Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Self destruct

After our second stop - in the lay-by of a busy road somewhere in North Wales (I think) where I fed The Baby - we made our way through the darkness along the neverending winding country lanes.  Occasionally The Husband would flick on the overhead light in the car to snatch a feeting glance of the map or handwritten instructions.  Sat in the back of the car, sandwiched between The sleeping Seven Year Old with his head on my shoulder and The wide awake Baby, I continuously pressed a button on my phone in order to keep it lit up to illuminate The Baby whilst simultaneously singing random lines from nursery rhymes that I could remember - all this in a bid to keep The Baby from becoming hysterical.

We finally arrived at our destination in Cardiganshire, a delightful collection of farm cottages, where we had found The Friends who were to be married still awake and setting up for the following day.  It was 11.30pm.  After sleeping in the car, The Seven Year Old was, of course, wide awake…”this is my self-destruct button Mummy” he cried out gleefully as he ran around playing out the role of an imaginary character in his game.  “I wish I had one” I muttered under my breath…

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

May the force be with you...

It turns out there is something The Baby dislikes more than travelling in the car.  And that is travelling in the car when it is dark. As we discovered last Friday evening on our seven hour journey to South Wales.  “Why do it to yourselves?” you may well ask.  The answer being that The Husband was to be Best Man at two of The Friends wedding which was to take place on the Saturday.  There was no question, of course we were all going.  

We stopped twice en-route, in a bid for us all to regain some sanity.  During the first stop – only an hour and a half into our journey - it came to light that The Husband is a closet McDonalds cheese burger fan – in a surprisingly big way.  Even The Seven Year Old was a little taken aback by The Husbands enthusiasm for ‘the cheeseburger’.

After we’d all been fed and watered and had the obligatory ‘just in case’ trip to the loo, we returned to the car.  Once strapped into his car seat The Baby immediately filled his nappy.  Again.  “It’s my turn” said The Husband returning back inside to change The Baby – it wouldn’t surprise me if we discover at some time in the future that The Husband had sneaked in another cheese burger too.  They were certainly gone for a considerable amount of time.   The Seven Year Old and me remained in the car looking at his Lego Star Wars book for the one hundredth time this month.  We always have to choose which “goody” and which “baddy” character we will be.  I say we have to choose but The Seven Year Old is always very clear about who we will all be.

When The Husband eventually returned to the car with The Baby he said “I was beginning to feel like I’d be spending the rest of my life in that changing room”.  It transpired that The Baby had been rather busy in there and numerous changes had been required. “I’ve texted the bride-to-be” added The Husband, “I said it’ll probably be quite late, when we arrive”.

Hmmm…the journey continued…

Friday, 25 November 2011

TFI Friday?

Cast your mind back to a couple of weeks ago, this was our Friday…

The Baby is sleeping soundly on my shoulder – the only place he’ll sleep at the moment, which is really quite limiting at times.  The Husband is attempting to quietly (?!) demolish a built-in cupboard in the kitchen.  We are waiting in for a Gas Man to arrive to re-commission the gas fire in the living room.  We have – for now – let go of the dream of the log burning stove we long for.  The gas man promised he’d be here between 10am and 2pm.  It is 2.30pm. There is no sign of the Gas Man.  We phone him.  He says he’ll “be round in half an hour”.  “Why say a time if it’s unlikely you’ll be able to honour it?” chorus me and The Husband. 

Eventually the Gas Man arrives and needs access to the gas supply in the chaotic cellar. He fights his way through the kitchen cupboard demolition and tentatively makes his way down the dim lit cellar stairs.  He takes care to avoid stepping on the numerous half full tins of paint, the broken sweeping brush and abandoned game of boules that currently adorn the stairs. 

When he arrives back from the horrors of the cellar I find myself frantically apologising for the chaos.  I am over-the-top, and for some reason, absurdly jolly, in my apology, providing excuses that try to suggest we normally live in an ordered clutter free house.    I think somewhere deep in my psyche I believe that if I become the Gas Man’s friend he will not judge us on the current state of our home.  The Gas Man however, appears to remain deeply unimpressed.   

Unimpressed that is until he notices two things we unknowingly have in common.  More precisely two local “celebrities” in the form of artist Pete McKee and the fabulous singer Richard Hawley.  We finally bond over the fact that we (me and The Husband) have an appreciation for the work of Mr McKee and Mr Hawley (did I mention he’s fabulous?). and the fact that The Gas Man is friends with the pair of them.

After the Gas Man has left I marvel to The Husband about how the “cold fish” Gas Man had warmed up.  How we had bonded.  How he may no longer think we are simply ridiculous. And then The Husband points out that for the whole time I’ve had baby sick covering my shoulder.


