Parenting, profundities and humour

If the suit fits… — October 9, 2017

If the suit fits…


So today I decided to clean the family room. Nothing unusual in that you may be thinking. Well you would be slightly wrong on that front. For I am a bit of a slob and I hadn’t given the room a proper ‘doing’ for…some… time. I had pushed a vac around a bit and plumped the odd cushion but that really wasn’t hacking it anymore.

I knew this because Middlest’s 12th birthday cards were still adorning the hearth. I won’t admit to his birth date, not because I am worried about revealing his identity, but because then you will realise quite how much of a slob I really am. But suffice to say his birth month is not October or, dare I even say it, September.

Yes the room was in need of a major overhaul.

I like to think I leave rooms for this long because of the level of satisfaction I gain from moving large amounts of dust. But, no, really I am just a slob. Husband had also been making rumblings about the level of dust. In fact when the Sky Q box recently decided to have a minor melt down he commented that ‘there is quite a lot of dust on it’ as if that could be a possible cause… That made me wait another week before tackling the job. And swear.

Anyway as part of the cleaning process I really needed to tidy up first. And part of that tidy up process involved dealing with the wet suit on the Poang chair. And, no, this isn’t a euphemism for an elephant in the room. There really has been a wetsuit on the Poang chair for quite some time.

And here is why.

We got back off our main fortnight’s holiday in early August (Middlest had not turned 12 at this point) and so my husband decided to start planning next year’s holiday. This is a bit of a ‘thing’ for him. I try to be all understanding about his need to have his next summer holiday booked at least 12 months in advance but really I just find it ‘mildly’ irritating to be bombarded with questions and e mails with links to possible destinations when my bikini is still drying on the washing line.

To some extent he is right because we do need to book early as we are (whispers) a family of 5. As anyone who is in a family of 5 will know this is a ‘bad thing’ holiday wise. The accommodation required to house families of 5s is often very expensive and very scarce and books up very quickly.

Still I like to get Christmas out of the way first.

Anyway this year’s process of holiday booking saw him downsize our choice from a 12 day safari to Botswana via 16 days touring the west coast of the US to finally a fortnight in a 4 bed cottage on the beach in Polzeath, Cornwall, England.

I won’t bore you with this process, it was bad enough being part of it as an ultimate beneficiary, but suffice to say we are all more than slightly relieved to be looking forward to spending 2 weeks literally on the beach, returning to our cottage of an evening to eat take away fish and chips and to partake of the good WiFi and a PS4. Instead of ‘basic’ camping in the bush or driving for 9 hours a day down Route whatever. Well the kids and I are anyway.

Not to become downhearted by this downscaling of his holidaying dreams husband has instead gleefully embraced the role of kitting us all out for this adventure. We love to body board and knowing what Cornwall may be like in August we had decided to spend some of the not inconsiderable savings we had made on the actual holiday on better equipment. I saw this as a longer term project.

And so it was that a while ago (!) I took delivery of a new full length wet suit which my husband had lovingly chosen for me completely autonomously. A full 10 months ahead of our sojourn. It is apparently a good time to buy wetsuits as the summer season is coming to a close. Obviously. It is lucky I am not one for fashion or brand new ranges as I am going to be a whole year out of date next summer proudly sporting my brand new not new wetsuit. In some ways his faith in my ability to stay around my current weight and body shape is flattering. In others… Luckily he hadn’t been stupid enough to buy the kids any new wet suits. Which is a good job as by next August it is possible Eldest will have hit 7 foot tall.

He casually threw the wet suit on the Poang and suggested I try it on. My heart sank. I ignored that wet suit for… some… time. Today, however, I could ignore it no longer. It was time to try it on.

We have all watched surfer movies. Blonde, tousle haired youths strolling around with their wet suits around their waists. Shrugging their arms into sleeves and reaching gracefully behind themselves to pull effortlessly at the back zipper before elegantly diving into the waves.

That isn’t me. In any way. In fact I try to avoid donning a wet suit in public. It often involves a lot of very unflattering wriggling and grunting. For I am the shape of a lady. I have a waist and hips and such like. Wet suits usually fit me fine once I have wrestled the small amount of waist material over my arse. But not until that point.

I am also unable to reach around to my back and pull up my zipper. I lack the shoulder mobility. Usually I have to sort of flick the long zipper tail over my head and tug it up whilst bent double. Again not a flattering look.

Clearly having taken this issue on board wet suit manufacturers are trying something new and my husband had already explained that this new wetsuit did up at the front in a quite complicated neck arrangement. He had taken ‘a while’ to work out how to get in his suit. I have worn bodies. I thought I could manage.

Things seemed to be going quite well (aside from the usual arse through small waist wriggling) until I got to my second arm. I had climbed into the suit through part if the neck. The neck line appeared to have several parts. I thrust my arm into a sleeve and it went precisely 2 inches before coming to a grinding halt.  I had my left arm half in the suit but couldn’t pull it up over my left shoulder until my right arm was in which meant the use of my left arm was severely compromised. I thrust several times and got no where.

I took out my left arm and tried inserting my right arm first and this worked once I realised that I was going down the wrong ‘side’ of the sleeve. After that I grunted and wriggled some more and got my left arm back in and the suit up to shoulder level. Then I realised the other half of the neck zip fastener was behind my head. I had to put my head back through the very small neck opening. Whilst not grazing my nose on the zip in a very unflattering way.

Once I had achieved this I got that satisfying ‘pop’ feeling as all my body parts found themselves in the correct area of the suit. Well all my parts except my knees which never seem to find themselves behind the reinforced knee area because I have short dumpy legs. Never mind I could live with that.

I squeaked upstairs to have a look in the mirror and decided it would ‘do’- the colour way being sufficiently garish to mask a multitude of sins and bugles.

