Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Littlest didn't fall in ...

Overheard this brief conversation in the grounds of a National Trust house today:

"Eurgh! Get them down! They'll be all covered in rat dust!"

Said a mother, walking round a nature trail, in six inch heels, designer jeans and a cropped linen jacket, as she watched her sons climb onto a bale of straw.

What is rat dust? Toxic dander shed by rodents? Poisonous rat hairs just waiting to pierce their soft, young flesh and rot it from the inside out? What films has she been watching? What possible harm does she think playing in a field will do to her two little boys?And what if a passing rat did sniff around the same corner of rural England yesterday, a little bit of dirt and 'rat dust' is not normally harmful - and there are probably more rats per square inch of her urban home (it must have been urban - no-one born and bred in the country would wear those clothes to go for a walk, or worry about dirt and boys, or teeter pathetically at the edge of the path as though the long grass in the field would swallow her up if she ventured across it).

I wanted to creep up to those boys, find them a muddy puddle, collect leaves and feathers, get gloriously filthy and encourage them to jump in the moat  - but the last might actually have held a genuinely dangerous ratty problem - Weil's disease. So instead, I watched my own children as they found dead rabbits, petted horses, watched dragonflies, climbed on the straw bales and ran through the long grass.

But, even I have to admit that briefly, my heart was in my mouth as Littlest danced too near to the moat.

One cremation, two cremations, three cremations, four ...

Renewing Four-legged-friend's pet insurance and notice that his cremation is covered "£100 per incident" - he is very big, but surely a single incident of cremation should suffice?

Or perhaps, in the interest of clarity, the form needs to be rewritten - dogs, cremation cover "£100" ; cats, cremation cover "£100 per incident, maximum claim of £900."

Monday, 29 August 2011

Picture hanging, van Gogh and charity

Currently preparing to decorate - after extension building work and post-fire rebuilding work - and taking pictures down throughout the house. And this got me thinking, or musing, about the images that we choose for our homes:

Were I to win the lottery, I would fill the house with paintings - I would love to have a Jack Vettriano or two, or even better several, and maybe the odd Mondrian, or van Gogh (decided I quite liked van Gogh after sleeping in a room that had two of his paintings on the wall ... and there was a Picasso in the loo!) And I would pay my son to produce vast canvases of his atmospheric and arty photographs. These wouldn't be trophy pictures, because I actually like them, and am not remotely interested in some of the more trendy, current collectibles that could be hung purely to impress any visitor in the arty-know. I 'm not generally the sort who sets out to impress (although that van Gogh story is true).

Short of huge wealth landing on my doorstep, however, I am more than happy to make do with prints of places that mean something to us - places we have lived and locations we have travelled to on holiday - one or two nice, but not very special paintings, and numerous photographs of the children.

Children's artwork - paintings, drawings, collages, cards, unfired pots and clay models, woven fabric pictures and glazed pottery - adorns walls, shelves and in the case of two coiled snakes, the fireplace hearth.As they grow, these are a poignant reminder of their younger days.

So, we choose art that is personal and that we are happy to share our home with, but the children have their own space. What do they put up in their rooms? What images are common to all children's rooms? And are there any pictures that parents should, or could encourage?

With younger children, Winnie the Pooh springs to mind - most nurseries in the UK have probably, at some time, been home to at least one image of this iconic, literary bear - and if this encourages the reading of his stories, then it is a very positive thing .

Pop-stars, actors, cars, sports teams and bits of blue-tack adorn every teenager's room I have ever entered. Aspirational, belonging, hobby-forming, life-enhancing - all to be encouraged (and painstakingly, laboriously removed when teen eventually leaves home).

But what of images that mean more, remind us of who we are and of how fortunate our lives are - what about a UNICEF picture, or a photo of a sponsored child? No, we don't have one in our home ... but perhaps this redecorating is an opportunity to change; to try make a difference to distant lives. If we all stopped for a moment each day, and maybe put a coin in a box, it would be a step in a better direction. And we might encourage our children to do the same.

So, post-decoration, check the walls in our larder, kitchen or utility room - those rooms that we all walk through every day - and if there is no picture of a needy child, or charity box, then feel free to remind me and nudge me in the right direction.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Ladybird and Littlest

Littlest's latest innovation:



A ladybird hotel - with stick in case lone resident tries to escape, some stone ladybird statues to keep it company and a climbing frame to keep it fit.