There will now be a short break in blogging due to us being away for the weekend at a wedding of two of The Friends in South Wales - very excited!  Have lovely weekends people!  See you back here on Tuesday.  Jx

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Sweet dreams

Yesterday we had a new mattress delivered.  We had a new mattress delivered not because the old mattress is worn out, no, it still has much life left in it...the reason we had a new mattress delivered is because our current mattress is too small for our bed. And has been for the past three years.  “Why would anyone buy a mattress that is too small for their bed?” you may be wondering.  In my experience, a person may find themselves in this predicament if the mattress came first, followed by the purchasing of a larger bed frame at a later date simply because a person has always yearned for a massive bed but couldn’t justify to themselves the buying of a new bigger mattress when they have a perfectly good one already – albeit the wrong size.  Ridiculous? Yes, quite.

After three years of stuffing pillows down one side of the mattress to wedge it in to the bed frame in a bid to stop us from shifting around in the night, we have finally given in.  The reason for this sudden (?) change of heart?  The answer lies in the fact that The Baby will sleep slightly better if he’s in our bed. And we will all sleep a little better if that bed feels a little roomier.  Co-sleeping with a baby may not be for everyone, it may not be recommended by some health professionals, but for now, it is the way for us - mainly to stop me from dying from sheer lack of sleep.

And so, yesterday, our huge new mattress arrived.  Hurrah!  Of course, the delivery men couldn’t take it upstairs for us – “sorry love, not allowed to”.  So yes, as the proud new owners of said larger mattress we awoke this morning dreaming of the potential new comfort that awaits us.  For now, the mattress sits in our hallway – too heavy and cumbersome for me and The Husband to face moving last night - almost blocking us off from the kitchen.  We literally have to scale it to access the kettle for tea making.  The ridiculousness continues…

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Old Macdonald had a farm... i ee i oh...and on that farm he had 30 seven year olds (brave man!!) i ee i oh!

The Seven Year Old is going on his first residential school trip today.  He and his class mates will be staying for two nights on a local farm.  He has been excited about the trip for weeks.  In fact he’s so excited that he’s been choosing to overlook the fact that he has a bad cold and has instead, been pushing to go to school because he’s so determined that he will be going on the trip.  When he came home from school yesterday he immediately wanted to pack his suitcase, “there’s no time to play tonight Mum, we have lots to do“. He woke up so early this morning, and was so completely full of beans, that you would have been excused for thinking it was Christmas Day.   As we walked up to school this morning we joined the other school trippers - a procession of seven year olds, backpacks on their backs, pulling their suitcases behind them.

Along with some of the other parents, I am feeling a little nervous about the whole thing. Will he be ok away from home for two nights? Will he like the food?  Will he feel lonely?  Will the other kids be nice to him? What if he feels ill?  Of course, I know that all these things will be dealt with if they occur so there’s no need to worry.  But of course I will.  Worrying about our kids, it’s what us Mum’s do best.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Funny Tuesdays

First of all, apologies to anyone reading this who doesn't work, or who works non-standard hours, as I imagine that much of the following will not really ring true to you – please feel free to dip out now, I will not be offended although I would, of course, really rather that you stay and read on. 

Here’s a question – “don’t you find that Tuesday is a bit of a funny day?”

Me and The Husband have, for some time, been in agreement that it’s hard to know what to credit a Tuesday for in general terms.  It’s not the beginning of the week like a Monday which invites you to hurl yourself in to a fresh week. Mondays can be a bit like the start of a hill climb when (in theory at least) you set off full of energy and gusto.  And a Tuesday doesn’t have the benefit of a Wednesday which, being bang in the middle of the week, brings with it a feeling of being really in to the flow of things now and that you’re already halfway through the working week.  I often find myself to be quite productive on Wednesdays before the downslide into the weekend begins on Thursday.  And then, once you get to Friday, well, you may as well be starting the weekend already.  But a Tuesday.  You still have the week stretching out in front of you ...the memories of the previous weekend have already faded away and it feels like the next weekend is a long way off.  All in all it can be quite draining and none more so than when a Tuesday throws up the unexpected start to the day as The Husband could testify today. 

The Husband’s alarm went off this morning just as I was finishing feeding The Baby.  It was dark and chilly and The Husband did the thing we both excel at – “the switch off and roll”.  Switch off the alarm onto “sleep mode” and roll over to cosy up for “a few more minutes”.  Now, I’ve always thought it’s a poor  design principle on many alarm clocks that the “sleep” button is often positioned dangerously close to the “switch-me-off-forever-and-oversleep-and-be-late” button.  I’m sure you can see where this story is going…  As it is, at 6.30am-ish this morning  I didn’t think anything of it and The Baby and me returned to sleep. 