By this point I was getting a tad hot. Which boded well for my future sojourns in the Atlantic.

And then it hit me. I had to get out.

To my knowledge I have never got out of a wet suit unaided.

The problem with the reverse procedure is invariably arms and shoulders. I reasoned with myself that without the added factor of sticky sea water I would be able to take off the wet suit.

I was wrong.

I managed to man handle that neck bit back over my head again without major lacerations.

Then I tried to get my arms out. They were totally stuck. By this point the exertions of trying to remove myself from the wet suit had caused me to break out in an unattractive sweat which wasn’t really helping. I was now seriously hot. And remembering the claustrophobia such garments induce in me.

Ten minutes passed and I had made no real head way.

I was starting to panic. I had visions of having to do the school run in my wet suit.

My mind was in overdrive deciding which friend I could call upon to extricate me from the neoprene hell I found myself in. My best bet was a friend in the next village who doesn’t drive. She would have found it hysterically funny but would have helped. The thought of getting in the car and driving over there, though, was not appealing. I started hyperventilating.

I decided to take five, calm down, and try again.

Thankfully it worked and I managed to get one arm out of the sleeve and the suit below that shoulder. With some more deep breathing the second shoulder was out. After that it was just a case of peeling it down inside out. It sounds a bit like childbirth. The relief at the end was similar.

Anyway the suit ‘fits’. I shall not be putting it on again until August.

No buns for me.

**That is not me in my wet suit up there…






Baby, I don’t care… * — August 3, 2017

Baby, I don’t care… *

* I love a bit of Transvision Vamp…it’s my age…don’t ya know…

Time for another pondering about teenagers. You may remember from Early to bed, Early to rise  that I am the ‘proud’ owner of precisely one teenager and that there are many things that are frankly irritating about such ownership.

Today we shall be examining one of these irritating things- self consciousness.

I have always been an embarrassing parent. Apparently. When my children were small they actually liked the fact that I was embarrassing, actually they didn’t call it embarrassing when I was dancing like a mad thing to ‘I am the music man’ at the kiddie disco on holiday. Every night. Or doing karaoke. Or enjoying the slides at an aqua park by running full pelt up the steps to get to the front of the queue dragging them behind by their hands. Or whooping the loudest at Christmas shows and summer concerts. Or enjoying scrambling over cargo nets at soft play centres or indeed in the tops of trees at high rope courses. Or screaming loud encouragement from the touchlines. Or putting love notes in their lunch boxes. They called it fun. Over the years this has gradually changed from fun to ambivalence to down right embarrassment.

So really this blog isn’t about my teenager’s self consciousness but his mum consciousness…

it is a shame really that he is hitting the peak of his social embarrassment right when I am hitting the peak of not giving a flying fuck about what people think of me. Quite literally I don’t care. At all.

Obviously I don’t want people to think I am a bad person. I am careful about things that matter. Such as manners and respect and friendship. But for the trivial stuff I just don’t care.

I don’t actually remember being embarrassed about my parents. Maybe they weren’t that embarrassing. Certainly my mother and father were not into disco dancing or shouting from the sidelines or whooping.

However I do remember being self conscious. Hiding myself under layers of clothing. Crossing the road to avoid other teenagers. Standing in the gloom at school discos. But then I was an awkward teenager. Not cool, not popular, not sporty, put firmly in the academic geek pigeon hole with the added quirkiness of double bass playing.

This is not something any of my children are. They are bright, certainly, but also popular and sporty and empathic and good friends and musical and general all round good eggs. And anyway geekiness is no longer a bad thing.

I can’t really remember when my self consciousness disapperared. I certainly had some in my twenties at university and during my career. Maybe it was around the time that I had kids. When all dignity and modesty was lost during the physical process of birth. It was maybe a realisation that if I was strong enough to build three human beings and bring them into the world it shouldn’t really matter if I have varicose veins.

And so I stopped worrying about stuff. I bought shorts for the first time in years. It was liberating and still is. I will dance first at discos. Sing first at karaokes. Join in stupid pool games. Whoop.

I have always hoped that I had instilled this ‘don’t care’ attitude in my offspring. Yet still Eldest is acutely self conscious. It is probably an age thing. I do remember and so I do feel for him I really do.

But not enough to stop dancing to Hewy Lewis and the News in the front of a four by four jeep with Paco our Spanish driver on yesterday’s safari. Whilst being filmed for the DVD. We didn’t buy the DVD by the way although lots of my fellow travellers did. Sorry guys…

Eldest actually tried to hold my arms down. I have discovered that I am much stronger than him when the Power of Love is playing.

He will have to suck it up. I am not for changing. Life is short. I want to dance. And sing. And whoop.

One day he may too.

I do hope so.


Fun Free Tuesdays…. — July 13, 2017

Fun Free Tuesdays….

Hello everyone. I am back. Did you miss me? Well of course not. Sorry I have probably lost you. Let me explain.

Yesterday was Tuesday. The first Tuesday of my children’s 8 week summer holiday. Still none the wiser? I will continue.

Now I love having my kids at home. Mostly. But there are some things about having my kids at home that I find really difficult. And one of those things is the constant battle to get them off electronic devices.

Childrens usage of electronic devices is one of those subjects which divides parents. A bit like breast v bottle and letting them cry it out or not.

I am of the camp that believes that electronic devices are inherently ‘evil’. This view is founded on no real evidence at all and is just something my gut tells me. It is probably because my childhood was in the era before computers smaller than the size of a room were invented.

I envy my mother. She had it much easier with us. The TV was our electronic device. We had one in the house. During this fortnight it was permanently tuned to the Wimbledon Championships. My mother ruled the air wave choices.