Sadly, unlikely to make Littlest rich in later life ...

Sadder still, suspect Sidney the 'catapilar' has died - shrivelled chrysalis and no moth.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Cuddle classification

This morning Littlest defined us all in terms of the types of cuddle we give - biggest, longest, warmest and squeeziest - and that got me thinking: we all like to cuddle when the situation is right, put yourself in the wrong situation however and the cuddle becomes one of the most toe-curling, awkward and uncomfortable actions ever. So here is my list, or classification, of cuddles (you can, if you like substitute hug for cuddle in all of these except the first - that is very definitely a cuddle):


  1. Mother and Littlest cuddle - absolute heaven. As of course is any mother and child cuddle. Except when child decides he/she is too old for cuddles - the snatched ones outside school; when older child is on his/her laptop and thinks mother is prying; or any cuddle when older child's friends are present - these all result in a tense shrug and irritated noise that sounds a bit like "Gertoff". Littlest hasn't discovered "Gertoff" yet and hopefully it will be a long time before she does.
  2. Pick you up cuddles - those that say - I'm here for you, no matter what; don't worry; I understand your disappointment; I share your pain.
  3. Well done cuddles - sportsmen over-frequently display these. Students getting exam results do them quite a bit too (unless of course the Pick you up type would be more appropriate).
  4. Goodbye cuddles - these bind you together all too briefly and for their duration all you can think about is the inevitable separation to follow. Think parents and students newly off to university or college next month - the child thinking whoopee (but in a slightly scared sort of way) and the parent thinking wish you didn't have to leave, and where did the last 18 years go?
  5. Reconciliation cuddles - those that follow an arguement We are getting into the realm of awkward cuddles now ...
  6. Long lost (and thought you'd ditched them) acquaintance cuddles - those friends you bump into at someone else's party, people you've grown out of or away from and haven't spoken to for years and suddenly there they are, thrust upon you again and you feign pleasure and feign a brief really-wish-I-didn't-have-to cuddle. And on the subject of toe-curling cuddles ...
  7. "Kinky" cuddles - we've all witnessed these: older man (who has been through a war and has an upper lip you could iron a shirt on) and teenage grandson, nephew, or even worse friend, whose affectionate cuddle to rigid octogenarian is akin to hugging a previously quiescent volcano. An eruption of homophobic, spluttering vitriol follows, not always, thankfully, addressed directly at the younger man but more frequently at the long suffering relatives of the older man who thinks the whole male to male hugging experience is totally "kinky" (does anyone under the age of seventy use that horrid word now? Couldn't it be pensioned off by the compilers of dictionaries?) To be fair, not all older men exhibit this buttoned-up-to-the-eyeballs behaviour: my father has always given and received cuddles, with his daughters and grand-daughters, and also with his grandsons. Men who don't are missing out on a great joy (but I suspect they don't see it that way).
  8. Mutual gratification cuddles - where the two people involved in the cuddle check first that everyone is watching before cuddling. The hug or cuddle is done to impress their audience and is to benefit the reputation of both. Celebrities do this a lot.
  9. I love you cuddles - obvious, but sometimes contain elements of some of the above.
  10. And lastly for now - although, I am sure there are many other types of cuddle, including the biting, wriggling, sloppy, short-lived sort with Four-legged-friend - for anyone paying attention, Littlest only defined four types of cuddle from her siblings and myself. Someone was missing. His type of cuddle? Scratchiest - owing to his stubble on Littlest's cheek!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Madness runs in my family

As if I needed convincing ... not only is Mum a bit "lost the plot-ish" over her green trolley and rabbit house building, but what on earth possessed Littlest to do this?



"Catapilar Sidney" - now "Cackoon Sidney" (think someone told her how to spell Sidney)

In my opinion, these are best eaten before they hatch. Leave it too late and they flutter around your head all night.

I'll let you know what happens when Sidney becomes a moth (suspect she'll get that spelling right).


Slapped in the face and poked in the eye

Round and round in circles; face slapped; reversing; zig-zagging; poked in the eye; bounced around; shaken; wobbling; balancing; thrown round corners; bottom bruising; and sneezing and itchy, running eyes - the clue is in the last part and a is a side effect of what I spent the afternoon doing - all the joys of grass cutting on a small green tractor. And getting too close to the hedge (face slapping and poked in the eye); driving over rabbit holes; attempting unsuccessfully to nudge a football out of the way (oops!); hurrying to finish before it rained; and cutting the grass my way i.e. "a woman's way!"

