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Showing posts from 2011

New Year Resolutions

 ... Or meandering time for a procrastinating procrastinator Here we go again - another New Year; another list of well intended resolutions; another December 31st when reflection struggles to recall the failed resolutions made a year ago; another day spent stoking the fire of motivation and ambition, tempered only by the nagging doubt that yet again you'll find yourself unable to follow through, you'll leave the fire unattended, return to find barely glowing embers and kick them in frustration into the dust: another precious year will slip through your fingers. Am I generally a glass half empty or half full sort of person? - I'm definitely happiest when there is something in the glass - but regarding the subject of making and breaking resolutions, I'm definitely glass half empty ... or drained of every last, hope giving drop.But bear with me a little longer in this procrastinating monologue, while I stop to consider if it might be in my power to change this ... coul

Walking the dog at year's end

The cutest picture of the year: Last walk of the year: mud + puddle + freedom off the lead + the odd festering cow pat = lab heaven Last sniffing-around-for-rabbit-droppings-foxes-and-other-unmentionables session of the year: Last sun set of the year: Best picture of the year: profile pic for 2012  ... ?

The sun sets on 2011

Tomorrow - new dawn; new day; new year. Have a good one.

"Tiny, teeny, absolutely weeny bit" stuffed

Christmas ... Such fun! : from the mince pies and mulled wine after carols, to the meals shared with friends, to the exuberant jig of joy from Littlest when she realised it was time for bed on Christmas Eve, to the plate left out for Father Christmas, to the late night but peacefully alone preparation of turkey and last minute wrapping, to the unexpected internet chat with distant pre-dram brother in law and friends/mums also wrapping or preparing food in the wee small hours, to the early morning tea prepared by Littlest and sister before they woke us (it apparently took the grown ups an hour to make the tea and light the fire before assembling for stocking opening last year - far quicker to do it on their own!), to the wonderful, insightful letter to Littlest from the big man himself which made her feel very special and is now with other treasures in her jewellery case, to Littlest's request for pudding - just a "tiny, teeny, absolutely weeny bit please", to sharing the

Festive conversations

'Tis the season to be jolly, to sit round a fire with friends, to meet strangers over drinks, to search the vacant plot of conversational ideas in our minds, and panic while wearing an equally vacant smile. And then ... discuss the weather. Alternatively, we could in advance consider a list of possible topics: While the global/European financial situation could be considered the perfect recipe for inducing sleep after a substantial feast, it also has the advantage of being a topic with no correct answers; one which will generate as many opinions for its solution as there are people sat round your table and one that unless any of your guests happens to be a government financial adviser, no one will have any chance of influencing anyway, so basically everyone can safely say exactly what they want, no matter how extreme.  Children - we as a family fall into all three of the broad topics on the subject of childhood - the nappies, teething soother, pre-school, childcare, nursery

Life as bramble thicket

Life passing in a fairly content fog of gift wrapping (mild panic - omg, have I got enough for everyone; will they like it; have I got the right bridge pads for mother-in-law?); cooking (friends all being extremely helpful with offers of puddings, mains and starters - apart from the big event, may not have to actually cook much at all); decorating (post fire, post building work); planning of meals with friends; entertaining (music recitals already being rehearsed by Littlest and sister); feeding the dog; ordering startlingly expensive turkey; walking the dog; feeding hungry mouths (eating me out of house and home - realise just how significant a role the school catering staff play in their lives); gardening with dog; and shopping (again ...), when unexpectedly hit by devastating question of what mark if any will I leave on the planet (assuming that I want to leave a mark, which I think I do, because there has to be more to life than working hard, otherwise what is the point of anything

Fairies, pixie dust and another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into.

Out of the mouth of Littlest: "This is going to sound extreeeeeemly wierd but maybe the fairies use pixie dust and sort of throw it into the sky to make clouds look like Santa's sleigh. Maybe they want us to believe in Father Christmas." Me: "So do you not believe in father Christmas, then? Do you think it's the fairies who do Christmas?" Littlest: "NO! Of course I believe in Father Christmas! If the elves exist then of course he does too! And every single member of my family (except me) has seen elves - a hand, a foot, the top of a hat - you know; the ones who visit near Christmas and spy on children to make sure they are behaving themselves." Oh dear. And we tell them not to lie ...