In the summer holidays once the morning television programming for children ended at around 10am there was nothing else worth watching until around 4pm. Even then the offerings in the morning weren’t great. Has anyone ever in the history of ‘Why Don’t You (switch of your television set and go and do something less boring instead)’ ever done that? I know I didn’t. Mostly because the activities they portrayed as more fun than watching them portray them were either; games involving the whole gang of circa 20 kids which me and my sole brother could not hope to replicate; or craft activities using sticky back plastic. Which wasn’t allowed in the house.

So my mother had no worries that for the vast majority of each day my brother and I would be doing wholesome activities mainly outside. Activities such as playing  under the embankment of the bypass avoiding the local flasher or running each other over on bikes. Simpler times.

Computers made an appearance in my teenage years but the time taken to load Killer Gorilla or Frogger into the computer from the tape player (don’t touch the volume at all) was so long and often unreliable that the pay off was not really great enough for me to bother.

I tired to think what I did all summer when I was Eldest’s age. My mother asserted that I still played out in the street. She reminded me of the American exchange children who came over which was probably the summer I had turned 14. She remembers me rushing outside after every meal to ‘play out’. That wasn’t really what I was up to but I didn’t want to burst her ‘wholesome activities’ bubble….

In other teenage summers I read a lot of trashy fiction. And stole my brother’s afterburner and met my mates up the woods to drink weak beer from tins.

So it is more than likely that my inherent hatred of my kids spending all day on small screens derives from my desire to see them undertaking wholesome activities such as these. Rather than watching other people open Kinder eggs or packets of Pokemon cards. It is highly likely my 13 year old has moved on from this somewhat. I don’t ask.

The upshot is that I spend a lot of time policing electronic usage and falling out with them about it. Setting time limits never really works. The time elapses and then they ‘just want to finish this video’ or ‘if they leave the game now they will be penalised and lose a legendary something or other’ or ‘oh mum everyone else plays solidly all day you know’. Etc etc. I once heard Middlest comment through his headphones that he had to leave a game and in response to his friend’s reply he said ‘I know she is sooo annoying’….

And so during my run up to this eight weeks holiday a thought had been ruminating. The thought that we should have one day a week completely free of electronic devices. Myself included. Thus cutting all time limits and arguments off at the pass.

I decided in their last week of term to float the idea. I was slightly trepidatious if I am honest.

Youngest was very much up for it. This was not really a surprise. Youngest is 9 and has just finished Year 5. As such in the Harrison household she has achieved the age of  i-pod ownership. The i-pod she possess is obviously third hand. And as such is glitchy and of limited use. Whatever. She manages to play a few games such as Word Cookies and an advanced form of that 1980s one with a ball and a wall to knock through. And she can message her friends but only at home when she is on the internet.

As such she is still the one trying to get her brothers away from You Tube for long enough to play in the garden.

Middlest went white. He asked me what on earth he was going to do. I pointed out that this time last year he did not have a phone or an X Box. That didn’t help. Apparently last summer was a desert of boredom punctuated by small oases of fun which had usually cost me over £100.

Eldest was surprisingly very much up for it too. Eldest is old enough to understand that he struggles to moderate his phone usage. And needs help to do so. Of course on a day when I do ‘help him to manage his usage’ by telling him to ‘put the damn thing away for five minutes’ he does not see it quite like that. And we usually fight.

So to him a day totally without his phone would be a day of moderate usage without the arguments. Hopefully.

And me. What about me? To be honest I wasn’t too worried. The kids had reluctantly agreed to me having my phone for calls and essential texts only. I believed I could resist face book and twitter for a day. My main concern was not being able to open the on line version of The Times newspaper Polygon puzzle, which my father had got me addicted to on our recent visit. But I consoled myself with the thought of a ‘double polygon Wednesday’.

So on Monday evening I hoovered up phones and deposited them in my bedroom along with my I pad. All completely turned off.

I came down at 8 am having overslept to find Middlest booting up the X Box. He had conveniently forgotten that ‘no electronic devices’ included his games console. We had a small contratend.

Over the day on which I had deliberately planned no activities which would have set me back £100 certain things happened.

We all overslept.

They all came to my exercise class with me and ran around the field a few times before joining in (at one point we were all doing press ups in a row much to everyone’s amusement) and declaring it ‘quite hard’.

We went to Sainsbury’s for a snack to undo all our hard work and had actual conversations.

Youngest got her adult colouring book out and did an amazing page of colouring.

Middlest survived. He helped me cook the lunch. And enjoyed chopping and peeling carrots. He read an entire book. He tried to argue that I couldn’t afford phone free Tuesday (or fun free Tuesday as he had rechristened it) as I was going to have to buy a book a week. I pointed out that we have a perfectly decent library.

He helped me cook as he was avoiding Eldest and Youngest who, to a plan of Eldest’s devising, were setting up a hot wheels car track out of his bedroom window. This involved much arguing but once they got it sorted much fun. The fun was somewhat curtailed by the window cleaner turning up.

Eldest got out his sketch pad and new ‘How to Draw’ book purchased with the book token he got for winning the Year 8 Art prize and tackled eyes and then did a decent portrait. Even if the ears are too high.

We got our haircut and they all read wholsomely in the waiting area. Youngest regaled me with animal facts from her encyclopaedia during my cut and blow dry.

They went to a friend’s house whilst hubby and I went out briefly and had fun playing nerf gun wars. Youngest and I watched an episode of the Crystal Maze circa 1990 which apparently looked ‘so old’.

They all went to bed happy,

Middlest extracted his phone from my bedroom before retiring to ensure it was charged and ready for an intense catch up as Wednesday dawned.

The others want to add another day.