Why are men so pernickety about things like mowing the lawn? While a man will mentally measure the distances between cut lines, calculate the minimum number of turns required and react furiously if he is disturbed by the phone, children, or having to pick up dog poo, a woman will get the same job done, at the same time as planning the evening meal, mentally writing tomorrows shopping list, noticing which branches of which hedges need to be pruned, designing the garden makeover of her dreams and directing any children that disturb her to put the kettle on, take Four-legged-friend for a walk and run the bath. Okay, she will probably use twice as much petrol, and the job will take longer, but she is multi-tasking and the grass will only look all swirly until the next morning. And who, apart from the man in her life, will notice the bits she missed? And if he wants to go straight out and cut them after he gets home ...  that lets her have a longer bath.

Apple Crumble and berry thief.

First, find your apple tree and pick apples (shake earwigs off stalks)


then pick some blackberries (those that haven't been picked already)


next look for raspberries.

Discovered that four-legged-friend displays distinctly less finesse over his raspberry stealing behaviour. He is an extremely cautious but effective thief of brambles and gooseberries, gingerly plucking individual fruits with sensitive lips that must have experienced the pricking hurt of thorns. Raspberries are thorn-less, so the technique is brutal:

Sniff out a cluster of ripe berries


grab the whole tip of the plant in your jaw


rip the end off


result! ... mmm

So, gather what Four-legged-friend has left (observed him earlier doing a flanking manoeuvre past the kitchen window, along the hedge and across to the apple tree; it would have been far easier to take the shortest route across the grass, but much more obvious)


Wash and peel. Drizzle with fruit juice.


Put crumble mix (plain flour, porridge oats, cinnamon, weetabix, demerara sugar and white sugar in a bowl)


Add melted butter. Get messy making crumble topping.


And bake for about 20 to 30 minutes at 180degrees.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, cream or custard. Add friends. Enjoy. Don't anticipate there being much left - certainly not enough for Four-legged-friend's midnight feast (he can look at me as long as he likes with big eyes and wagging tail - he's not getting any).


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Eating like an ostrich

Family dinner table conversation (which Littlest slept through, twitching occasionally on the sofa next to the kitchen):

"I'm eating like an ostrich."

"I'm never photogenic in France."

"It's a coincidink." (coincidence!)

"What's a Jezebel? ... "A cross between a Jeremy and an Isobel!"

How to stay young; which of our adult family friends look older than we (the parents) do, and what makes someone seem to be younger, when in fact they are older.  Lots of potential for insults, but none given or taken.

Whether my sister, who is qualified to do ear piercing, will also pierce other regions, and "What is a vajizzle, anyway?" (suspect the questioner knew the answer and just wanted to check if her father had been listening when it was discussed, and his education was broadened, mid-river - the Dordogne - in a canoe, earlier this month). Managed not to correct the pronunciation or the spelling, or fall into the embarassing-of-mother trap of trying to explain. It reminded me of the evening, on holiday in France and out for dinner with much younger children, when son (now the boy-with-the-long-legs) asked in a loud voice, "What is a condom, then?"

The institution of family meals is a good one and should be repeated more; even when Littlest sleeps (which in the circumstances was probably quite a good thing), she is still with us. And laughter is such a good tonic (as was the gin and tonic earlier).

Four-legged-friend, who tried hard to contribute to the dinner conversation by singing mournfully in the room next door - "They have food in there, I know they do. Pleeeeeease let me in. Pleeeeeeeease." - is stretched out on the kitchen floor, nose now cold and wet again and drool all gone.




Out of the mouth of Littlest

Littlest to big sister, earlier today (big sister was weeding, helping Mum):

"If you stopped worrying about how much you're going to be paid, you'd probably do the job faster."

Utterly brilliant!



Four-legged-friend - walked and watered - has stopped drooling, but is still feeling rather sorry for himself, and has gone to bed.

Icky sicky drooling dog

Woah! ... groan ... what's happening to me? I can't stop my drool ... well? ... drooling; all over the kitchen floor- big slippery puddles of sticky, stringy, soak-everyone's-socks, disgustingness. Mum thought my run was a better place for me to continue drooling, so she sent me there. Then she got worried that I might be sick, and apparently clearing sick out of my run is not a nice job, so she took me for a gentle stroll up the garden to visit the rabbit house and then she washed my bottom (can't think why, although it was strangely pleasant, especially as it had exploded earlier!)

