Monday, 26 November 2012

All I want for Christmas

How do you answer the question, "What would you like for Christmas?"

Do you carry a mental list around in your head? Or do you have a special little piece of paper tucked into a pocket in anticipation of bumping into a generously inclined relative? Worse still, do you email your list to friends and family? Or do you still write to Father Christmas?

Littlest writes several lists, starting in August, and deposits them in books, pencil cases and boxes in her bedroom, lest she forgets something important. These are either lost forever, or are later amalgamated into a letter that sits on the hearth day after regularly-checked-day until the 'elves' remember to post it to the big man in red. These elves clearly work in the same disorganised department as the tooth fairy. Littlest then adds things to her list. And changes her mind. Of course, Father Christmas knows that she has changed her mind 'because he's magic.' She has been known to change her mind on Christmas Eve. Luckily, what she receives seldom matches what is on her list anyway, so tears and recriminations are generally avoided.

A better system (so long as parents are allowed to read the letter first) might be to post direct  to 'Santa, The North Pole.' You have to admire the dedication of the postal operative who replies to them all, shivering in his ice-hut, contemplating popping out for a while if another letter arrives demanding a Furby.

Son posts a list on the internet - the cheapest item costs £2,500. Huh!

When caught off guard by the question (as I don't adequately manage a list, it's always off guard - on the phone; in the car; with fork-full of food midway to mouth, or hit with an email), I dither, and mouth nothings, guppy-like. I say, "Oh, nothing really." Or "No! Don't worry about me!" And "I don't know." But I try hard to avoid "Surprise me" - don't we all? It's not the surprise bit that I'm worried about - it's a surprise - it's how to respond to the surprise. "That's interesting" or "different" simply won't do - try it the next time you receive a surprise and lean forward to fully appreciate the slight intake of breath between tautly pursed lips: you know then what your surprise next year will be - no present!

I do write a list inside my head, promptly forget it, think of more things to add, and forget them too. Then I think of all the things I really want - yes, 'want' - I know to want is not politically correct, but sometimes (and you have to admit you want things too), there are things that we want. Aside from peace and global happiness ... and permission to weep in private at a screening of Les Miserables in January, what is on my list? I don't want to have to wait years for another Coldplay album. I do want to see the Northern lights properly, not just the mono-chromic Scottish ones. I want to attend the Lichstenstein exhibition at the Tate next spring; to eat, drink and be merry with friends over Christmas; to win an argument - convincingly - once;  and I want to find some comfortable shoes (Muck Boot wellies are better-than-brilliant, but dangle them below the LBD and I look like I'm not only several months late and but also misread the invitation - festival of carols in a church, not rock festival in a tent). Okay, so some of these are impossible, others improbable, but what I want above all is time. And there is no point asking anyone for that. The only person who can give me time is myself. Time to write. Time to breathe. Time to be a good mother, wife, sister. And time to be me.

To give the gift of time, you have first to find it.
To find time, you have to make it.
To make time, you have to believe in your dreams and follow them.

Some people are better at doing this than others. Procrastinators  are worse than most, lying as they do, ears firmly plugged,  in the ditch beneath the heap of optimistic souls who are all whispering the mantra of self-belief.

I can feel a  New Year Resolution coming on. Something to do with stopping procrastinating, perhaps ... I'll think about it, maybe write about it, sleep on it, add it to my list ... hmm? - even procrastinate over it :-)

As for Four-legged-friend and his smaller-but-rapidly-growing, assertive (guess who regularly assumes the bigger crate and cushion) blonde-friend and their Christmas lists -

Yule log?

Personal pond? The 'pond' that was dug, pre-deluge, ready for the fruit tree that is currently growing unhappily in the garage. Can't plant into a pond - but can drink it; splash about in it; and push muddy little blonde friend into it.

Or curl up somewhere warm together

Actually, curling up warm ... that's not a bad idea: where's that list - socks (long and thick), jumper (woolly), scarf (ditto) and someone to hug (preferably not woolly!)