Conkering Hero — October 2, 2016

Conkering Hero


Today has been one of those perfect autumn days. Sunny. Crisp. Warm. There are probably not many of these left here in good old Blighty before the damp and cold of winter sets in.

I love this time of year. The colours are fantastic. Hedgerows are full of berries. Fields have been harvested. Squirrels are busy laying away acorns and beech nuts for winter. Cobwebs shine in the early morning dew. Daddy long legs flutter at twilight. The last hopeful butterflies emerge and dance in the sunbeams. The crispness of the, increasingly later, dawn gives way to a warm sun-filled day.

We have had a lovely summer and autumn here in the South East of England. It took summer a while to get going but during our long school break the weather was generally kind. Unless we had a day planned at the lido.

September has also been generally glorious. There have been many days like today. To start with actually hot, unseasonably so, but now pleasant with the heat of the summer sun ebbing away into autumn. Even so I have line dried sheets and walked coatless much later in the year than usual. A couple of weekends ago Youngest, husband and I blackberried in glorious heat with insects still buzzing. Of course we have had rain, mainly on Saturdays to coincide with pitch side viewing, but mostly it has been set fair.

This weekend was Harvest festival. I have spent a large part of it at church celebrating the bounty this season provides. Eating too much good food. Yammering with friends. Marvelling at the low October light streaming through the stained glass dancing coloured shadows on the floor. Singing Rutter and hymns. Enjoying children serving food and singing Sambas. Including my own.

And today was also the day for our Annual Conker Extravaganza. As to my mind nothing symbolises autumn like conkers.

As a child I can still recall the excitment of finding a spiky case fallen from a horse chestnut tree. An unopened package containing one or possibly two beautiful gifts. Finding such bounty was difficult. All horse chestnut trees near my home were regularly scoured by children with sticks beating the branches to release these packages. One had to get up early and brave that crispy dawn to find them.

Last week I went on a walk to the local bottle bank and passed a beautiful old tree near to our local school. I was amazed to find literally tens of conkers and unopened cases lying underneath. I guess life is busier. Kids have other activities to soak up their time. But even so I find it sad that there are any conkers left for a woman of a certain age to collect on a random Thursday lunch time. Of course I was unable to resist hoovering them up and taking them home for my children.

But really that is not the same as doing it yourself. So today we went off to do just that at a local park. In the well trodden areas I was heartened to discover that conkers were hard to come by. People who had got up earlier than us had been bothered to collect them. So we had to resort to ‘children on shoulders’ to retrieve some directly from the branches.

But in more tucked away areas there were still hundreds to be found on the ground. The slight wind also helped as we had timed it perfectly and newly ripened fruit regularly dropped to the ground around us. It was very exciting to chase after them as they bounced along the grass. Youngest came away reluctantly from one tree pockets bulging with beauties.

Of course there is no use in just collecting conkers. One has to play the game too. Which we duly did in the back garden. Youngest remained undefeated. Middlest burnt through three, Middlest one and myself two.

I have plans for Christmas decorations for the rest of our not insubstantial haul. Maybe a wreath or tree hangers.

Horse chestnut trees are in trouble in this country due to a leaf mining insect and a fungal infection. They are dropping their leaves earlier and often look rather dry and sad by this time of the year. They still produce their wonderful fruit though. I am not sure how many more years this activity will be viable. It will be a very sad day indeed if they do die out.

For as much as we love bashing the bejeebers out of each other’s conkers the real joy is in the collecting and unwrapping of these wonderful free gifts provided by Mother Nature.



Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot… — July 19, 2016

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot…


So it is finally hot here. Seriously uncharacteristically hot. More than 30 degrees.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean the British) have been moaning on for weeks about our lack of summer. Discussing precipitation and lack of UV.

Someone was listening and so now, almost out of nowhere, we are basking in Mediterranean style sunshine. And of course now we still aren’t happy. We never are. Most people’s kids are still in school. People are having to commute still. Soon the railways will shut as the tracks have become too hot. The shops had given up on summer ever materialising and put all their summer clothes on sale and so now we have to trawl the stuffed, disorganised racks to find some linen trousers that aren’t size 20. And so we are now moaning that it is too hot.

Most schools break up on Friday. And everyone is assuming the rain and mid teen temperatures will then return. It is quite likely.

I am fortunate. Mine are already off school. Yesterday we spent six hours shopping for footwear. Yes six hours. In the heat. That is a whole other blog though.

So I had planned a lazy day for today. Some friends are popping round about four for tea. I had to nip to town for a birthday gift. But otherwise I thought filling the paddling pool was as ambitious as it was going to get.

I achieved the gift purchasing within an hour before it got too hot. I also made the most of the Debenhams swimwear and lingerie sale. Must try all that on later. I don’t try on swimwear and lingerie in the store. There is something unnerving about stripping down to one’s altogether in semi public. And in any event the lighting in those changing rooms is soooo unflattering. At least that is my excuse. I find I look my best in dim lighting.

I got home and hung out some laundry to take advantage of the oven baked temperatures. Then I went into the shed to retrieve the paddling pool.

Part of me thought that if I set it up early enough then the sun would heat the water over the course of the day and allow me to merely use the outside tap to fill it. This is probably nonsense. But I did not really fancy hauling buckets of hot water from the kitchen tap into the garden. In the heat. Have I mentioned the heat?

I located the paddling pool under a dust sheet at the back of the shed. We purchased this paddling pool about two years ago. It is large. Not as large as those that come with filters and require a licence from your water company to fill, but large.

I decided on a large one when Eldest slid down the slide into our old ‘Spiderman’ paddling pool (diameter circa 1.2m) and promptly slid straight out the other side. They could all stand up in it but had to take turns to sit. The new pool was quite expensive. Certainly more than I remembered paying for the Spiderman set up which also came with a free beach ball AND rubber ring- both of which were still going strong. But I remember being extremely impressed when this new pool came with a heavy duty patching kit…well, I thought, years of service will negate the cost.