Felonious kleptosquaters: a plea for help

I have a message for our kleptosquaters - the hidden, uninvited residents of our home, who creep about in the dark helping themselves to odd socks; kitchen scissors; and every working pen or sharpened pencil - why not convert from felonious acts to ones of a more charitable hue? For example, there are certain irritations I would love someone - other than the usual downtrodden and exhausted, clearing fairy - to deal with: the hair that blocks the shower drain and makes it smell  dog hairs everywhere the long hairs, knotted into elastic hair-ties, that are draped over the edge of the bath (if you don't have long-haired girls, you won't have a clue what I mean!) perhaps one of you could even be enticed to lick up the toothpaste that looks as if the ghost of Jack the Dripper has practised modern art in the sink spiders' webs the detritus of Littlest's latest "making" project - piles of pencil sharpenings, confetti-like bits of paper, sticky ends of sellot


Bliss is not having to choose between the sticky toffee pudding and the apple crumble and instead being allowed a liberal helping of both. With vanilla ice cream. Bliss is also finding five minutes in a hectic day of painting kitchen cupboards, supermarket shopping, preparing roast dinner, and the inevitable washing and ironing and other daily motherly duties, to sit at my netbook, wine glass close to hand and write. Bliss is mostly four, hotly whispered words, while little arms are wrapped around your neck, "I love you too." But at this time of year there is an extra bliss to observe: Homemade decorations on the tree And when the lights are switched on, bliss is the reflection in Littlest's eye And lastly, bliss is also looking forward to Christmas with children who still believe the magic, not having to work too hard, family all at home and sharing time with friends. ... 5 minutes well and truly spent. Time to get back to chores.

Hard wired to worry

I have a theory, honed during a chilly walk with Four-legged-friend,  that somewhere in the intricate and vastly complex knitting that is the genetic make up of a woman there is a strong consistent thread that carries the code for worry.  In most men, the thread is absent or at least partially deleted. Why do I think this? - isn't it obvious? Three scenarios to persuade you: You're invited out to dinner - people you don't know very well, so there has already been some anxiety over which dress to wear, how smart to be - but at the time given on the invitation, your man is still in the bath, or worse, has just decided that he needs to measure the bathroom wall ready for the shelves he plans to put up tomorrow before he gets into the bath. You have already apologised to the babysitter for getting her round too early (this is of course nonsensical, as she doesn't care: you are still here, sorting out your child, and she is being paid for watching you). You have changed

Santa stuffed

Love this time of year: It's the look in their eyes tomorrow morning that does it for me. Four-legged-friend also stuffed. The look in his eyes is one of confusion; why is there a  red man hanging on the door? And why does he smell of chocolate? But whatever puzzles him, he is always happy to snuggle up to a hot oven:

Felonious kleptosquaters

A new, invisible kleptomaniac is squatting in our home. I can picture him, and the other thieves already in residence, stealing out from their various hidey-holes from beneath beds, behind doors, and under chairs, in the middle of the night and tiptoeing to the linen cupboard, where they hunch down in a felonious ring around a lighted candle and plot their next raid. They believe we don't know they exist, but actually, I know more about them than they would care to think: the one with a penchant for footwear is colour blind, because he only ever steals odd socks; the new one, who is partial to pencils, has toothache, because, if I find any he has hidden, they are invariably chewed; the one who slides half-finished mugs of hot chocolate beneath the children's beds has perennial rhinitis, because only a permanently blocked nose could be oblivious to the awful smell of rancid, sugary milk; and the one who tosses dog biscuits all over the utility room is perhaps a little differ

Inequality at breakfast

The mum vs. dad balance of early morning duties are a little lop-sided in our house, but I suspect this is nothing unusual. I also suspect that although the mum could be accused of being the creator and perpetuator of this imbalance, she would choose not to alter it. Why? Because the dad wouldn't cope. Brutal, but true. Take today for example: I got up this morning, reluctantly, after snatching a few extra minutes since the 'getting up' was not for the first time, because Four-legged-friend wanted to go out at ten to five. Woke Littlest - the hot little body tucked into mine, squeezing along the edge of our bed. Came downstairs, after gathering her schooliform and waking Middle Daughter. Put the kettle on. Fed Four-legged-friend and put him out twenty seconds later when food gone. Emptied dishwasher and loaded it with last night's dinner plates. Put a load of washing in machine and switched it on. Made hot chocolates x2. Found Littlest's homework and piano bag. Ma