When I stirred again I realised it was now light and The Husband was still in bed. As I couldn’t see the alarm clock due to being as blind as a bat without my contact lenses, I gave The Husband a gentle nudge to rouse him.  He assumed this was the familiar signal to him that he was snoring and needed to move.  “Sorry” he muttered as he bagan to roll over and then realised I was asking him the time.  I have never seen him move so quickly…”I think I can still make it in on time” he called as he ran out of the house.  “Happy Tuesday” I muttered“ and once again thanked the maternity-leave-fairy that I could move through Tuesday at my own pace.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The game of life

I don’t know if it’s to do with approaching middle age – and no, I don’t for one minute think I’m already there yet at the grand old age of 40 – but I’m finding that me and The Husband seem to have taken to watching game shows on TV .   I can’t even put it down to The Husband being of a certain age as he’s a good seven years – and as he keeps reminding me two months - younger than my good self.  Yes, you heard me correctly – I am married to a younger man. 
Anyway, I digress.  Let’s get back on track to the game show issue.  I think the reason I suspect this could be age related is that I remember from my childhood that The Female Parent was very keen on watching game shows.  She still is.  Growing up with this made me somewhat resistant, I didn’t see the appeal at all.  And so it is therefore all the more shocking to me to find myself actively choosing to watch such programs.  For some time we’ve watched “Total Wipeout” – even The Seven Year Old likes to sit and watch that and The Husband is convinced that he would do brilliantly if he were to take part.  In fact I must get round to filling in that application form I printed off for him so that he can put his money where his mouth is...if nothing else we could all get a swish holiday in Argentina.

The latest addition to our game show repertoire is “The Cube”. We stumbled across it whilst looking for something else to watch and quickly got drawn in.  Like most people I prefer to view from the comfort of the sofa.  The Husband however, feels the need to join in.   Being someone who can turn his hand to most sports and physical challenges he’s also quietly competitive - although I have a feeling he will greet that comment with a certain amount of mock outrage. 

So, that’s how we came to find ourselves watching on TV a man facing the challenge of balancing on a short, narrow, low beam for 20 seconds to secure a prize of £50,000.  I was sat on the sofa with a cuppa, The Husband was precariously positioned trying to balance on the wooden leg of a chair that he’d brought from the dining room and placed on its side in the middle of the living room a bid to recreate the Cube challenge we were watching.  Not that he’s competitive you understand.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Under siege

I’m sat on the sofa cuddling The Baby to sleep – nothing new there then – when The Husband walks into the room and says “I just touched a slug. I want to vomit”.  Now don’t go thinking this was a garden based incident where such hazards lurk and therefore a person is reasonably prepared to face such an encounter.  No my friends.  This was in our very own kitchen. On our very own work surface. Directly behind our very own bread bin.  Eugh.

What with the recent sightings of mice, freakisly-giant-spiders, and now slugs who are invading our house we may as well be living in a tent.  In fact, they’d probably have less chance of getting into a tent.

Whilst on the subject of slugs, I am reminded of one of my two lovely Sister’s in Law who has more than one slug story of her own.  The vilest story involves a cup of tea being reheated in a microwave.  As she drank the tea, The Sister in Law thought that the tea bag was still in the cup as with each sip of tea something gently brushed her lips… It wasn’t a tea bag.  Double eugh.  Enough said. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011


Mad Hatter:- “Would you like a little more tea?”
Alice:-             “Well, I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t very well take more”.

                  Alice in Wonderland

Myself and The Husband are tea drinkers. In a big way.  We are both from families of tea drinkers – except for the female half of The Parents who is a rogue coffee drinker.  The Seven Year Old is just coming around to the idea of tea. He will occasionally take a straw, plonk it in my mug and take a slurp.  As yet, he can’t be tempted to a full cup.  I suppose you could say he’s a tea drinker in training.

“Come to me oh cup of tea,
And let me tell you of my antipathy
To other drinks in the morning,
They don’t stop this Daddy from yawning.”

…is what I heard The Husband reciting to The Baby one day a few weeks ago.  “Did you just make that up?” I ask, laughing.  “No.  We made it up a few days ago actually” came the response.  Me and The Baby look at each and sigh simultaneously.  Time for another cuppa I think….

Friday, 18 November 2011

Just another manic...

Friday.  Friday morning to be exact. As is the case for many families, school day mornings for us are often somewhat chaotic.  I chase around after The Seven Year Old encouraging him to eat breakfast, get dressed, clean his teeth (with toothpaste and for longer than ten seconds!) and pack his school bag. All the while, trying to time the feeding and changing of The Baby so that we’re all ready to leave the house before the school bell rings .  All in all, it can be quite a challenge.  Friday mornings are always particularly frantic in our household as there are so many extras to remember:- homework book, reading book, bun day money (and sometimes buns if it’s our turn to provide) and last minute practising for the Friday spelling test.