Monday, 12 November 2012

Lots of leaves, giggles and dirty dogs

The pup is growing - first autumn, first leaves, first bonfire-building activity:

Eat the leaves; lick the blue ones.

'If I eat the bonfire, there won't be so much to burn.'

Busy pup = sleepy pup. Bed of ... laundry?

... or someone else's bed?

First walk today - "Why can't I run ahead like him? Why, Mum? It's not fair!"

"How much further?"

Why did we get a friend for FLF in a pale shade of 'shows-all-the-dirt' colour?

I'm bigger than you! Parp! Warning: bit of a rant.

Good morning?

Better morning?

The usual growling angry morning?


It’s that “I’m bigger than you” mentality that drives me mad every morning; although when I say 'mad' I do not mean the red fog of fury that some drivers suffer from which constitutes road rage, but a deeply rooted frustration; the sort of feeling that niggles throughout the rest of the day, like a thorn in your shoe that you know is there, but are either too busy to remove or repeatedly forget about until the next time it pricks you. Unsettling. Grrr! Why? - because you know that tomorrow will be the same. And the next day.

Let me elaborate – my morning school run is approximately 15 miles of which there are about seven miles of rural single track roads – might sound horrendous to some urban mum’s out there, but barring tractors, beet lorries and horses, I can do it in just over 25 minutes. How many hours would it take to cover the same distance in London? And we see pheasant, foxes and deer so often that the children don’t comment on them anymore. Idyllic really.

Or it would be idyllic if it wasn't for the aforementioned “I’m bigger than you” mentality of some drivers. Specifically, big four-wheel-drive vehicles. I drive a diminutive, yellow car – tiny engine, tiny(ish) insurance for teens learning to drive – and clearly I have less road presence than ... well, than a rabbit. And judging by the furry carnage on the tarmac, they are pretty much ignored too. Or are they perhaps expendable: collateral damage in the lives of the overly turbo powered?

What happens with daily periodicity is me trundling along the road in my little lawn mower on wheels - bit of Robbie or Alfie or Coldplay ringing in our ears, or, if it’s a Wednesday morning, playing(?) who’s learnt their times tables (or not?) - when round a corner looms a fast approaching, four-wheel-drive monstrosity (do they come in any colour other than menacing black?).

Now, I may be misinformed, but I always thought that the definition of four-wheel-drive was self-evident – four wheels for the purposes of driving off road. But in my experience, very few of these glittering behemoths ever stray beyond the tarmac, avoiding every puddle and muddy verge, in fact anything that might splatter their gleaming bodywork. As for my yellow motorized pram, with its narrow pram wheels and nippy manoeverability - well, the filth to its mid-riff tells a sorry tale of relentless, repetitive avoiding action. I know every puddle, ditch and pot-hole between home and school. 'Shaken not stirred' should be our motto.

Artwork is by Littlest. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

If this isn't the best ... part 1

If this isn’t the best view in the world... then I challenge you to prove otherwise -

Perhaps I'm biased, but in case you don't yet agree here's more ... 

I say 'one of' because when middle daughter gets back from her grandparents with her phone, I can download a picture of THE best view in the world. And yes, I am 100% biased. 100% a Scot at heart. 100% passionately in love with the west coast of Scotland. Aren't we all just a little bit nostalgic about the place we grew up? And doesn't nostalgia sometimes blur into a deep passion?

Here's more ... 

Add wellies; sea-shell-gathering ...

... and crab hunting; squealing oystercatchers in conversation with squealing Littlest; “sinking sand!!”... 

... and sea “anenomenomees.”

Flashbacks to my own childhood – running down silver sand-dunes; carrying BBQ and picnic and drinks; swimming towels; cricket bats and balls; long-treasured friends now far-flung with their own children – and wondering if a part of me is forever here and can I in a too-short, chilly hour instil a bit of my love for this life-affirming place into two of my children?

Think I did ..

Probably not necessary, but here's more evidence in support of the claim that Scotland has the 'best' views:   a bit further north ...

And finally ... the journey home