought and ice-creams to be eaten and Letters Live for Hearth-mother featuring performances by Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Jude Law. 



 



There was even, and this is where we get to the 'fun for all the family' part, a selection of West country ciders for Hearth-father to taste. Though 'taste' suggests a little more delicacy in consumption than perhaps might have been observed in reality.

We were all exhausted at the end of day one and I spent one of the best nights I've had for months - in the comfort of the yurt's double bed with cosy wood-burner at its foot.


Even more to do on day two, with writers to meet and journals to be wrecked and faces to be painted, and a pub-supper. See, something for everyone.





Then marshmallows to be toasted around a campfire before bedtime.



Two weeks until the Isle of Wight festival (though we are child-free that weekend, so it will be an altogether different experience)...

I love summer!



Currently reading: Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Lords and Ladies of the Dance

I have actually just organised the best eighth birthday surprise and celebration in the world. (Types smugly)

A few months ago I was accidentally watching Graham Norton's show when Michael Flatley was on promoting Lord of the Dance in London. I hadn't known it was his farewell tour and so I thought it would be a nice idea to get a ticket for Gertie for her birthday. (It goes without saying that this also required buying one for her mother to accompany her...) They weren't cheap, but if this was the only time that the current CAID Primary National Champion was going to get to see the world's most famous Irish dancer then so be it.

Through the wonders of the internet I managed to get tickets for the actual day of her birthday from the comfort of my sitting room whilst Graham Norton and Michael Flatley were still chatting.  He seemed like a nice bloke, so with a glass of red wine inside me and an iPad in my lap it suddenly seemed like a good idea to send Mr Flatley a little email explaining the situation.  I put a little picture of Gertie in for good measure.

Twelve hours later I had a reply, and an invitation to meet the cast.


The show was spectacular. More dramatic, exciting and beautiful than I remember from, ahem, twentyyearsagoish. And Michael Flatley himself performed, which we weren't expecting, so Hearth-Mother was a little overcome.

And the lovely cast (who, at the end of a long week probably had far better things to be doing than meeting an eight-year-old girl) were lovely, even singing 'Happy Birthday' to Gertie.


Gertie was amazed by 'Little Spirit' and her breath-taking flexibility on stage; then delighted to discover that in real life she was so petite that they weren't far apart in height. A magical evening was topped off by the gift of a signed programme from the main man himself.


The following day she had a 'pool party' with 25 friends, including raft races and a profiterole tower instead of a cake (Gertie's choice).


Alas, smug as I am and delighted by the success of creating an absolutely unforgettable eighth birthday, I am well aware that I may have peaked too soon.  What on earth to do next year...?


Currently reading: The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Toddler Tribulation

A little snapshot of what life is like in our house if the Coco Pops run out:


It doesn't make for a great start to the day.
And no, Rice Krispies with cocoa sprinkled on top does not make an effective substitute.

Note to self: Keep all breakfast cereal topped up.



Currently reading: Chop Chop by Simon Wroe

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Dressed to Distress

Everything is a battle with Eddie at the moment, but matters of sartorial choice are the worst.

He uses strange adjectives to explain why he will not wear a particular pair of trousers.  They might, for example, be 'too furry', (though I can confirm, categorically, that he does not own a single pair of fur trousers) 'not bony enough' (likewise) and often complains that the pockets are 'bumpy'.

His wardrobe is extensive, which is what happens when you have an older brother and get all his hand-me-downs; but only two or three items remain eligible for actual wearing at any given time.

This means that mornings are often fraught and it is easiest to let Eddie dress himself.

Which is how he ended up at church this morning clothed in mismatched stripey socks, the lower half of his Ugandan national team football kit, and a t-shirt with a monster on it.  Not exactly Sunday best, more like 'Sunday mess', but at least we managed to leave the house without a row.

Though he decided to announce loudly, delightedly and without preamble during the quiet moment of reflection between the gospel and the homily, 'MUMMY, I HAVEN'T GOT ANY PANTS ON UNDER MY SHORTS.'

A pause, and then a stage whisper, ''SHALL I SHOW YOU?'

Even the priest looked like he had to suppress a giggle, though some older members of the congregation were less understanding.

We didn't stay for coffee this morning.


Currently reading:  Living With It by Lizzie Enfield


Friday, 10 April 2015

Carry on Not Camping

Easter 2015 was the time that Hearth-Mother decided it would be a Good Thing to have a camping adventure in the garden.  The little people had been looking for a good excuse to set up their 'dens' and there would be space enough to pitch a proper tent close by. It might even be considered 'glamping' given the proximity and availability of electricity, heat and lighting. She reckoned without the chickens, the commuters on the A29, the three-year-old's tantrum, a snuffling retriever and a Chinook helicopter.


Two sets of our friends are camping this Easter, and reluctant to join in since our last outing two years ago when I had to be chipped from a block of ice in the middle of the night, I thought a garden expedition would be a happy compromise.