Today we thought we were on top of things when, ten minutes before needing to gather our belongings to leave the house I realise it’s Children in Need Day.  “What difference does that make?” you may be asking.  Well, at The Seven Year Olds school it means that the pupils can pay 50p to wear their own clothes and the money raised is donated to Children in Need.  The Seven Year Old is already dressed in his school uniform when I break the news that he can wear his own clothes to school today.  He is immediately excited beyond belief.  The Seven Year Old loves clothes and has already developed his own individual sense of style.  He is a big fan of the Trilby hat and has a collection of them.  He also loves to don a waistcoat. Recently when I told him we would be attending a wedding soon he said “ Brilliant!  I can wear my suit and tie again”.  Unusually I think, for a boy of his age, he loves to get dressed up in smart clothes.

The Seven Year Old runs upstairs announcing that he will go and choose something to wear.  “Remember we only have ten minutes before we have to leave” I call out after him.  He quickly returns having selected a pair of navy blue skinny cotton trousers, a red, white and blue check shirt, a grey tie and charcoal waistcoat.  “Are you sure you wouldn’t be comfier in jeans and t-shirt” I ask, thinking this would speed things up a bit.  “ I’m sure”” he says “ I’d wear my suit if I could…I can’t wear my suit can I?”  “ I think it may be a bit much for school” I suggest.  He accepts this and quickly changes into his chosen outfit.  I tie the grey tie on him and it is way too long and sticks out beneath the waistcoat.  I’ll find another one he shouts, running off before I can stop him.  All the while the time ticks menacingly away. He’s back down with a different shirt and a smaller tie.  The newly chosen shirt is too small now, he has outgrown it since it's last outing and the cuffs sit several centimetres above his wrists, and the shorter tie doesn’t’ go with the checked shirt.  The Seven Year Old is getting stressed now.  He is keen to make the most of this ‘own clothes day’ at school.  I take the scissors to the grey tie, snipping about a third of it off at the skinny end, and then we’re back in business with the original outfit.- albeit with a slightly rough around the edges tie.

The whole ensemble is topped off with a faded denim jacket and dark grey trilby.  He’s looks fantastic and is very pleased with himself as he checks himself out in the mirror.  We’re finally ready to leave the house!  As we get to the school gate he runs off into the playground, keen to see what the other kids are wearing and wanting to show off his outfit.  I trail in behind him wearing an old fleece top of The Husbands and feeling like I’m letting the side down quite frankly.  Oh well.  Just another manic Friday.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Swings and roundabouts

The Baby has well and truly found his voice.  At times, if you couldn’t see the delighted smile on his face, it would be hard to know if he’s really happy or if someone is trying to pull his legs off.  He literally squeals as loudly as he can, just for the sheer hell of it.  In contrast, The Seven Year Old is choosing to use his voice less often.  He has recently started spending more time alone in his room as if he’s training himself up in preparation for the teenage years.  “He’s just growing up” says The Husband.  I know this is the truth but that doesn’t mean I’m ready for it.

The more independent The Seven Year Old becomes the more I feel like I want to cling on to him.  And so, each morning when I drop him off at school, I continue my attempts to steal a kiss. This is greeted by him rolling his eyes and raising his eyebrows as he gestures for me to leave – not exactly embarrassed, more as if he feels a bit sorry for me.  The Baby, however, can do no wrong as far as The Seven Year Old is concerned.  He is happy to kiss and cuddle his little brother for as often and as long as The Baby will allow him to.  I sometimes wait until the two of them are having a little moment and sneak in there to join in.  This mostly works out ok. At least it does for now.  Until I’m found out.

At bedtime it’s all change.  The Seven Year Old will happily chat away and cuddle for as long as I will let him as he tries to buy more time before he needs to go to sleep.  As with most things when bringing up children, it’s all swings and roundabouts.  In the nicest possible independent grown-up sort of way.  Of course.    

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


The Husband, The Seven Year Old, The Baby and me all either have, or are just getting over, a nasty cold.  It’s rubbish when we’re all ill at the same time as there’s no-one really feeling generous or energetic enough to dole out the sympathy, at least not in the quantities it is desired.

