musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Why Are There No Aspirin in the Jungle? — August 11, 2016

Why Are There No Aspirin in the Jungle?

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Because the parrots eat em all….

That is one of my all time favourite jokes. Along with What is yellow and dangerous? Shark infested custard.

Say the former out loud if the punch line escapes you.

Anyway we have reached the penultimate day of our holiday. Here in sunny Portugal. And today we will be spending a portion of our time searching out analgesics.

We did not rashly arrive without pain killers. I always pack a selection of drugs which includes paracetomol, nurofen, Migraleve, Immodium, rehydration salts and insect bite cream. The digestive portion of this list is possibly a hangover from my early forays abroad when water and food was less reliable than it is now. None of us have had the squits on any of our family trips abroad. But of course if I didn’t pack them then we would all come down with raging diarrhoea. (I have tried to avoid using this word as it is impossible to spell. And I can’t even get near enough for auto correct to guess at it. I had to look it up…) Probably simultaneously and explosively.

So I had pain killers covered. And I had liquid versions for the kids. But we have run out. And here are the reasons why.

On our first day, which was cool, as I did mention in Wind Up, we went along to ‘family football’. There were a few reasons for this. One the football pitch is the only amenity on this entire resort that our villa is close to. Everything else is at least a kilometre away. Breakfast. The sea. The pool that we like. Reception. Lunch venues. I didn’t wear my FitBit here. Which was a mistake. Merely getting to the dining hall racks up 1000 steps. I would have been quids in.

Secondly the hour long daily session is free. Not much else is. We paid a small fortune to come here for two weeks. And we are paying amother small fortune staying here. We thought taking advantage of the free activities wise.

Three it sounded fun. Family football implies a safe, fun, non competitive activity for all the, well, family.

Four. My kids love football.

So off we went. Relishing the around twenty steps to the pitch. Which is a sandy all weather type surface.

Well the Harrrisons (for that is us) formed a team and also took on a random Irish person to help out. It is safe to say that ‘family’ football is a slight misnomer. There  were plenty of lads and dads. But also a few random teenagers with and without footwear, an extremely competitive coach, and myself and Youngest the only people on the pitch without a penis. The dads where without doubt all failed Ronaldos living out their broken dreams thrashing the pants off four year olds and a woman of a certain age. Go them. I am sure they felt better about themselves after they had Pana’d that toddler.

We did OK though. We play a lot together so know each other’s strengths. OK OK I have bigged this up. Daddy and the kids play a lot together. I watch a lot of them playing so know their strengths. At one point I heard a member of a team who were sitting out mention that we were all a family and had chemistry! I puffed up a bit at this and toe punted the ball to the opposition so destroying any credibility I had built up. Anyway we did OK. Won 2 lost 2.

I think it was during the second match that husband fell over a teenager (I think the teenager in question may have been the one playing in bare feet, nutter) and landed awkwardly on his foot. I didn’t really notice because I was busy defending at the time but it did strike me as slightly odd that husband played in goal for the last two matches. Thus loosing all chance of nutmeging a four year old.

Anyway we came off at the end. Once I had got my breath back and stopped feeling sick I noticed he was limping. I asked if he was OK. He said not because he thought he may have re- broken the foot bone he broke several years ago when he fell down the stairs after stepping on an Iggle Piggle sippy cup I had ‘haphazardly’ left at the top of the stairs. It has long been a bone (excuse the pun) of contention in our marriage as to whose fault that accident really was. Was the cup left ‘haphazardly’ at the top of the stairs or tucked neatly into the banIster during a middle of the night ill child rescue mission? Undertaken by yours truly. But whatever, the outcome was the same. A broken foot bone.

This time, however, I could not be blamed as I had been on the wing when he fell over the bare footed teenager.

So my husband began popping the analgesics with alarming regularity. And he also began limping those 1000 steps to breakfast.

The issue was compounded a few days later when we rashly agreed to go back to ‘family’ football. We didn’t enjoy it quite as much this time. Eldest dumped us to pair up with a teenage lad and his team (I think, ironically, the teenager husband had fallen over on day one) earning him the nick name Judas. The remaining four of us joined up with some Germans and a couple of teenagers from Wandsworth (who clearly thought that girls can’t play as they tackled Youngest mercilessly all afternoon despite her being on their team and actually a decent player) and battled it out against ferocious opposition who were clearly bent on winning at all costs.