So anyway as I said I located the pool. Unfortunately our ‘friendly’ mouse family that reside in the shed had also located it and torn it into shreds. I like to think that we have a family of ‘friendly’ mice, all pink ears and twitching whiskers, because the alternative is too awful for words. The nest I found was small and so I do believe it is mice. Hopefully endangered harvest mice or something equally cute. And please do not get back to me with statistics which say things like ‘you are only ever 200m from a rat’….and such like. It won’t help.

So the paddling pool was a no go. I calculated that each ‘use’ had cost about £17…but at least it had kept some friendly rodents in nesting material. Moreover I had promised the friends a paddling pool. And my offspring. So a ‘hunting out new paddling pool’ trip was on the cards. The old paddling pool was not only shredded but also smelt a tad…..fruity. Putting it politely. A ‘tip’ trip was also on the cards.

I have needed to go to the tip for a while. The garage is full of cardboard. And used jars. And a few used bottles. And old clothes that no one else wants. And of course after my footwear escapades of the previous day my house was full of old shoes.

So I emptied a fair proportion of my garage into my boot. Along with the fruity, shredded paddling pool.

Off we went. I promised the kids they could post glassware into the bottle bank as a sort of bribe. They still like doing this. Odd people. We got to the tip. It was hot. Have I mentioned that? It was only after depositing cardboard, supervising glass posting, getting rid of that paddling pool and manhandling large sacks of old clothing into a bank two feet taller than me that I realised all those old shoes were still on my kitchen floor. Damn it.

Anyway there is a large superstore near the tip which to my mind was bound to have a paddling pool. It did. But it was only 1.2m in diameter. Never mind we bought baguettes for lunch. And went off to the DIY store opposite. Some paddling pools were on offer. Again only 1.2m. Yet more shops that had been taken off guard by our sudden and unexpected summer.

By this point the heat and exertion had made me very, very hungry. As I filled up with petrol at the superstore forecourt I was in a quandary. Whether to go to the toy store on my ‘way’ home. Or go home, eat and return later.

In the end we went to the toy store on the way home, ignoring our rumbling stomachs and, according to Youngest, parched mouths. Youngest had remembered seeing the exact same paddling pool, without holes and mice wee, at this toy store when we were in there yesterday purchasing water guns as a slight detour from shoe shopping hell.

She was right. There was one pool left. Once we got someone to serve us we left for home.

We really enjoyed our baguettes.  During them Youngest checked to make sure I would be adding hot water to the pool when erecting it. Damn it. Again.

I am now hiding with a cup of tea before braving setting up the pool. I need to find the electric pump. There is no way I can manually blow the thing up. Not in this heat. And then set the hose running. And I guess ferry the odd bucket of hot water out there.

I am going to get them to sign affidavits in blood swearing that they will stay in the pool for longer than ten minutes and go back in tomorrow even if there is cut grass and the odd dead fly floating in it.

I don’t think it likely though…

Footnote: Handy Hint Service-During the filling of a paddling pool it is always wise to see if the paddling pool has a plug, and then check if that plug is in…my lawn is nicely watered anyway…


Just Bounce Off Will You? — July 15, 2016

Just Bounce Off Will You?


So on our ‘Things We Must Do in the Long Summer Holiday’ list the kids had written  ‘Go to Bounce’.

In case you are not familiar with this particular activity Bounce is a shed in a city near us which is home to 100 plus trampolines. Eldest and Middlest have each been to a party there. It was a ‘thing’ about a year ago. In the manner of children’s parties the herd has now moved on. Mainly to the outside Waterpark on a nearby lake. Even looking at children in wet suits in that lake makes me shiver. And worry about algae and stuff. We did a similar thing in Greece last summer. In the Med. Air temperature 38 degrees. Sea temperature 28 degrees. Currently here the air temp is about 18 and I am pretty sure the lake has made double figures but probably only just. It looked more fun in Greece. But hey each to their own.

I am digressing. I apologise.

Youngest has had a bee in her bonnet about Bounce since I had to decline two birthday parties on her behalf that were being held at this palace of bouncy wonderment. To hear her talk you would think this shed was some sort of utopia. With added dodgeball.

So I agreed to let them come. We were going to do it yesterday but then we went on a bike ride down the new bypass (on the cycle route in case readers of Cycle Rage are wondering) and had lunch in our supermarket of choice. That sounds like I am being coy. I am not really. Our supermarket of choice is Sainsburys. What can I say? I like their meat. And the fact that they let me park there on Fridays so I can collect the kids without queuing up for half an hour to leave the school carpark. I owe them. Plus all my ‘favourites’ are saved on their web site. And I am blowed if I am going to go through the rigmarole of starting all over somewhere else. I can almost do my on line grocery shopping in my sleep.

By golly I am digressing again. So after our jaunt on bikes we decided to save Bounce for another, less exciting day. Today is that day.

I booked an hour’s slot on line. And paid an extortionate amount for the privilege. Then I had to buy two pairs of ‘Bounce’ socks. Eldest had brought his home from his party. The parents of the child that Middlest attended the party of are obviously more savvy. They probably kept all the £2.49 pairs of socks and got a reasonable used price on e bay. I was expecting quite a lot from these socks. I generally only pay £2.50 for a five pack of sports socks….

We arrived. Only the independent schools are off this week. So we had thought it might be quite quiet. We hadn’t reckoned on school parties. The double decker in the car park was a little unnerving. I approached the reception desk. Luckily I had printed off all my waiver forms and registration forms and booking forms. These basically consist of reams of paper in which you agree that if you die it is all your own fault, you muppet. And that you won’t get the extortionate entrance fee back in that event.