On sleep

Beset with poorly child who cannot sleep and feeling guilty that I told her I needed to sleep, my guilt is now keeping me awake. Sleep is a funny thing - we love it, especially in the winter, when we can wrap up warm after a hot bath, and snuggle down under the covers; we hate it when we are too busy to stop, when needing to sleep slows us down and makes us slow and jeopardises deadlines; we appreciate it when a noisy, restless child finally closes his eyes and snores softly; we are grateful for it when we can rest our weary limbs; and without it, we would cease to exist - we need it. Sleep is fragile - it evaporates if we are afraid, anxious or worried. It is sometimes elusive and although we chase through our memories and thoughts it sometimes hides away too well. We can do it in funny places - at the cinema, in the dentist's chair, in the classroom, in front of the television, on the beach, and in bed. We can do it lying down, sitting up, slumped on a sofa, but not n

Recipe for a bonfire that is all flame and not much smoke

Bit of a gripe follows - sorry: First , ensure that you are really, incredibly tired: Littlest couldn't sleep last night, and the result ... I couldn't sleep either. After she appeared bleary-eyed at midnight and chatted til after 1am, we eventually fell asleep, in her single bed, with me wedged against the wall. So multi-yawning fest today... Next , be irritating. Unintentionally of course, the 'not my fault type', the type that makes you pussy-foot everywhere for fear of irritation escalation. If you succeed, then later in the day, you will be drawn by self-preservation, to the far end of the garden. For as long as possible. Doing something important. Something that has been a source of irritation itself, because weeks have gone by, you've been reminded, many times, and still you haven't got round to doing it, until today. Exemplary timing. Lastly , in consideration of neighbours and in interests of preventing hedgerow blaze, start fire small, let it ge

Wondrous imaginings of Littlest

Question to Littlest: How does the tooth fairy know that your tooth has fallen out? "Well ... if you take an x-ray then you'll see right deep inside the tooth there's a tiny message. When the tooth falls out the message is released and flies off to the tooth fairy. She receives it on her phone - hundreds and hundreds of messages every day, round about three thousand - and she scrolls down them to see where she has to go. Then she comes." Quite simple really. "Oh, and she makes a special wish, like a spell,  for the child when she collects the tooth - like: I hope your teeth will grow big and strong and that you'll look after them for ever. And depending on how good you have been since you were born that decides how much money you get - if you have been an extremely brilliant girl and made no mistakes in your life then you probably deserve about two pounds!" I wonder how much the tooth fairy will leave ...

The almost pansy thief; urgent notification to tooth fairy

Littlest has decided she wants to be a "gardenist" when she grows up, especially if that means she can be an artist, too. So here is her recipe for a trough of winter-flowering pansies: First, put on mum's fleece - it's warm; keeps your own clothes clean; and has sleeves long enough to pinch up and use as gardening gloves Next, place crocks in base of pot. Make face and jump backwards, startling Four-legged-friend, every time a beetle, fly or spider has the impudence to trespass into the pot. Use elbows, bottom and mum's sleeves to push, shove and slap Four-legged-friend out of the way. Ask for help when Four-legged-friend decides that compost is second breakfast and eats it as fast as little handfuls can transfer it to the pot. Then relax into routine of compost filling; hot chocolate; colour based placing of pansies in pot (stripey pattern); scooping out hollows for each plant; hot chocolate; and bedding in with more compost - calm gardenist activit

Things we talk about in the car

As I have mentioned before, we have a very long journey home at the end of the school day and plenty of time, therefore, to talk (which is precisely why I don't mind the length of the journey!) "There are three words, Mummy, aren't there?" announced Littlest, shortly after I had strapped her into her car seat. "Well, yes, probably," say I, starting the engine, "but that depends on what three words you are talking about." "Two of them begin with an 'a'. They're for what you believe in. You know?" "Eh, Christian, agnostic and atheist?" I hesitate, and correct myself, "It could be any religion, it doesn't have to be Christian." "Yes! That's right! Do I have to be one of them?" "No ... do you know what they mean?" She does. And the conversation leaps onto how can you believe in something you can't see, how no-one has ever proved that God actually does exist and, in he

Best gift in the world?