Anyway, I'm now feeling a little better, less drool, less tummy ache, lack of further explosions ... and long-legged-boy has plans to take me for a walk.

Wonder if I have time to pinch an apple before we go?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Blanket walking

Mum took her green trolley thing for lots of walks today. She's working really hard at building that rabbit house down the garden - lots of pulled-up plants (Why does she do that? Aren't they meant to grow in the ground?), several branches off trees (trees surely need branches, where would the pigeons sit to coo witlessly at each other if Mum got overenthusiastic with her loppers?); and some shrivelled flowers (definitely past their best, obviously hadn't been looking after themselves; flowers just don't show enough interest in food - shrivelling will never happen to me!)

Anyway, following Mum and her green trolley up and down the garden got pretty boring after a (short) while and I decided to take my blankie for a walk. Someone had left it up the garden, a bit carelessly, I thought, so I rescued it (tidied it up, Mum!) and took it for a walk.




And then, I worried it a bit. It had become a trifle over confident venturing up the garden all on its own and needed to be taught a lesson.




It finally succumbed to my superior strength and tremendous tossing abilities and I settled down to a jolly fine chew, while Mum took her trolley thing up the garden many, many, many times more.



Wish I didn't look so puppy-faced in this picture. I'm a big boy now.

Friday, 19 August 2011

R.I.P. ... but not if I can help it

Words! Have you ever stopped to consider that each individual word has its own history? That it is born, lives and evolves and in some cases dies. No? - I hadn't either.

But recently, a good word died; a word that I think has relevance today. And I therefore think it should be resurrected. Littlest thinks we should give it a funeral - that was her unfeeling response to my bedtime story about this forgotten, unloved, innocent little word that was dropped carelessly and without thought from the dictionary.

Everyone should have a place as defined by this word. A place where tension can be released; where voice can be given noisily and in private to frustration.

So bring back the growlery - a place to growl in. I'm going to establish one at home. Four-legged-friend, being no respecter of dictionary bureaucrats, has one already; a virtual one that he carries around inside his head, but his human family need one too - garden shed, loo, cellar, car? If you see me growling you'll know why.

So littlest won't get her word funeral ... just yet.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

CSI Kitchen - The Jelly Baby Killer


What happened to this poor little fellow?




Perhaps he argued with the other jelly babies about which colour tasted best; perhaps his colour came bottom in a pole of jelly-baby-tasters; perhaps he was a sulky type and ran off to indulge his black mood in a place where no other jelly baby would dare to go; or perhaps littlest dropped him, and then kicked him under the freezer.

He has certainly been there for a long, long time. We have had the freezer for eight years; eight long years all on his own. An isolation long enough for him to sprout hair, have what looks like a toilet accident and decompose. Decomposition for a jelly baby appears to involve a rock-like rigor mortis and secretion of a powerful glue that binds firmly with the underlying tile.

However, a bit of glue and decomposition does not deter four-legged-friend, who bravely conquers both





And crunches up the crystalised baby!


Monday, 15 August 2011

Tongue-tying at bed-time

Littlest is very fond of a particular series of rhyming books and challenges visitors to tie their tongues in knots reading them. Not sure if I can mention any names so I won't. But when cook gets called to look at book:

Dr S writes a very fine book
Very fine, except when read by cook.
Cook said, "Just one look!"
Then read the whole book.
This cook with a book should have known better.
Her food was not good,
It was all black and bitter.
And dog grew no thinner.
The dog of the cook with the book
And the burnt food for dinner.
He was a left-overs sinner;
One dinner, one winner,
This black lab blog beginner.


Thank you

90 posts and >1000 reads! Pathetic probably to all but the newly initiated into the blogging game, but as I only started in April, I find the stats quite exciting, which is maybe a bit sad, but honest. At least someone out there is reading my musings.

As for procrastinating: I've done that all my life - the blog is just a very good excuse to continue.

So, to whoever you are and wherever you are, I send a huge thank you for reading (and hopefully continuing to read). Actually, I do know where you are as the stats give a break down by country (who do I know in France, or was that a chance encounter in the blog-o-sphere?) And I guess some, or most of you, must respond to my facebook posts, so if I know you, even more reason to offer a big, big 'ta very muchly.'