The lady then asked me if I was staying. I hadn’t booked myself onto the trampolines. I don’t do trampolines. The reason I don’t will be self evident to anyone who has borne three kids. My children haven’t borne three kids so I had to do a little ‘delicate’ explaining. How to tell your kids they have shot your pelvic floor and you are therefore unable to partake of a fun activity with them without making them feel guilty for it? I think I navigated that quite well. The adverts around the place suggesting that Bounce is a ‘family activity’ are clearly designed by marketing executives who have not had children. Or are male.

So I told the lady I would be staying as youngest is 8 and surely therefore too young to be left unattended? She agreed, she was too young to be left. And then she charged me £2.99 for the privilege of supervising my own offspring. My god. Money for old rope. Luckily this entitled me to spend £2.99 in the café.

We acquired the socks. I was a little ‘disappointed’. I am not sure why normal socks would not have worked. I suppose they lack the ‘grips’ on the bottom. And are not bright orange. All  my kids possess Christmas slipper socks though. I think they should have been allowed. However unseasonal they are.

We watched the Safety Briefing. In synopsis. If you die it is all your own fault. You muppet.

They donned the amazing socks. I decided to not bother with a locker. Which would take my pound and not return it. So I carted all the jumpers and shoes and socks (of a non grippy, non orange nature) with me.

We entered bouncy utopia. It quickly became apparent that I would not be able to spectate from the café. As it is below the level of the trampolines. This seemed a little unfair as I had paid £2.99 for the privilege of spectating. I had expected a viewing gallery at least. Oh well. I spent my ‘voucher’ on tea and a piece of Rocky Road. The offspring went off to bounce.

I tried to use the ‘free’ WiFi. Which necessitated that I ‘check in’ on Facebook. These people have an eye for the buck that’s all I can say. I deleted the post once I was safely logged in. Sod you Bounce and your ‘free’ WiFi providing you with ‘free’ advertising. I am not sure why this bothers me so much. But it does. I never check in on Facebook. Ever. I felt dirty.

The place was packed. There seemed to be an entire sixth form in hogging the Slam Dunk area. And another younger school party in the dodge ball arena. And queuing up outside.

Luckily the teenagers’ time was soon up, and the other party left half an hour later. Once I had finished my tea (no food or drink allowed in the bounce arena) and decided to risk leaving my bags in the café I climbed the steps to take a few videos of my springy, flippy children. Just to pretend I was bothered about their antics. In these situations (risk of death, which would be all your own fault, you muppet) I find it is best to just not watch and instead write blog entries.

All too soon their hour was up. Although they would never have coped with two. They were a sweaty mess. As shown above.

I am hoping they will all sleep well tonight. That might provide some ‘compensation’.


Predicting the Future — June 19, 2016

Predicting the Future


So here in the UK there is, currently, a burning European issue. It is taking over the airwaves. Dominating conversations. Turning schools and workplaces upside down. Upsetting television schedules. Dividing households.

I am, of course, talking about the Euro 2016 football championships. The irony of the running of the tournament concurrent with our other burning European issue is not lost on me.

I am not a big watcher of football. OK let me rephrase. I watch a lot of live, muddy & cold amateur soccer courtesy of my offspring. But I am not a watcher of professional soccer.

I do partake of Match of the Day. I like its format. The condensing of the whole 90 minutes plus (how England rued and then revelled in that ‘plus’ in their last two games) of matches into small bite sized parcels containing all the good bits, punctuated by healthy doses of Gary Linneker and his side kicks. And who doesn’t think he is aging spectacularly well? It is that truly awesome hair. He looks better now then in Euro 96, despite his unhealthy obsession with deep fried potato products. So, yes, I like MoTD.

But generally during major football tournaments I am not involved. I like it best when the World Cup is taking place in a timezone which means that all the matches are on television in the middle of the night.

This time however I am hooked. And here is the reason.

Youngest’s football club is running a Euro 2016 predictor competition. The coaches sent out a fiendishly complicated spreadsheet for us to complete. It consisted of predicting not only the result of each match but also the score. 5 points for a correct score, 3 points for a correct result.

I ignored that e mail for several weeks until the impassioned pleas for participation to raise valuable funds for our tour next year to Butlins, Minehead became overwhelming.  (The whole Butlins, Minehead tour thing is there in my head. In the cupboard marked ‘Things I will not think About Until They Become Unavoidable’… Watch out for the blog sometime next April…I am sure at some point in his career Vardy went on tour to Butlins, Minehead. That is why I like him so much…)

So anyway we had a go. The kids were interested for about the first five matches. Then they went on the trampoline and shouted random numbers in through the open door in response to my random shouting of team names.

Clearly as non watchers of professional football we had no idea about the relative merits of the various teams. Except that we know some of the most famous stars, but even then we aren’t always sure which of the East European sides some of them play for. It got to the point where I was plucking results out based on such maxims as ‘We haven’t had a draw for a while’ and ‘Who knew Iceland even had a football team’. Etc.

So we sent off the spreadsheet. I wasn’t hopeful. We didn’t have the hosts and possible favourites even progressing from the group stages.

We did win the Best Team Name competition though. That was Eldest. The Cheese Ball Chomping Unicorns have clearly struck a chord.

We applied a wall chart to the, well, wall. We devised a method of filling it in to show the actual scores and the outcome versus our prediction. We were set.

The competition got under way. We got the opening match right. Pure fluke. Then came the Albania v Switzerland match, again correct. I got mildly excited and came in from the garden to watch the end of Wales v Slovakia. When Wales got that second goal I got even more excited, correct again. 15 out of 15. Ok so maybe we weren’t that bad at this predictor stuff.