I’m pretty sure I’m the worse with this.  I tend to follow the example set by The Parents – the female half more specifically – who won’t even consider sympathy for illness or injury until it’s been established that you’ve done all you can to help yourself. This self help would mean the taking of, or use of, the appropriate medication.  Of course this could only ever be one of four Female Parent approved medications:- paracetamol, TCP liquid, Covonia cough medicine and Germolene antiseptic ointment.  Once, as a child, I was sent to primary school with a cold so severe that a teacher suggested to me that I may want to consider taking the rest of the week off.  It was Monday. 

So, here we are.  Coughing and spluttering, shuffling around with our red noses in a sea of tissues.  Roll on the weekend

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The sofa delivery

Remember in a post a couple of weeks ago, we were awaiting the delivery of our new sofa?  Well, it arrived.  Just as me and The Husband had the old sofa wedged in the living room doorway with me trapped in the living room and The Husband trapped on the stairs.  Neither of us within reach of the front door.  The Baby, safely strapped into his chair, sat in the living room with me with a bemused look on his face surrounded by an extraordinary amount of previously ‘lost’ random Lego pieces that had become visible amongst the dust when we moved the old threadbare sofa .

From the living room window I see the delivery van approach. After a fleeting moment of panic, and a big heave ho from The Husband, we were able to reverse back into the living room and stand the sofa up on its end in the corner.  “I’m beginning to wonder how we ever got it in here in the first place” I ponder unhelpfully.  The new sofa is brought in by two delivery men.  It glides easily through the living room door.  This is because the new sofa appears to be tiny.  “are you sure this is a three seater?” I ask the delivery men suspiciously.   “Hard to say love” comes the response.

We unpack the new sofa and realise it has arrived in parts and needs fixing together which seems unlikely for a sofa but there you go.  Two hours later and the bits are together to form one fully fledged sofa which is thankfully now looking even longer than the old sofa – which is, incidentally, still stood in the corner of the room looking sorry for itself having been so easily replaced..  The Husband is looking a little worse for wear after the building ordeal with me and The Baby looking on and “helpfully” suggesting alterative methods of construction.  “I think I prefer the old one” I say.  The Husband shoots me a look that tells me more than words ever could that it’s time to shut up now. 

Later that day a man with a van comes along to collect the old sofa.  The man is more adept at removals than me and The Husband, plus he’s twice the size of the two of us put together and approximately a million times stronger.  He quickly manoeuvres the old sofa out of the house and into his van.  “He just came at it from a different angle” speculates The Husband whilst I stand at the door waving and silently mouthing  “goodbye old friend”.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Food glorious food

Why is it that the second a person begins to think about eating a bit healthier all they actually want to eat is cake. And crisps.  And bacon sandwiches.  But not together.  Obviously. 

Since having The Baby I occasionally launch into a moan to The Husband about the fact that the last of the pregnancy pounds are not melting away as easily as they did after having The Seven Year Old.  The Husband is very patient during these tirades. If it were me having to do the listening then I’d be tempted to point out that the weight would be more likely to decline if I wasn’t eating virtually my own body weight in marshmallows and ginger nut biscuits each day.  As it is, I’m choosing not to listen to myself.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Back to reality

Monday morning, and before we even leave the ‘castle’ reality kicks in.   We rescue the Gatehouse from the layer of family life that we have coated it with and we pack our many bags.  The Husband drives the two friends to the nearby railway station to catch their train home to London-town. He returns at 10am, the time we are due to vacate the building.  We refuse to be unnerved by this, after all, how often does anyone actually turn up at 10am to see if you have left a holiday rental?  Two housekeepers arrive.  Great.

The Husband explains to the housekeepers that we have “a few” last bits to load into the car.  This is a gross understatement.  They decline his offer to come in, instead choosing to remain in their individual cars parked in the driveway.  The Husband arrives back inside to find me feeding The Baby ,and The Seven Year Old playing with his Star Wars Lego.  He finishes loading the car and explains to The Housekeepers that we may need a little longer than originally anticipated.  As we are now only using the one room, surely the housekeepers will come in.  No.  They remain in their cars.

The Baby is fed and changed.  It is now half past ten and we are stood in the hallway.  The Husband, The Seven Year Old and me bid farewell to our ‘castle’.   The Baby smiles sweetly, and then promptly fills his nappy, in the extreme.  The Husband shakes his head before descending the stairs to face the housekeepers once more. I change The Baby, again. Both nappy and clothes – yes, it was that extreme.  And then we are finally out of the building.  We drive off waving goodbye to the two very patient housekeepers who The Husband is now on first name terms with.  Ten minutes later we are heading north and calm is restored.  Both The Seven Year Old and The Baby are already asleep. 

It’s strange how the car feels somehow lighter.  At just about the same moment The Husband and me realise that we have left at least half of the clothes we arrived with hung up in the wardrobe in the Gatehouse.  Oh. We turn the car around and prepare to face The Husband’s new housekeeper friends once again.    