More about four-legged-friend later - taking him out to unhelp in the garden now.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Piles and piles and strange humans

She's at it again! Mum's moving piles of stuff around; but this time, she's doing it inside - so, unlike yesterday, in the garden, she's probably not building bunny accommodation.

Now, I have been observing my human family for some time, and while there are, admittedly, certain aspects of my life that could quite honestly be described as a little repetitive - eat, sleep, eat, sniff out rabbits, eat, sleep, stroll about a bit, eat ... you get the picture - they are not a patch on the elaborate activities that happen here in the human world again and again and again. Like the endless pile shifting -

It starts with a basket (a satisfyingly crunchy, wicker one that I used to chew, but don't now that I'm all grown up) that gets filled, every day, with a pile of that colourful, movable outer skin that humans habitually wear (I guess they have no choice as their fur is so pathetic). When the pile builds up to mountainous proportions and threatens to topple the basket (which it does at unpredictable moments, often landing on top of me, because I'm usually lying at Mum's feet, keeping her company and trying to help - she calls it "unhelping" which I think is a little unkind, as I am only doing my best. And nudging the basket to make it empty itself sort of does the job for her) - well, then, she puts the "dirty" washing into a noisy box. I say "dirty washing" because that's what she calls it, although humans clearly need a lesson or two in what is dirty and what is not: the pile might be a bit niffy round the edges, but is never properly, roll-around-in-a-muddy-ditch dirty.

Later, Mum empties the "washing machine" and builds a wet pile, which gets put into a noisier box, that turns it into a dry pile.

Mum then spends ages flattening the dry pile and folding it into lots of little piles. This flattening process is long and very dangerous. It must be, because when I lie on Mum's feet under the flattening board, she stiffens and grips the heavy, hot thing firmly, before telling me to move. Which I do. I go and lie on one of the new, soft, warm and cushiony piles she has just made and stay there until she notices. Then I'm sent outside.

What a lot of fuss and bother and endless washing, drying and flattening. And such an obsession with moving piles of stuff around. Me, I have a cage to sleep in (carpeted, no piles), a garden (rabbit house piles, but none of my own making) and a run ... ah ... I do own a pile, actually! It's quite a comfortable pile (which I share with about five thousand, four hundred and seventy six earwigs at the moment); lots of old blankets, all piled up into a smelly, dirty, doggy (and earwiggy) nest. At least I don't move it around all the time - I just toss it and worry it a bit.

Now there's an idea: what would happen if I worried some of Mum's piles?



Saturday, 13 August 2011

Pests, thievery and jelly

Three reasons not to grow fruit


Apple wasps


Crab apple wasps

And plum wasps (far too many and far too high and I'm not brave enough to climb up for a picture). I HATE WASPS! Why exactly are we thinking of planting a pear tree? So we can have a fourth reason not to grow fruit: pear wasps!


The gooseberry thief has evolved


Into a blackberry thief


And an apple thief. Wonder what wasps taste like?

Only reason I can think of (apart from filling four-legged-friend's tummy) in favour of growing fruit



Jam and jelly-making! Mmmmm ... wasp jam anyone?

I really don't understand humans

Are humans always this strange - or is it just my humans?



Mum spent all afternoon doing this. And when I tried to help her, she shooed me away, or tugged on my collar. So, instead I decided to stand guard



And bark a bit at passing cars. But that seemed to make Mum cross, too, which I though was rather ungrateful - you never know who might be travelling down our road. We're not that far from London you know.

Next, Mum did something even stranger (I have seen her do it before, but I still don't know why). She made a big pile in the green trolley thing



And took it for a walk!! Which is more than I've had today. As if that weren't bad enough, she tipped her pile onto an even bigger pile that we found at the bottom of the garden



Crazy behaviour, don't you think - I mean why move piles around and what's the big pile for? It's a bit of a mess, but the rabbits seem to like it, so it smells good. Maybe that's the plan - she's building them a big rabbit house.

Finally, just in case she hadn't convinced me that she had lost the plot, already, she took the trolley for another walk



Empty!! Like taking the dog for a walk (tomorrow hopefully) but leaving me at home!

And one more thing, that I find very puzzling - we have two of these in our garden



What are they for? I've never seen anyone use them. They collect a lot of bird poo (which is sometimes good as a snack when the rabbits haven't been around much) ... but I am suspicious that they might have some other purpose. With a cushion or two, they'd make quite good seats!