The kids got exasperated at me wanting Wales to win. ‘That won’t help England’ they chorused. Then I explained that if we won we would take home half the pot, around  £250, and that new CR7s or other ridiculously expensive Nike football boots might be on offer. They started shouting at the screen too.

We settled down to watch England v Russia. I was quite happy with our one nil prediction. Yes England are playing better football than in, well, forever. But England are good at disappointing. I was sat there in a state of unbelievable excitement once the England goal went in. During the four minutes of injury time I was shouting at the screen-‘Just keep it out for 4 minutes’. Twenty out of twenty beckoned.

And then England did that thing they do so well. Snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Well a draw but it may as well have been defeat, predictor wise. And no, Ian Wright, I don’t take comfort from the good football they demonstrated. Five points thrown away in the 92nd minute. And worse a lot of my fellow predictor players were even more pessimistic than me England wise and had correctly predicted the draw. How grossly unpatriotic.

Since then things have gone a little down hill. From top of the leader board to seventh at the last reckoning. Let’s face it Hungary v Austria? -no idea. And who knew about Iceland? I am not sure they knew themselves.

Still it was good whilst it lasted. And our early promise has probably improved my side line credibility, amateur football watching wise. That is if anyone has worked out who The Cheese Ball Chomping Unicorns are….

Round and Round — June 10, 2016

Round and Round


(For the avoidance of doubt this entry is not a homage to Spandau Ballet. Although I do love Spandau. So if that is what you are after jog on.)

So I may have mentioned before that my daughter is sporty. That is a massive understatement to be honest. She loves football and hockey and netball and running. She is quite good at swimming and apparently cricket. But currently we are in the rounders season at school.

Rounders is not her favourite. She is a good catch and has a huge throw. She can also run like the wind and so fields deep. But her batting is a bit hit and miss, often miss. I sympathise. At school I was not great at batting. And I couldn’t catch or throw either. Or run.

This year I managed to miss the annual ritual humiliation that is the Cub Scout Family Rounders Evening. I can’t remember why. Some fortuitous Governing Body meeting or ferrying task.

And so I didn’t have to go through those few seconds standing in front of a bowler wondering how not to make a fool of myself. Watching as hairy men slog the ball 100 meters into the bushes. And trying to field on the right of the batter to avoid having to make a crucial throw or, shudder, catch. Result.

Of course nothing is ever that simple. Just as I was basking in this narrow escape an e mail came through from school advertising Women in Sport Week. The Sports’ Department had decided to host a number of events for mums to attend. And one of those was a Year 4 Mums and Daughters Rounder’s match.

Of course there was no way Youngest was going to let me get out of this one. The temptation to humiliate her mother was too strong. A fortuitous emergency Governing Body meeting failed to materialise. And so today I rolled up at school to face the bowler. The fact that the bowler was only 3 feet tall should have made me feel better. It didn’t.

In anticipation of this event Youngest and I had been up the field with our rubberised baseball bat and a tennis ball to have a practice. We were both quite good at it, slogging them into the undergrowth. She reminded me that a rounder’s bat is much smaller and a rounder’s ball much harder and again smaller. Cheers love.

On holiday in Devon I roped everyone in to a match on the beach. With the aforementioned baseball bat and tennis ball. It went quite well until husband managed to hit a strolling man in the nadgers with a well placed slog. He was carrying a bucket of water at the time (the strolling man not my husband, although it might have been a good idea to handicap him in such a way before letting him loose with a bat) which cascaded all down his front. Woops.

So we had got a bit of practice in. I still wasn’t confident. That wasn’t helped by Youngest repeating repeatedly that her team were going to ‘thrash’ us. Competitive much?

Have you ever been ten pin bowling? I know this seems a bit off piste but bear with, bear with. I used to go quite a lot as a student. And here is the thing. Some games I could get strike after strike after strike. And some games I struggled to get above fifty pins. Often such games would be in the same session consecutively. And I have no idea why.

Well clearly rounders is like that for me too. Today after an entire life of never hitting a rounders ball I managed to score two and a half rounders off 3 balls. Astounding. I did run Youngest out whilst achieving the half. Woops. But it was a genuine mistake.

The mums were beaten 6 to 5 but for a bunch of ladies who haven’t played for twenty to thirty years (some of them are disgustingly young) we did OK. In the mixed teams Youngest and I also lost out again but only by the one rounder.

So credit due I think. Of course the only thing Youngest focussed on was me running her out. Not on my 2 and a half rounders. Which nearly killed me. The pitch is bigger than it looks.

I tried to explain to the offspring that in the scheme of things this feels like a major achievement to me. And perhaps with a bit of practise I might have been better as a child. Although it was probably just a ‘ten pin bowling’ moment.

Let’s hope the fixture doesn’t get repeated next year. People will expect things. Which is gently worrying.

And I already ache.




Sing It Loud — February 7, 2016

Sing It Loud


So here is a thing you may not know about me. I love to sing.

When I was small I sang in a church choir. That is my and my bro up there…he may never forgive me. It was a fairly serious affair involving cassocks and surplices and practices and two services on Sunday and often a wedding on Saturday. And rather thrillingly it also involved small brown envelopes containing hard cash. It was my first ‘job’ although it didn’t really feel like hard work. There was extra money for weddings.

I took exams and gained medals and rose to the heady rank of Head Girl Chorister before my family upped sticks and moved 200 miles south when I was 11. I never took it up again in the new place. Not really sure why.

Still some of my best memories of that period of my childhood come from singing in that choir. In fact the best of those was singing at sung evensong in candle light on a winter’s evening. I still have a fondness for hymns and especially psalms. It is part of the reason I go to church. To sing.