Just spent the day trawling through the Christmas catalogues. And binning most of them. What we want and what we need are such different things! Take Four-legged-friend, for example - what he wants is to eat every hour of the day; what he needs is a nutritious meal twice a day. What Littlest wants - really wants - is a pink plastic gizmo that will keep her entertained for just as long as it takes her to realise there are several computers and laptops in the house far more sophisticated  and clever than pink gizmo. What she needs is longer-term and more fulfilling, but I plan to give it to her slowly - metaphorically - and let her unwrap it as she grows. "When you wish upon a star" ... lovely song (particularly the current rendition by male British artist - you'll have to look it up) and equally lovely sentiment, because what follows is ... "your dreams come true." Wishes and dreams - children make wishes blowing the candles out on a cake, blowing an eyelash of

Sore feet

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of sore feet is a very unfortunate person indeed. My feet are only comfortable when cocooned within memory-foam (bliss!) soled wellies, or cushioned by fitflops (which are somewhat impractical in cold, damp weather). This makes Four-legged-friend happy, because my welly-wearing-going-for-a-walk self is happy. Middle daughter is also happy, because the heels are migrating to her wardrobe. I however remain unhappy and have a dilemma - wellies to a black tie event next week???

Autumn ramblings

Thought it was about time that Walking the Dog actually lists a blog about walking the dog: so took Four-legged-friend for an autumn ramble this morning. I love this time of year - the colours, the misty skies, the excuse to wrap up warm, the smell of distant bonfires, the feeling that you can pull up the drawbridge and retreat into the warmth and comfort of your home, the promise of Christmas and the sparkle it puts in a child's eyes, and the hearty, healthy foods of a winter kitchen. Four-legged-friend seemed to be quite appreciative of it too - water in the stream again; scent of hare (the one that raced past us like a fleeting wood sprite, briefly glanced just long enough to tell it was hare not rabbit); and his personal favourite - harvest spilt all over the ground. And of course, given that it was at least an hour since he had been fed and he was obviously completely starving, much of the harvest was harvested!


Curmudgeonly - another brilliant word. And one that the Blogger dictionary appears to recognise! Try rolling your lips round this one - currr-mudge-onleee - and you'll find it quite Edmund Blackadderish. Like discom- bob- ulate, yesterday. I use curmudgeon, or curmudgeonly, a lot. Secretly; inside my head. It's so much better than annoying, irritating, sarcastic, illogical, contrary ... or male!


Littlest is planning to try this out on her teacher tomorrow - "Miss -----, I'm feeling a bit discombobulated!" She loves funny sounding words and is blessed with a brain like a sponge that allows her to remember and manipulate her lips round them. And she finds it funny, which stops it being too precocious. Hopefully her teacher will have better luck with the word than the Blogger dictionary, which failed to recognise it. It also doesn't recognise itself!!!!! - "Blogger" gets a wobbly red line too!! You could say that the Blogger dictionary finds itself somewhat discombobulating. Go on - say it out loud - dis-com- bob -u-lating - if you emphasize the bob and exaggerate the articulation, you'll look and feel just like Edmund Blackadder!

Difficult for dogs: decisions, empty bowls and decorating

Many things are difficult for dogs, but some are more difficult than others:   Which one first? The white fluffiest one would be the easiest to mess up a bit, but, on second thoughts the blue alien (Snitch? Glitch? Or perhaps, Stitch?) looks a tougher challenge - better stuffed, therefore more to get my teeth into. Or maybe, I could toy with the wee Scottish sheep first; as an aperitif? The grey dog looks a bit too sad, so I'd probably leave him alone. Too much choice: where decisions don't involve (proper) food, they are really difficult for a dog ... And after a spot of soft toy tossing, the last thing a dog wants to find is this - Soft toys give a dog a terrible thirst - all the dust and fluff and clumps of spongy stuffing. And the sink taps are much too difficult for a dog. But in my opinion, far worse than difficult choices and empty bowls, is the disruption in my sleeping, warming, treat stealing, floor-crumb-scavenging, foot nibbling, body leaning room. The room