Friday, 12 August 2011

Driving, dogs and disappointments

Son's status has altered (barring accidents, speeding transgressions and eventual infirmity) forever and he is now a fully certified driver.

Fully certified, but not yet fully insured ...

The increase in premium is eye-popping, not double, but almost triple the pre-pass rate. Risk has to be covered, and the risk for teens in the first year of driving is sadly, extremely high - about 1 in 5 having an accident. But it could cost us about £5 a day just to have him insured to drive the car. What would we see back for that investment? - occasional supermarket shopping errands, heartache and worry (mother's prerogative), petrol pouring into an open drain of jaunts to visit friends, and anxious clock watching (mother again).  Little chance of balance in the cost-return analysis.

So, until we find a cheaper insurer (hopefully tomorrow), the bicycle (and helmet!) will still be in service.


Dog worried by insects today - earwig invasion of his outside run (dozens of which, in training for earwig Olympic swimming event in dog's water bowl, have drowned, making for a crunchy drink) and spiders in the house (the sort of  monster big, black ones that would have my sister walking around her house, with an umbrella up over her head, to avoid the risk of one falling into her hair).


Disappointments - what are those? And frustrations - why? I am reminded of a toy we had as children: a Donald Duck with a weighted, rocker bottom - no matter how hard, or how often you pushed it over, it would always right itself (unless you held its head down with a cushion). Life's a bit like that  - feeling frustrated, hating work, worries snowballing - always, (as long as you avoid the cushions) there will be a self righting moment: pictures of innocents caught  in riots, jumping out of windows, eloquent and full of grace in their loss, or of children caught up in poverty and starving in Africa, and a story, in the paper, of a normal boy bravely fighting to busy himself with living a new life, totally dependent on others, after an accident on the sport's field - these bring us back, re-strike the balance, and make us realise we should be smiling more. Gratitude and charity perhaps, instead of disappointment and frustration. Message to self (and others if they want to listen) - change what you can change, do what you're best at, procrastinate to your heart's content ... but be content.



Lastly, haven't told four legged friend that he will soon be enjoying another stay at his holiday camp - disappointed dog, driven there by whom?



Monday, 8 August 2011

Accidents, cancellations, applications and curtain poles

"That's weird!" says Littlest in response to the heading above, but as three of the accidents happened to her, it is perhaps more unfortunate than weird ... and the tooth fairy needs to be on standby, again!

First, four-legged-friend dropped the blackest, most disgusting of his well chewed bones on her foot, while she was, as per usual, wearing no shoes, out in the garden (mild ouch!)

Next, same friend stood on her foot (slightly bigger ouch!), while both of them were trying to look in the fridge, she for something to drink ... he just being hopeful, and hoping no-one would notice he was there. Although, if you don't wish to be noticed, standing on Littlest's already tender foot is probably not the best plan.

Then, wind blew the back door shut, at just the moment when four-legged-friend was on his way out to his dinner bowl. It caught his foot ... but he was so focused on his food that he hobbled out, in silence and stood shaking, while guzzling in his usual if-I-don't-eat-this-really-quick-it-might-disappear way. Not until the food was finished (about forty seconds later), did he feel sorry for himself, but by then I had checked for any serious injury and gone inside to see Littlest who had rammed her new wobbly tooth into the teeth below (big, big ouch!) and there was blood in her mouth, on her lips and on her fingers - the latter, because visible to her, causing most distress. As both she and four-legged-friend are now asleep, no lasting harm has been done, but the tooth fairies should perhaps be keeping Lady Penelope's car's engine warm.


Life at the moment is a bit like going into a restaurant and ordering Japanese for starter, Italian for main and Mexican for dessert: a real mish mash of disjointed things crammed into one day - hence the cancellation (driving lesson), application (do I really have to work more? Couldn't I just procrastinate for a living? I seem to be quite good at it) and now curtain poles - in new study/computer room/library/fire-letter sorting room/only place to make a private phone-call room/needing its door painted room/room with the most man drawers in the house room. (If you don't know what a man drawer is, think screw drivers, elastic bands, old film containers containing assorted drawing pins, nails, screws etc., batteries, passports, conference badges, paper-clips, tyre pressure gauge, paint charts, foreign coins, the bit for the freezer door that we might need one day, a map of Genoa .... )

Also gardened; discussed his future with son; advised daughter on holiday in Corsica how to purchase a new asthma inhaler, as the one she took with her was 3 years out of date; gave directions to eldest trying to find cousins' house in Edinburgh; cooked dinner ... and procrastinated. Fairly normal day, really.