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Castle antics - part five

The Husband, or should I say Henry VIII, serves up a delicious lunch of beef casserole – his own recipe - and bangers ‘n’ mash washed down with some of the red wine left over from our wedding earlier this year.  We eat.  We talk.  We laugh.  And there’s not an interpretive dance in sight... “we’re too full from lunch” is the weak excuse.

The longest standing of the friends – we’ve been friends from the age of eleven – is also, by happy coincidence a brilliant baker and today a visiting Queen.  She has brought along a sublime ginger birthday cake which we all happily devour. Prosecco corks are popped and the conversation flows.  The same visiting Queen has also brought along a framed photograph of a school trip we went on back in the day. We are pictured floating down the Ardeche river in the South of France having capsized our Canadian Canoe in spectacular fashion.  Much reminiscing and storytelling follows, much to the horror of Adam Ant (the ‘Queens’ husband) who has heard these stories trotted out a few (hundred) times too many.  We plough on regardless, delighted to have a new audience.

We hardly see The Seven Year Old knight and his friend The Princess who run around squealing excitedly, hiding in the turrets and convincing themselves we have a castle ghost – an idea enhanced by the male adults (?!) amongst us who create ghostly manoeuvres and sounds.  Our resident Wizard wears himself out through his endless casting of spells on the delighted Knight and Princess.   The Baby, who intermittently wears his very own baby crown, enjoys cuddles from his Aunt Repunzal - who takes care not to get him caught in her homemade hair - and Uncle Jester who is wearing a huge 3-point hat.  I would love to know what The Baby is making of all of this.

As the daylight fades we are back out on the rooftop once more for further sparklers and sky lanterns.   We later warm ourselves drinking hot soup and eating potato cakes before waving our guests goodbye.  The remainder of the evening brings further reminiscing with The Friends who are staying over, one of whom I’ve known for fifteen years.  He probably knows me as well as I know myself – which is really quite well these days.  He speculates about what my early teenage self would have thought had I been told that in the future I would be celebrating my 40th birthday with the same childhood friend - and our children - that I had shared the canoe with on that watery school trip.  With no hesitation I reply that I would have been more surprised all those years ago if you’d told me that me and my canoe companion wouldn’t still be close friends almost thirty years on.  And with that, I am once again reminded of the importance of friendship and realise how very lucky I am.     

As I lay in the darkness that night listening to The Husband, The Seven Year Old and The Baby, sleeping, I feel as happy and content as I could ever wish to be.  Over the past forty years there have been many highs and lows, lots of time spent trying to work out who I am and where I want to be in life.  And now, here I am, right where I want to be - surrounded by the people I love.  Life is good.  Bring on the next forty years!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Castle antics - part four

Sunday morning arrives and we are greeted by either a heavy mist or a light fog, we can’t quite agree on which sounds the most dramatic.  One of The Friends describes the view from one of the many large windows as “rolling hills drenched with fairies breath”. Poetic?  Vomit-inducingly sickly sweet?  No, simply the beginning of another day’s ridiculous banter.  The same friend has been threatening for some time, in cahoots with another friend – I use the term friends loosely in this context – to perform an interpretive dance (?!) at today’s party entitled “you’re really old now missy”.  Recognising the empty threat, in place simply for comedy value, I retort by advising them that we are all looking forward to seeing it.  We go back and forth like this for much of the day.

We spend the morning drinking tea and snacking on biscuits. The Husband and two friends prepare the party feast.  I take a long soak in the deep roll top bath – at least that’s what I do once I can get The Seven Year Old out of there…”just two more minutes pleeeeeaaassssse, it’s so lovely and relaxing in here”.

 Before we know it, it’s time to change into our costumes for the party. We all remain true to our heritage… I become Queen Ju for the day, The Husband is (of course) Henry VIII, The Seven Year Old is a knight protecting the castle with a sideline in crown making to ensure all of our guests will be suitably attired. The two Friends become visiting royalty in the form of King of Arabia (“the whole of”), and King of the Leprechauns – complete with green sequinned eyebrows PVA-glued to his own and a transformed pan worn as a hat and serving as a pot of hidden gold. 

By the time we have a full house on the guest front we have added to the mix, a brilliant court jester, a beautiful Rapunzel, a demon wizard, a gorgeous Queen and Princess of Chesterfield, and finally, Prince Charming himself - Adam Ant.  Genius.  Let the party begin.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Castle antics - part three

“A king is still a king when he’s wearing his pyjamas” says The Husband in reply to The Seven Year Olds suggestion that he is not king of the castle until he is wearing the Henry VIII costume he has hired for Sunday’s party.  It is Saturday morning and we are all piled into the copious double bed in the master bedroom having been woken at 7am by the tolling of the Gatehouse bell. 