A day of CPD, meatballs and homecomings

Warning received at work, yesterday, that I was due to see, today, and have to deal with a problem that I have less than limited experience of managing. While being extremely grateful to colleague who alerted me to this, I am embarrassed to admit that it threw me into a single-minded panic: single-minded, in that I thought about little else until I had found the references I needed, sat down and restored my lost knowledge. Do others get thrown into similar fugs of despair, plummeting confidence and I've-got-to-find-something-else-to-do panics? I hope they do, because if it's just me, then ... well, that is rather depressing. And distressing. CPD (as in the title of the blog) refers to Continuous Professional Development, something I have to do rather a lot of and prove that I have done, in order to fulfil the constraints governing the continuity of my professional role. Me, who would far rather be outside walking the dog, or gardening, or doing something with my kids, or writin

Littlest's creations

These are "farm fairies" They have an elephant, a caterpillar and two cats on their farm. Their names are Zara and Issy. Tomorrow, Littlest plans to make them a house.

Shadow picture - Four-legged-friend

Helping in the garden King for a week definitely over and back to the usual bottom of the heap in the family pecking order. Note fed-up expression ...

Out of the mouth of Littlest

Little people are blessed with many gifts, but one of the best of these is the ability, without guilt or embarrassment, to tell it like it is. Our diminished family of girls visited a castle yesterday. The man at the entrance asked, "One adult, three children?" Then looking a bit closer at Eldest, corrected his tally to two adults, two children. Later, we debated whether Eldest was flattered or annoyed to be considered a child. And I said, "If he had called me a child, that would have been extremely flattering!" Littlest looked me up and down, with a puzzled frown that clearly said what planet are you on mother, before stating, "But he wouldn't, would he?"

The pile of hands game

Boys banished to the far ends of the earth - New Zealand, India ... and kennels. Girls left to do things together: Bliss? But we do miss the chaps. Honest!

Shadow picture - Girls on Bangor pier

Me and my girls (and a blue post)

Shadow picture - Littlest

Littlest scootering

Wonderful words

Just returned from North Wales with an idea for a new blog topic (new for me; suspect it has probably been done before): wonderful words, words that are remarkable in their noteworthy onomatopoeic strangeness. While I am sure there are examples in most languages where modern life necessitates the invention of new words, in Wales this happened with the microwave. What do you do with a microwave oven? - pop the food in and wait for the ping. So, guess what it's called? I actually have no idea how it is spelt - probably as it is Welsh, with a bucket load of consonants - but phonetically the word is pop-tee-ping . Brilliant! I wonder what the machine-that-goes-ping in hospitals is called - cheattee-death-ping, resus-me-ping, heartee-ping ... ?

King for a week: part 5

Damn it! I knew I'd heard someone say something about kennels. I should have guessed! Littlest spent all morning packing, which meant moving her collection of furry, but pretend, rabbits, from one room to another,until she found a bag big enough to hold them all (what's the point of a pretend rabbit? - I wish I could tell her, 'If it can't hop, it can't be chased, so it ain't worth it. And a mouthful of rabbity fur is no fun if it can't wriggle - don't tell Littlest, but I've tried). Then, Mum came home all in a flap with "far too much to do." The signs were all there, but no-one had the courtesy to tell me. It's like telling someone they are going to the Dentist, only when you arrive at the dentist's front door: not fair, not fair at all. Luckily for Mum, I didn't have to pack anything. Sadly, at the end of my week's reign, I was just beginning to get everyone - all my girls -  into a routine. Food, lazing around, sleep

The midnight meanderings of a procrastinating procrastinator

I am completely useless - at going to bed early; at filling bean bags with polystyrene beads (snow of tiny balls all over the kitchen floor); at windsurfing - can't do it, therefore won't do it; at remembering people's names; at remembering where I put the amazing recipe I want to cook now or tomorrow or next week; at recalling the names of plants; at catching up with paperwork - it's boring, so frustrating, so put it off, so more frustrating, so tidy it away into a different room, so face accusations of hiding it, so frustration levels reach a climax, so do it, so wonder in frustration why didn't do it earlier, so resolve to do so the next time, and don't, so frustration recycles ... perpetually. And when full of the cold even simple decisions become pretty impossible Apple, lemon or orange? Sacrilegious toddy part 2. And you're no help Or are you hinting that I'll end up on the floor if I have a toddy? Two nights in a row (toddy, not floor!) ...