Collected a new oxymoron at the weekend: Best Kebab, written on the side of a van that didn't look like it could provide the best of anything, let alone kebab - I'm not a fan and I'd go so far to say, that in my opinion, almost any other food is more deserving of the accolade best.


Lastly, just read that the average middle aged women spends £1000 on her holiday wardrobe - How?!!! I spent £20 on mine: a new swimming costume, after we got back from France!



Friday, 5 August 2011

Teenage invasion and a case of mispronunciation

Tooth fairy delivered (though only just: quite how she almost managed to forget, after all last night's careful preparation, probably has something to do with the wine (a very pleasant Italian Sangiovese) that lubricated her journey. Thanks to four-legged-friend, who serendipitously barked at 5am, she jumped out of bed - which of course, was in one of Daddy's shoes, in his wardrobe - and found and placed her coin beneath the pillow). And she apparently used her special clippers to pinch out a tiny piece of tooth. Littlest is very happy.

Not sure Littlest has enjoyed being littlest today, though - assorted teenagers can come across to seven year olds as puzzling and very cruel e.g. in their totally inexplicable, roll-on-the-floor hilarity when she mis-announced, "I want some cock!" as she watched some coke being poured into someone else's glass. (Apologies if I have shocked anyone ...)


Four-legged-friend not sure about teenage invasion, either - first, they build strange, billowing pods and camp in his garden and keep him awake half the night; then their sleeping bags, beer cans, headphones and cameras (all damp, because of the rain) take up residence on the hall floor; then there are the shoes - dozens of them, and all soggy, lined up, in prime dog spot, in front of the Aga; and the constant music, constant eating and constant lying on the new sofas that four-legged-friend has been eyeing up longingly, ever since they arrived.

He doesn't know yet that he is being left in the care of teenagers over the weekend - while adults and Littlest go to visit the tooth fairies/Granny's garden for one night, after attending a wedding celebration. 

Maybe, we could have saved the tooth fairy a journey!



Thursday, 4 August 2011

To leave the tooth, or not to leave the tooth?

That is the question - does the tooth remain beneath the pillow, or not?

"That's a very good point," says Littlest, index finger pointing in the air.

This is her subsequent explanation of what should happen:

"The tooth fairy puts the money in her rucsac. Then she goes in her Penelope car, even if she is not going to France, because, remember, she lives in Granny's garden, which is quite a very long distance away. When she arrives, she puts the money under the pillow. But she doesn't take the tooth away. She only takes a littlest, tiniest chip of the tooth. She collects loads of them up, then, when she thinks she's got enough to build a massive house, she builds a big tooth out of all the little chips of teeth, and she gets a pencil for the chimney and a lampshade for a roof and she sews - in/out/in/out - all the bits together.

But, also, at about three hours past midnight, after she's got the chip of tooth and has put it in her rucsac, she gets her bedding out of the rucsac and she hides in one of the shoes in daddy's wardrobe. Because she has to see when and how the children get the money and keep the tooth   - then she can go back and tell the other tooth fairies all about it."

So, to any other parents who have ever considered this dilemma, the tooth must remain beneath the pillow, beside the money.

But how exactly does the tooth fairy take a littlest, tiniest chip out of the tooth - fairy hammer, fairy hacksaw - does she have one of those in her rucsac, too? Would she lend it to other fairies?

Notification to tooth fairy - updated travel itinerary

Birthday boy appears to be winning


All happy (and heads clearing) in 18-year-old-land.

And all happy in Littlest-tooth-land too



Incoming flight - of fairy, bearing coin - booked for this evening. Hope she remembers!





So what's a hangover, Mum?

A dog's life is just so confusing, sometimes:

First, Mum spent all of yesterday in the kitchen, spoiling perfectly good meat with revolting things like nasty smelling onions, and not giving me any treats. Then, strange lumpy houses appeared in the garden that smelt of people, somebody else's cat and food crumbs. And they were tied down with ropes that caught me unawares when I turned round and tripped me up - and when you have four legs, tripping can take on something of a cascade effect!

Later, just when it started to get interesting, because lots of new people arrived, they shut me away in my run! And as if that's not bad enough, it poured with rain, cracking great spears of light started hitting the ground and the sky made a terrible rumbling, crashing noise. I had to hide in the deepest, darkest corner of my kennel until someone came to rescue me.