It took one evening to pitch the tent so that everything was ready for the following night. Youngest, Eddie, came home from nursery in the filthiest, blackest of exhausted tempers, and refused to wait for his campfire supper. He fell asleep in a stroppy huff on the sofa.  One down.  Not the holiday bliss I had imagined.

Three of the chickens had 'escaped' from and were careering round the garden doing what chickens do, which is mostly to poo everywhere.  Hearth-father thought it was time their wings were clipped again.  My less rational explanation was that the sight of a large purple canvas erection next to their coop was enough to send them on the run.

Kempton got over-excited and got in to the bin, so that as well as chicken excrement, our campsite was also now littered with a week's worth of decomposing rubbish.

We cooked beans and sausages on the campfire, followed by marshmallows. In a fit of guilt at all the fun we were having I decided to wake up Eddie to see if he wanted to join in.  Big mistake. The pre-supper tantrum was just a warm-up for the screaming and relentless sobbing all over the garden he had planned for the rest of the evening.

Just as we got all three sleeping (and overcame the difficulty of Eddie getting his bottom all the way into his sleeping bag) a pair of helicopters decided to circle low over the house with searchlights, so that we felt like we were in the middle of a James Bond film at the very least.

By the time we settled everyone again the roaring traffic of the A29 was just about to begin for the morning rush hour. (Or so it seemed!)  I was under this strange illusion that we lived in a rural area, but it transpires that our main road is more like the M1 first thing in the morning. The over-efficiency of the heater meant that the previous year's defrosting wasn't necessary; in fact we all woke up with a bit of a sweat on.  One that had absolutely no relation to the amount of red wine I felt it necessary to consume in order to sleep five in our four-man tent.

'Again, again!' said the kids in the morning, like demented Teletubbies.

But that nonsense is all over for another year, at least.

(Although I do, inadvertently, appear to have book a yurt for us all to stay in for the Hay Festival next month.  Whoops...)



Currently reading: A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

How Do You Eat Yours?

Eddie would not, it's fair to say, fare well in the infamous 'marshmallow test'.

After his Easter Egg hunt he was allowed to choose one thing to eat straight away.  He promptly selected the largest egg, sat in the middle of the kitchen floor and ate the whole thing top down without pause.



Later, when he was having a tantrum - can't remember what it was about, but it would have been something like having the wrong-coloured straw in his drink or having been given the Octonauts plate instead of the tractor one, that sort of thing - I made the mistake of saying, "I think chocolate makes you grumpy."

He stopped sobbing for a moment, looked me squarely in the eye and replied. "No, it doesn't. You make me grumpy." Which rather told me.

Happy Easter!


Currently reading: The Lie by Helen Dunmore

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Body Bees

Now that Gertie and Gilby are all grown up and at school and flying along, they don't make those funny language slips that are so entertaining for parents.  For some strange reason all three have said 'look likes' instead of 'looks like' all the way from very little. The best ones are when they try to describe something that they don't yet have the words for.

Gertie has come out with some good ones.  After going swimming and getting some water in her ear, she kept pressing the side of her head. "I can't listen properly, Mummy, because my ears aren't turned on."  And my favourite: when she was trying to explain why she doesn't like the scrape of nails down a blackboard she told me that she got the 'white feeling'.

But this week Eddie came out with the best description ever for pins and needles.

His face turned to a frown and, on the verge of tears, he explained that he had 'bees in his feet'.  Hearth-father and I helped him to stamp them out. At least I hope it was just pins and needles...


Two blog posts in a week?  Must be the Easter holidays!



Currently reading: Memoir by John McGahern

Sunday, 29 March 2015

What's In A Name?

I really hated my name when I was growing up, and even more so when I discovered that it had not been the first choice for either of my parents; merely something that they had been able to agree on. Even as an adult use of my full first name generally means something 'official' and I prefer a diminutive when with friends.

I really didn't want to get this wrong for my children, and so like most people, I agonised over names for each of them.  Was persuaded out of 'Gertie' for my eldest (which is why it is the name I call her on this blog, and, frankly, all for the good upon reflection.)  But we chose a name that we both loved, and that had a range of shorter forms if she didn't like it - and then stole all of the female family names for middle names.

For number two we were absolutely settled on a name, and then when he arrived he looked nothing like a 'Joseph', (or a Gilbert or Gabriel, but Hearth-father had already banned those), which resulted in some last minute panicky amendments before the trip to the registrar.

Forgot to even choose a boy's name for the youngest as I was so convinced I was having another girl. And it was only after cuddling 'Edith' for a good few minutes that he was lifted up and we could see parts that made it quite apparent that Edith would be another poor choice of name.

And so it came as no surprise when Edith, or Eddie, (not his real name, of course) suddenly announced this weekend that he didn't like the 'word' of his name and from here on in wanted to be known as 'John'.

Oh well, 'That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.'

Sigh. Should have stuck a pin in randomly in Cassell's.



Currently reading: Anita and Me by Meera Syal

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Homeless Half Term

When we moved in to our house nearly eight years ago, the bathroom was top of the list for things that needed to be done. It was an abomination; there was no way I was going to be able to live with it; and how many years ago was peach 'in' as a bathroom colour anyway?