Hot toddy sacrilege?

A Scot who doesn't like whiskey, who has a stinking cold, who wants to sleep, who has a very sweet tooth, who has failed so far to find/invent a cure to to common cold, who despairs of her failure to walk Four-legged-friend yet again, who is working far too much this half term, who can't wait for the weekend  ... who needs to go to bed and fancies a wee something - a night cap - but can't face the usual whiskey (eurgh), honey (noooo) and lemon (=indigestion) has a new recipe to share. Try this. It's naughty, smells medicinal (in a good way) and is really scrummy. Take a big mug (porcelain, not husband). Boil the kettle. Find some hot chocolate powder - the better the chocolate powder the better the drink. Pour a generous finger of Cointreau into your mug. Add the chocolate powder, then top up with boiling water and hot milk. Take to bed, sip, slide down the pillows, dream (and worry about your teeth in the morning). Sacrilegious? I think not. Good night

King for a week: part 4

A day of kingly demandingness? (see King for a week: part 3) First, I demanded a walk, but Mum was either out somewhere - twice! - (I think she called it work, but I don't know why she has to go out to do that, because I could find plenty of work for her to do here), or she was still all sneezy, so I sulked a bit and went outside, where I put my helpful hat on Mum (home for her lunch break) put the leaves in the bucket - I nuzzled in between her and the brush and her legs, and ate some (leaves, not legs), and pulled a twig out of the bucket which sprinkled (only a few) leaves all over the ground, and caught a beetle. She hinted that I was unhelping, but I was checking on her mental health. This was most definitely necessary after she said she had to sweep up some helicopters: I know she has been feverish, but when she said the helicopters were really baby-trees-in-disguise, it was me that had the headache. Bones were a safer option In conclusion, as a day of regal demands,

King for a week: part 3

How do I lodge a complaint? - I'm the only male in the house; in charge for a whole week, with three girls to feed, pamper and walk me ... and that's the point: what happened to the walks? Mum looks decidedly peaky; her nose is dripping and she keeps doing loud spluttering explosions - in other words, she not only fails to take me for walks, but also - right now! - prevents me from sleeping. Imagine that - preventing someone from sleeping; I'd never do anything so selfish! (see King for a week: part 2) Maybe, I'll take myself for a walk tomorrow? Hmmm - haven't figured out the gates yet, so could find myself trapped in the garden. Plan B? - don't have one of those, but surely a king can demand a plan B from his loyal subjects. So tomorrow, watch out girls, I'll be more demanding than usual. P.S. What's a hot toddy? Smells weirdly soporific, or is it a cure for sneezing?

King for a week: part 2

You know all this 'being the only man in the house' stuff - the big strong brave one who protects the rest of the family? Well, I thought I'd get off to a good start last night; let any potential burglars know I'm here. So I yelped, whined ... and barked! ... from the time that mum went to bed until 5.30am. I thought I was doing a really good job. Strangely, though, mum didn't.

King for a week

Dad and long-legged-boy have packed bags and flown away. "Flown!" - how did they do that? Close examination of long-legged-boy before he left did not reveal any erupting wings. But flying is what he said he was going to do, so who am I to argue?Although, if I had been about to attempt air travel, I would have taken a lighter bag; no point helping gravity to make it more difficult. So, for eight days, I am the only chap in the house. Do you think I might get away with doing this all week? Mum's pretty tolerant; I reckon I might be lucky.  But did someone mention kennels?


Mum and I got lost this morning. Yes! Completely stuck without a compass and walking in the wrong direction. And we were only ten minutes from home. Bit of a silly idea to go for a walk if you ask me, but then, I wasn't asked. When we stepped out of the back door and found a blanket of white resting on the ground - Mum said it was called fog - that should have been her queue to return me to my warm spot next to the Aga. But no, on we went, into the familiarish unknown - I mean it smelt the same, but this time it wasn't only the footpaths that had disappeared, but the trees, the sky, the sun and the rabbits (I could hear them, but not see them - which was really frustrating; at least if I can see them, I can choose to ignore them, when I can only hear them, their rustling startles me and then it looks really uncool if I don't act like a dog and chase them, except I can't see them, so it's difficult knowing where to chase). So we were lost: Which way's home,

Me and my Shadow

 "Biscuit Mum?"