Sunday, 15 June 2014

Starting well

B left at 3 am this morning.  He won't be back until after the end of term (only two weeks away up here) by which time I'll have survived (hopefully), three sets of sports days, one leavers' assembly (we're not leaving, but attendance is nonetheless expected), the summer disco, two birthday parties (none ours) and all the other paraphernalia and chaos that goes with small children and end-of-term-itis.

It has started well though.  A looked up at me over her rice krispies this morning:

"Mummy," she said "You deserve a medal".
"That's a lovely thing to say, poppet. Why?"
"Because you're so clever".

Not sure what I'd done to deserve that, rice krispy (krispie?  krispo?)  pouring being one of my core skills, but the others obviously agreed, because S chipped in:

"And you're lovely"
"And you're the best Mummy in the world" added L. 

By this time I was beginning to wonder if B had bribed them, but M too was not to be left out.

"And. And.  And...." he said.  He's just turned three and was clearly searching his ever-growing vocabulary for the right superlative. 
"And you're...
And you're my Mummy!".

I just hope we're all still thinking that's a good thing in two weeks' time...  

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Mysteries of modern life. No 382

When you get in at 12:26 (or whenever), drink having taken;

is there a good way to talk to the babysitter?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wonderfully weird weekend

Mannequins, leopard print dressing-gowns (and slippers), chocolates in every room, pink radiators, purple carpets, flouncy dresses, stuffed animal heads, genuine Biba fabric, space invaders, shells, old violins and a tiger skin rug....

What more could you want from a weekend away?

I went, two weekends ago, for a few days with friends from university, to Priory House in Long Bennington.

You know, Long Bennington.   Yes, well, it's just off the A1 in Nottinghamshire, between Newark (surprisingly nice) and Grantham (never got there, but Trish can recommend it highly I'm sure) and was chosen on the basis that it was equally inconvenient for everyone (including the one who came, unannounced, from Vancouver.  There were tears), and that it looked, from the pictures on the Oliver's Travels website, brilliantly, extraordinary, surreally, decadently weird.  With added sequins.

We weren't wrong. 

It was all of those things (except the sequins) and more.  The pictures, taken on my phone, don't do it justice at all, but round every corner there was something else unusual, or scary, or interesting, or quirky or, yes, beautiful.

It's a Georgian house so the bones of it are beautiful too and the rooms spacious and very comfy, with ensuite bathrooms (more chocs and oddities) and the aforementioned dressing gowns (we failed to take a team photo, foolishly (though my co-conspirators are probably relieved)).  It is also, quite astonishingly given the sheer amount of stuff, clean.  We also had the run of the medieval brewhouse, with timbered ceiling, small but well-equipped kitchen (I was required to ring up in advance and check there was a cafetiere. There was), and big living room where we could blether into the wee smalls undisturbed.

It's owned by Roger and Carol, equally unusual and welcoming.  She's the blue-haired designer of the dresses (no pictures, because they (the pictures) simply weren't good enough, but think frills and furbelows; taffeta and lace; pink and green and purple and the sort of thing L would design as her wedding dress if I told her money were no object and she could have anything she liked), and wears clothes (even to the supermarket, she told me) to match.  She made one of our number (nameless, to protect the not-so-innocent) scream when she walked out from behind a mannequin unexpectedly.  We ran away in giggles, like a bunch of teenagers, and  had to come back to apologise later.

They were lovely though, kind and friendly: chatty almost to a fault, full of information about the village (two good pubs and a coffee shop which we didn't try) and equally good at leaving us alone to get on with our drinking, eating and catching up.  They even found several spare mattresses so we didn't have to share double beds if we didn't want to (there are four big double bedrooms, some of which they let on a B&B basis too).

I can't say much about what there is to do locally because we didn't do much of it. It's amazing how much talking eight women who haven't all been in the same room since the last one of us got married can do in the space of a weekend.  But we did have a drink and a meal in the pub and a potter round Newark, and those of us that weren't watching the Gherkin run the marathon (he did it in 3:24:36, raised over £12,000 and made the 10 o'clock news!) went for a walk on the Sunday morning.

There are plenty of people who would hate Priory House.  It's cluttered and crazy and has antlers and curios and bits of old toys on every surface, and what look like shrunken heads (I didn't inspect too closely) and a real tiger skin on the piano.  The screamer among us (who is also, as an aside, afraid of peas), refused to go into the main house because she couldn't walk past the mannequins.  We, however, with eight good friends, years to catch up on, the best possible online supermarket delivery, sunshine, no children and something interesting and quirky round every corner, loved it.  C is already planning to take her mum...

Disclosure - Friend L and I found the house online, booked it through Oliver's Travels and paid for it with our own money (and that of the other six people who came with us, we're not that nice).  While there I found a piece of paper saying that Oliver's Travels would pay me for a blog post about our stay there.  So I'm blogging about it, because you would, wouldn't you. But the pictures (taken in advance of realising I'd be using them on the blog - they'd be a bit better if I had) and the words are all mine and are all honestly what I think.  Although really there aren't words to describe it....

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

An Easter Gallery

I was in at the very first Gallery, back in March 2010, so it feels only appropriate that after an absence of many weeks, I should be in at the 184th.