From then on in I didn’t do that much singing as instrument playing took over. Specifically double bass and for one school production percussion. Because my piano playing wasn’t up to scratch. That gig went to Rupert Wilson, he of the cello playing fame….we once did a turn in the school concert…him playing a beautiful rendition of The Swan from Carnival of the Animals and me following up with the double bass solo….The Elephant…well I guess I chose to play the bass….anyway I digress. In the event playing percussion turned out to be a blast especially banging on timpani. I often wonder why Rupert and I didn’t hook up forming, as we did, the bass string section of the school orchestra mostly single (double) handedly. But we didn’t. I like to think he still plays. His cello is probably gathering as much dust as my double bass.

Although now I think about singing at school I do remember that I was part of a quartet of street sellers in a production of Oliver in my fifth year. I can still sing the whole of my part. I was a milk maid. My boyfriend of the time was quite taken with my long dress and metal pail.

For a long time thereafter through university and work my singing was confined to the shower and round the piano at Christmas. I got a bit rusty to be honest.

Then Eldest came along.  There were many long February evenings when I was pacing up and down with a grizzly baby waiting for my husband to arrive home when I cranked up the stereo and sang along to my favourites. Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Crystal Gayle, Ella Fitzgerald. I like to listen to all sorts of music. But this is the stuff I like to ‘Karaoke’ to…even if only in the privacy of my lounge.

The others came along. I sang a lot of nursery rhymes. Wind the Bobbin Up? Anyone? We went to a mums and toddlers singing group which was fun. Eventually I progressed to Cub Scout campfire singalongs. But this was the extent of my limited singing opportunities. Life with small kids. Doesn’t leave much time for a social life.

Then about five years ago a flyer came home in the school bags advertising a community choir being held in another local school. I organised husband to get home in time and with a lot of trepidation set out to join. I expected a hall full of people. There were seven of them. Including the choirmaster. That brought its own issues. No where to hide.

But it was fun. We did public performances. I still go to that choir today. When I can get away on a Monday night. The choir now numbers around a 100 people. But it is still immense fun. We sing all sorts sometimes in Zulu, Spanish and most recently Maori. We do show tunes and folk tunes and a smattering of religious stuff. Rutter- my favourite. Some Mondays I almost don’t make it because the effort of getting out in time whilst juggling the kids’ stuff and often a late husband is nearly enough to tip me over the edge. But without fail I am always glad I made the effort. It cheers my soul.

All my children sing. Eldest and Youngest are in the school choirs. Eldest particularly loves it. Middlest has a great voice but is taking a sabbatical. We all sing once a month in our church all age choir with other families.

We have just returned from a practice with the church choir master ahead of Sunday’s family service.  ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ this time. The ages ranged from 5 to cough cough. We numbered 10 in total. It is a bit daunting for us to stand up in front of the congregation and do our turn. But we all still turn up.

Because there is really nothing like the buzz of singing in a group.

So now I have more outlets for my singing. But even so I can still often be found belting out a Carpenters track into my hairbrush whilst stirring spag bol. Because that is fun too.



Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside… — January 1, 2016

Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside…


We are currently on holiday. I believe I began a post like this before. I think it was Greece is the Word. I would link you to it but I am on holiday. And therefore I am unable to do so. As I lack the IT resources.

Suffice to say that if you do find that post the view from the window on this holiday is not quite the same.

We are spending the week in a house on the Kent coast.

Some of my readership hail from far flung, even tropical places. And so therefore I need to perhaps explain what a holiday by the seaside in England is like in January.

One word springs to mind. Cold.

In the UK we have been experiencing a very mild winter this year. When we left our home it was 15 degrees. Really odd. It should be around ten degrees cooler than that. Anyhoo it has been unseasonably warm. So when I printed off my ‘Family Holiday in the U.K.’ Packing list I nearly discounted the thermals section as well as the wet suit and sun hat section.

But then I remembered we were going to the coast. And I packed them anyway. Thank god.

However warm it is in the UK it is reliably a lot colder by the sea. Especially when that sea is the North Sea. I never go to the British seaside without my woolly hat. Ever. Even in June. Because I will get earache without it. To go with the facial exfoliation provided free by the blowing sand.

In theory it seems a wonderful idea. A break by the sea off season. One envisages bracing walks along the coast. I lasted precisely ten minutes on the sands today watching my offspring roll around after a rugby ball before the cold and the fear that they might tackle each other into a pile of dog muck got the better of me. So I left to explore the slightly less windy town.

And there you notice that other thing about most English seaside towns. They have an air of neglect. Which is even more apparent in the winter. Most of the shops remain closed. The lack of sun and people shows up the peeling paint and rusty balustrades. I feel sorry for these places.

In most you can see the grandeur that was there in the height of the British tourist heyday. Before cheap flights lured us all away to sunnier climes. The Art Deco hotel facades. The huge train stations that would have received thousands of holiday makers each summer. The pleasure grounds. The piers. The boating lakes. But often these wonders have been blighted by neighbouring 60s planning monstrosities. By a lack of up keep. By graffiti. By the insufficient numbers of punters.

And then there are seagulls. Nough said. They pinch your chips and poo on everything. I hate them. Flying vermin.

But then despite all this such places have an appeal. We like 2p amusement arcades where an hour’s fun can be had for a couple of quid.

We like watching the New Year’s Day nutters swimming in the sea…weird.

We like the fish and chips.

We like the ice cream parlours.

We like building castles and shell hunting and chapped lips.

We like crabbing off abandoned piers and rock pooling.

We like looking round tacky souvenir shops.

We like drinking proper tea out of styrofoam cups.

We like coming back and getting cosy.

So, yeah, the Med is great. But so is the North Sea.

If you dress up proper.



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