But they gave me my dinner next, so I sort of forgave them.

Talking of dinner - this is where things started to get very strange indeed - you'd think after trying to cook their house, they'd know better, so what on earth possessed them to set light to the top of the cake, that Mum had just spent all day cooking? At least the one with the long legs managed to blow it out and no hoses were needed this time

Very strange then got even stranger: I get to sleep with my blankie in a cage. Its pretty comfortable (but the new sofas in the kitchen would probably be even better). However, sleeping outside would not be my thing - so you'll probably find this next bit hard to believe - but several of my family and their visitors apparently chose to sleep outside, last night. Then, they disturbed my doggy slumbers so many times with their torches, shrieking voices and giggles that I just had to let them know how unimpressed I was and bark for them to be a little quieter. But that woke Mum ...

Now, I'm just so very, very tired:




Mum seems fine this morning, though, and she's just made blue-berry pancakes. Maybe, if I sit very nicely and open my eyes all big and drool a bit, she might get the message ... the usual message!



But all the others are holding their heads in their hands and talking quieter than normal.

See - I knew sleeping outside wasn't a good idea!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Love is

Think for a moment of all the compliments you could ever be paid -

"You look great!"

"Well done, you passed - clever you!"

" I love your house!"

"This cake is wonderful!"

"Your garden looks lovely."

"You're such a good friend!"

Although, all very gratifying, none can come close to the compliment that tops all compliments:


"You are the best mummy in the world!"


Absolutely can't be topped ... ever

Happy (lasagne and raspberry chocolate berry torte) 18th Birthday: Part 4

18 year old - strictly speaking, not 18 until tomorrow, but as born in Australia in the early hours of the morning, he celebrates his birthday over two days (a bit like royalty) and his father was able to phone his parents, 18 years ago and declare "Your grandson has been born tomorrow," - is now happily out with his friends, tummies lined with food, and soaked tents (thunderstorm earlier) awaiting their pickled return.

Cake/pud turned out really, rather good, if a little rich -


Decorated with mixed fresh berries, champagne truffles and assorted candles; including the fireman and fire-engine candles for the boy who, shortly after our fire declared, "I want to be a fireman when I grow up!" 

And Littlest lying in front of a film ... both front teeth now wobbly.


Happy (lasagne and raspberry chocolate berry torte) 18th Birthday: Part 3

Ten minutes before birthday boy gets home and discovers surprise waiting for him.

Amazingly organised - I think and hope! - here. Incredible the time you find to do things when really, really busy: like evicting the spiders that have taken up residence in the dining room while the rest of the house has been burning, rebuilt, extended ...



Dog not walked, but has had a half hour soaking from hose - chasing after the water, retching after drinking too much, and looking wistful and extremely grateful, when standing still to be drenched. About to be bribed into his kennel with treat-stuffed kongs.

Cake/pud looks okay ... so far. Awaiting icing and decoration. Champagne in freezer.

Mmmm ....


Happy (lasagne and raspberry chocolate berry torte) 18th Birthday: Part 2

New kitchen timer had better work ... and which Aga oven is 140 deg for goodness sake?

Birthday cake/pudding under construction:


A scattering of raspberries;


Then pour the remaining mixture on top.

Select oven - fingers firmly crossed - and wish for the best ...

Dog still needs a walk :(

Happy (lasagne and raspberry chocolate berry torte) 18th Birthday

Aaaaaaaargh !!!!!!!!! Seven hours to go - lasagne meat cooking, house a bit tidier for guests, cake unbaked and kitchen sweltering .... help!

Four legged friend melting slowly inside his coat of fur. Desperately seeking shade and a walk.

Procrastinating (as per usual) ... what to do next, what to do next ... torte: melt chocolate (or scrape it off inside of wrapper!), separate eggs, gently fold, dot with raspberries -

- photo later ... if it works!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Special toothpaste potion

... and no, it's not what you think! - Dentition still very much in position.


Littlest sat in a frustrated heap, on the bottom step of the stairs, this evening,

"I think," she said, "that there's a special potion in toothpaste that makes you really, really hungry as soon as you've brushed your teeth. It's not fair! All I can have now is water: and breakfast is just too long a time to wait."



Too long a time to wait - just how much longer can a tooth fairy be kept in suspense?