Or something.

Anyway Easter.  And L's seventh (yikes) birthday, which was on Monday.   A weekend of brilliance and sunshine and cake and eggs, and broomstick riding and feeling smug because it was raining down South.






Not one picture, but many. Choose your favourite and click the link to see more....

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Just generous

While I'm on the subject of kindness, I must tell you about Michelle.

Michelle is a Kiwi. She lives in Edinburgh but weekly commutes to London.  She (doesn't look old enough but nonetheless) has a 27 year old son who is still in New Zealand, who she hasn't seen in six years when he came over here for his twenty-first birthday.

She had the misfortune to be on a flight from Gatwick to Edinburgh about four weeks ago.

We were there.  We were tired.  We had been going, at this point, for about twenty two hours.  The end of a wonderful holiday but with the inevitable delays, missed connections and more delays.   No one was crying, but quite a lot of us felt like it.

Michelle started talking to the girls as we waited by the gate.  They told her all about their holiday and their school and their family. She kept an eye on them while I nipped to the loo. (B was wrangling M, who was a little, shall we say, crotchety).

We said goodbye at the door of the plane (actually I ran back to say thank you, as they shoved us and our unruly children on first) and thought never to see her again.

As we waited for our bags at Edinburgh, tired, and by this stage pukey children slumped into the uncomfy chairs by the carousel, I heard someone calling my name.

It was Michelle, and a large carrier bag. 

I bought these for the children, she said.  They're not from New Zealand, but we'll pretend they are.

Four teddy bears.  One each.  For no reason other than that she was kind.

I did cry then.  And hugged her.  And we really will now never see her again.

But two of the bears are called Michelle, and one is Michael.  The last is Thomas, but you can't have everything.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Gherkin goes viral

Watch this (hopefully it's there now - sorry for anyone who clicked when it wasn't).

And sponsor the gherkin to run the London Marathon (probably in under 3 1/2 hours).  He's going to be the fastest building you'll ever see.

And if you can't sponsor, please share, whether by blogging, facebooking, tweeting or just telling your friends (or corporate donors).  A viral gherkin's got to be worth supporting.

It's for the Cure Parkinson's Trust, and if you want to know why this matters to me, read this.

Go Gherkin!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Generous to a fault?

We were on holiday with my in-laws recently. 

I know, lucky us.  No really.  It was Antigua.  Lucky us.

Anyway, my mother in law bought the children all a little token present.  A souvenir sort of thing.  S's was a necklace, made of shell, with a little dolphin pendant on it.  It wasn't expensive, but it was rather lovely: pretty and delicate, and significantly more tasteful than the ones either A or L chose.

Back in Blighty, Primary 1 are still working through their sounds, and this week's is ph.

Dolphin's got a ph in it.  said S, proudly, to me on Tuesday. That's why I took my dolphin necklace to school.
 It has, said I, encouragingly.  But where's your necklace now, S?
I gave it to my friend Molly.  She liked it so I said she could have it.

So I rang Molly's mother.  Who found it and promised to give it back.

We had Molly to play today, and I remembered the dolphin necklace when her mother came to pick her up. 

She'd given it back, apparently.  Or at least she'd given it to Molly to give back at school.

S, what did you do with your necklace?
I gave it to Annie.  Everyone really liked it and so I said Molly could have it first and then Annie.  Zoe's next.

So I texted Annie's mother.  Who rang back;  Annie is very distressed.  She has broken the necklace, and the dolphin has disappeared.

It doesn't matter really, it's not valuable, and I'm much more worried that Annie doesn't get into trouble for it, but what to say to S?

Because my immediate reaction was to tell her off for taking precious things into school and giving them away.  She can't do that, surely? 

But the more I think about it, the more proud I am of her.  She has something she loves but when someone else loves it, what is her reaction? She gives it to them.   That's more generous and less materialistic than I suspect I would be.

Actually, forget "suspect".  Than I know I would be.  Because although I have told S it was very kind of her to give it to both Molly and Annie, I've also told her that she's not to do it with anything else.

But I have a horrid feeling that was the wrong thing to say...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Greener grass

I've been thinking about five women, of whom I am one, today.  We are all the same age.  We were all at the same university at the same time.  Different subjects, obviously, but broadly, you could say back then that we were similar, or at least had the same opportunities.  All of us went straight into further education or jobs on graduating.

Now, over fifteen years later, between us we have nine children and four husbands.

Two of us are employed full time. One of us is a full time mother.  One works part time, and one is trying to find a job where the interviewers will ask her about her skills (many) and experience (vast) rather than how she's going to manage picking her children up from school and cooking her husband's supper.
 One lives in a tiny village.  Two in small towns.  Two in cities.  

One of us was decorated in the New Year's Honours.

One, the only one I don't know personally (although some of the others do), is a FTSE100 chief executive.

Two of us have fish. One of us has a dog. 

One travels widely.  One hasn't had a holiday in over 18 months.

Some read, some knit.  Some sing, some go to the gym.  Three write blogs.  None has as much time for herself as she would like.

All of us, I suspect, have moments where we want some of what the others have. 

None of us has it all.