We later discover that the bell rings on the hour from 7am until 10pm with a few half hourly chimes thrown in sporadically for good measure. The bell is housed at the top of one of the buildings four turrets.  The turret that is the closest to our bedroom.  Obviously.  The bell's  chime is quite loud making the impromptu 7am alarm call difficult to ignore.  This, together with the fact that The Seven Year Old is so happy to be here that on waking up he immediately explodes into excited chatter, causes me to brace myself for early mornings for the duration of our stay.  The Husband however, offers me a much needed lie in whilst he entertains the boys.  After a night of little sleep due to sharing a room with three males of the species and the associated disturbances that can bring  - sleep talk, light snoring and an inability to sleep in the allocated bed - I can’t refuse.  I proceed to enjoy a series of half hourly naps interrupted only by the intermittent tolling of the bell until I awake to a cup of tea and a baby who needs feeding.

Our day ticks along nicely.  Our friends arrive, we enjoy a walk in the surrounding countryside, hold a table tennis competition, do jigsaws, eat roast chicken and chips and decorate cardboard crowns which are then worn for the remainder of the weekend. We spend Bonfire night up on the roof amongst the turrets writing our names with sparklers and releasing sky lanterns.  Who knew that so much fun could be had without the technology we usually flood our lives with.  We barely even notice there is no television. We eventually fall into our beds, exhausted, but in a good way.

I lay in the darkness smiling to myself as I think of our two friends sleeping in one of the chilly single turret bedrooms which they have favoured over the plush twin bedroom next to ours. As random as ever, the weekend rolls on…      

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Castle antics - part two

We decide to risk following the “strictly private Tixall Mews” signpost that we have driven past only five minutes previously.  Our risk pays off and moments later we are on the driveway leading to the “castle”.  “Is this where we’re staying?” asks The Seven Year Old excitedly.  “It is indeed” chorus me and The Husband with huge grins on our faces.  We pull in through the gate and park in the archway as we’ve been instructed to.  The Gatehouse has, in effect, become a glorified car port. 

We locate the door key from the coded key box whilst congratulating ourselves on remembering – somewhat miraculously for us - to bring a torch.  The Husband, with The Seven Year Old hot on his heels, tries to unlock several doors without success. Just in the nick of time, before The Baby screams for milk, we find the only remaining door whose lock hasn’t yet been tried with the key.  And we’re in!  Up the stone spiral staircase and we burst into the first floor of our weekend retreat.  Oh my. 

It is better than we had imagined. “I want to live here” exclaims The Seven Year Old and I have to agree with him.  The Husband patiently unloads the car whilst me and The Seven Year Old compete for the title of “giddiest giddy person in the castle”.  I call one of the two friends who will be joining us the following day to provide a running room by room commentary as we run around exploring. 

The Husband, The Seven Year Old The Baby and me then climb higher beyond the upper floor - which somewhat randomly houses little more than a table tennis table and single bedrooms in two of the four turrets.- and we’re out onto the roof.  Wow.  It turns out that turning 40 is feeling really rather good.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Castle antics - part one

Tixall Gatehouse
Photo from the
Landmark Trust website
8pm Friday evening. We’re searching for the castle. The Husband has stopped the car to look at the map and accompanying instructions that have been printed from the Landmark Trust website. The Seven Year Old, The Baby, and me, sit in the back of car trying to be helpful by remaining silent. 

Surmising that we are “very close” to the castle, The Husband stops the car by a gate to a field, abandons the map and leaps out of the car in favour of surveying the land.  In the thick darkness of the Staffordshire countryside, me and The Seven Year Old exchange nervous glances, we’re feeling a little exposed and vulnerable as we sit in the lit up car with the doors open not knowing that The Husband is only a few feet away. 

“I can see it!” declares the Husband from the darkness.  From the back of the car we crane our necks expecting to spy the castle-like building far into the distance.  But no.  Instead, silhouetted against the moonlit sky looms our magnificent home for the weekend, we are separated by only a field and two fences.  We squeal in delight and marvel at its beauty.  All we need to do now, is work out how to get to it.

Friday, 4 November 2011

What to wear to a party in a castle

Later today we will be leaving for the ‘birthday castle’.  There is much excitement in the air.  We have already packed our party outfits. It has been agreed that we will all be dressing in a way that befits the grandeur of the castle-like building in which we will be residing.  We are not restricting ourselves, or our guests, with a specific era or theme beyond the vague notion of ‘Turrets and Tiaras’.