Yet somehow those first few weeks went by and I managed to bath and shower in the room of hideousness, then, gradually, the urgency wore off and I stopped noticing that I didn't like it.

Until a hole formed in the kitchen ceiling as a result of the rotten floorboard exacerbated by three children regularly and merrily splashing their bathwater onto the floor. This rather forced our hand a little, and the bathroom is now in the 'destruction' stage of completion. i.e. it is entirely empty of all of the things that a bathroom should contain.

This is my current bathroom:




Which is quite far removed from the bathroom of my dreams (but, sadly, not my finances) that looks a little bit like this:



And, it is half term.  Brilliant timing. The drilling and general smashing about means that we need to be out of the house as much as possible. It's February so it's freezing and being in the garden is not an option for sustained periods of time. My capacity for doing free stuff (in places that have a toilet and somewhere to brush your teeth) has just about been stretched to its limits.

Still, it will all be worth it in the end, I tell myself through gritted (and not so minty-fresh) teeth.




Currently reading:

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Pocket Dancing

A reprieve of the ever-popular Sunday morning pocket-dancing:


A truly fabulous way to start the day. And a photograph cannot possibly do justice to the joy of movement that pocket dancing allows. Works best for under-fours. Gertie and Gilby getting a little large these days.



Currently reading: Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Monday, 26 January 2015

Masterchef Monster

So, I am away for one Saturday afternoon. One single lunchtime. Hearth-father makes lunch, and what do you know? Everyone's eating vegetables.

Because he was on Masterchef once, briefly, five years ago, he thinks he can just waltz in and do this:


And he did a 'grand piano' for Gertie because she didn't want monster burgers like her brothers.

I officially throw in the apron.



Currently reading:

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates


Monday, 12 January 2015

More Hair-Raising Adventures

Not to be outdone by the dramas of his big sister, the youngest member of the clan has also had a hair-raising start to the new year:


Those in the know suggest that this replicates his father's style choice aged 16...



Currently reading:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Dr Who In All's Well That Ends Well

It is day three of the new year and I am clinging to an Austrian mountainside, screaming into icy winds as a helicopter lands to airlift my daughter to hospital.

It was the final day of our holiday. We had been visiting friends in Austria and had decided to do a last ski-run together as a family (while Eddie waited at the bottom with his grandfather). We picked the easiest run on the mountain.  Taking the chairlift was an adventure for Gilby and he did bring it to a standstill trying to get on, but it was a glorious morning.



Gilby was slow, doing lots of snow-ploughing and crashing into his mother; and Gertie, scornful and seven-years' confident, went on ahead with her uncle.

A few minutes later we came across a crumpled heap on the mountain side. I thought she was winded until it transpired that she couldn't lift her head or straighten her back and complained that her feet were numb.  It was a fairly innocuous fall by all accounts but it looked as though it might have tragic consequences. The piste ambulance arrived, took one look, and refused to move her, radioing immediately for a helicopter.

They sedated her on the mountain. The last thing she said was 'Mummy, please don't let them take me to hospital'.

I have no doubt that the the view across the mountains by helicopter was dramatic and beautiful but I really didn't see any of it as I was so focused on Gertie who was unconscious.  There are no pictures because for once in my life I didn't think to take any. There were horrible scenes in the emergency room as she began to come to.  She kept asking if it was all 'real', and the memory loss meant that I had to explain over and over again what had happened to her.  She screamed each time she realised anew that she was in hospital.

The wonderful Dr Florian was patient and kind and had excellent English.  Gertie could never remember his name all the time we were there.  But his superb language skills lacked a tiny little something in bedside manner.

He would wave a giant needle around and say things like 'Vill you please tell your daughter that I must just now stab her qvickly for the bloods?' or flex his fingers before announcing, 'She vill feel extreme pain just now as I tvist her bone...'

I watched her for ten hours in intensive care before we knew that everything was really going to be ok. The point at which she leapt from the wheelchair and did a little jig was a bit of a giveaway, as was asking whether she was allowed to wear eye-shadow.

We were delayed leaving Austria by about 30 hours in the end and I had to miss a day of school. It's an extreme way to get additional time off work (as indeed my headteacher pointed out.)

I try not to court drama. I am thankful that my life generally goes along on an even keel. There are highs and lows and 2014 was a good year: healthy, happy children and a warm hearth.  There were some biggies, like my graduation ceremony - ten years in the making - no small cause for celebration;


Gertie's Irish Dancing Championship, a life-changing trip to teach in Uganda;



 my fulfilling of a twenty-year ambition to go to the Hay Festival, as well as finally getting Hearth-Father to the Isle of Wight Festival in June; and, of course, Arsenal won the FA Cup.

These highs were clouded by the sad and sudden loss of 'Pomp' in October.

But 2015 has begun with a bang. Gertie is absolutely fine, and will be back dancing in a couple of weeks' time. My mental scars will take a little longer to heal! Here's to a less dramatic start to the rest of the year.



Currently reading: Talking It Over by Julian Barnes