I am seizing the opportunity to wear one of the potential wedding dresses purchased in the build up to our wedding earlier this year.  Why, you may be wondering would we be talking in plurals when it comes to wedding dresses.  Pregnancy would be the answer.  More on that another time.  I am very happy to have the chance to dress like a princess in a gorgeous full length champagne coloured 1930’s style dress.  Of course, no fancy dress outfit should be too pretty or serious and so an attempt shall be made to comedy things up a little with the addition of a blanket cloak and a cardboard bejewelled crown.  As we are now in the throes of a chilly November then I’m guessing a pair of woolly tights and a thermal vest wouldn’t go amiss either!!

The Seven Year Old is thrilled at the prospect of a second airing for his Roman Knight outfit – first worn a few weeks ago for a school project.  As a family we made a rather impressive shield which we like to think was up there with the best of ‘em in Year 3 that day.  We are making The Baby a crown, although I’m yet to be convinced that he will appreciate this.

On discovering The Husband has hired himself a Henry VIII costume for the weekend, I suspect he may be trying to tell me something… “are you taking more wives?” I ask.  The Husband – who sometimes thinks he’s funny – responds with, “one at a time with the wives but I’m sharpening my guillotine”.  We only tied the knot seven months ago, Catherine of Aragon lasted way longer than that.  Mind you, Henry divorced Catherine to marry Anne Boleyn and it was Anne who was the first of his wives to be beheaded.  As was his fifth wife, Kathryn Howard.  Maybe there’s more to The Husband than meets the eye.


As we’ll be away at ‘Ju’s birthday castle’ for the weekend – where there is heavy fog and light drizzle forecast -  there will be no further blog posts until Tuesday.  In the meantime, enjoy your bonfire weekends people, play safely!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Are you sitting comfortably?

Today we will be taking delivery of our new sofa.  This isn’t the huge, velvet, squishy and wildly expensive sofa we fell in love with - to clarify, when I say ‘we’ I mean, '‘me’ – no, the sofa that is due to arrive today is the simple, stylish, practical sofa that we can afford.  More specifically, we are awaiting the arrival of the sofa that we can afford with more than a little help from The Parents who were becoming increasingly concerned by the state of the threadbare, sagging, tired sofa we currently own.  As a result, The Parents have generously pitched in to the new sofa fund under the guise that this will be my 40th birthday gift.  This would seem more realistic if they hadn’t arrived to visit us earlier in the week bearing additional gifts.

Providing all goes well with the new sofa delivery – ie. it turns up and is the one we ordered in the chosen colour - then we shall be left with the dilemma of how to get rid of the current sofa.  We’ve thought about leaving it out on the pavement in the hope that a passer by will whisk it away.  However, it’s so far past its best that I can’t imagine anyone would actually want it, even if they could get it from our home to theirs.  And so, not knowing anyone with a van, it looks as if we will be paying someone to dispose of it on our behalf.

What with delivery and collection costs we could probably have stretched to the ‘dream’ sofa….providing we were prepared to carry it all the way home from the workshop of course.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Not to be a competitive Mum...

…but I strongly suspect The Seven Year Old may secretly be a child genius.  After a steady start at school with fledgling–like confidence we now find ourselves in Year 3 – and yes it feels as if we are all there - seeing top marks in spelling and times tables tests being achieved. 

Delighted to be doing so well, and finding things are coming a little easier, The Seven Year Old begins to see the benefit of completing homework and practising for upcoming tests.  He can now be found loudly chanting out the latest spellings without prompting - shame we can no longer take him out in public.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Life begins at 40?

Today is my 40th birthday. Hurrah!  Or not.  Depending on your perespective I guess.

Is turning 40 really a big deal these day? Or is 40 really the new 30?  Words spoken only by a 40 year old maybe.  “So how does it feel to be 40?” ask The (younger) Friends.  Well, becoming 40 can put a girl into a reflective mood – it’s feels like a sharp reminder that life is short and needs to be drained of every last drop of pleasure and experience in a bid to make every second count. 

Call it denial if you will but I’m refusing to even think about the wrinkles and saggy bits, much easier I think to remove all mirrors from the house.  Thanks to the genes from The Parents there are no grey hairs in sight as yet so that that’s helping with the issues of acceptance on the aging body.

Strangely, this morning, I discover that 40 suddenly sounds a lot older than 39.  Although, not nearly as old sounding as the term I came across when pregnant with The Baby only a few months ago.  Apparently, being aged over 35 qualifies a woman to be a ‘geriatric mum’.  Nice.  But it is only in talking to The Seven Year Old that I actually do start to feel geriatric…  “Mummy, is it true that in the olden days you used to have those video recorder player things?”  Thanks Seven Year Old.