I took a ball to the face which broke the arm off my sunglasses and left my cheek smarting and tears in my eyes. Involuntary tears. It bloody hurt. Even more ironically it had come off the ‘broken’ foot of my husband as he limped in the goal mouth clearing balls in a way I can only decribe as ‘haphazardly’. I left to walk the twenty steps to our house to retrieve my actual glasses so I could see anything at all.  There was no way I was giving up on the match and giving the extremely sexist coach (who I had heard saying, and I quote, “don’t worry it is the team with the woman and girl in next”) the satisfaction of seeing ‘the woman’ ‘ball-in-faced’ off the pitch.

We decided after the session to go to the nearest pool, one that we hadn’t ventured to before, to cool off. Youngest jumped straight in and declared it deeper than the other pools. I was dubious as I was sure all of them were 1.2 meters deep. Husband jumped in full throttle and landed heavily on both heels. Further aggravating his foot issues. He was now limping on both feet. Although I guess a limp on both feet just means you walk extremely slowly everywhere.

The lack of sunglasses saw me get two migraines over the next two days one of which was brought about by staring futilely across the vast Atlantic Ocean trying to spot dolphins for an hour and a half and mistaking every blinding crest of a wave for a dorsal fin. We were left disappointed. And me migrainey.

Just as husband’s limp was improving slightly both Youngest and Middlest developed earache. There is a nurse on site but being British we decided ‘not to bother the nice medical staff’ with our minor health concerns and just used analgesics in liquid form to ease the increasing discomfort.

Yesterday the waves were up at our resort’s beach and so we headed down there for our third body boarding/ bobbing up and down in the waves session. I managed to wipe out only the once. Unfortunately I did it much more spectacularly than my wipe outs in the previous two sessions, which had merely resulted in bruises to my ribs and thighs and sand grazes to various limbs, by banging my head quite forcefully on the sand and jarring my neck.

It was whilst trying to deal with the considerable discomfort that thus ensued as my neck seized up during the evening that our lack of pain killers got very acute. I did consider ‘necking’ a few gulps of Calpol but cognisant of the ear ache situation didn’t dare to for fear of leaving my aurally challenged children dry.

I gingerly made my way upstairs this morning to brew a morning cuppa and came across Middlest on the sofa groaning in pain and complaining because he had got no sleep at all due to his ear.

Enough was enough it was time to prevail upon the nice nurse. Who was very nice but unable to help as nurses in Portugal are not equipped with orthoscopes. For the looking down of ears.

So Middlest, Youngest and I have had a fun day going to the doctors in Praia du Luz (which the doctor reminded me was where Madeline McCann went missing, you’d think they would want tourists to forget that), paying a small fortune in the pharmacy and eating a celebratory antibiotic crepe. Praia du Luz is spectacularly beautiful and we would probably never have seen it if it hadn’t been for that ear ache. So that was a silver lining.

We are back now. The kids are banned from the pool. I have to administer four types of medicine on a mind bogglingly complicated schedule.

Oh and whilst I was at that pharmacy I bought more paracetomol for husband’s feet and my neck. He will probably wash his down with a gin sling. If I drank I might do the same but I will settle instead for a cup of Yorkshire tea.

Thank god that hasn’t run out. That would be a bone fide disaster.

 

 

 

Wind Up? — August 9, 2016

Wind Up?

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We are currently on holiday in southern Portugal. I think you may have gathered this by now. If you read either of my other two entries- Surfing and Brother Mine, Sister Mine.

On our first day here the weather was decidedly cool. In fact we did start to panic gently. I am not sure the temperature got much above 24 degrees, which even the good old unreliable British Summer can often achieve. Well certainly in my south eastern corner. I know those of you reading this that hail from the west of our isle or the north or, heaven forbid, Scotland struggle to attain such balmy heights. But hey I am sure there are compensations. Deep fried Mars bars for instance.

The local ‘Guest Relations’ manager, who clearly hailed herself from the wet and often disappointingly cool climes of Ireland was quick to assuage our concerns and assert that the sun would be back. I took that with a pinch of salt. I bet she didn’t see much sun in her childhood. So I was dubious on her definition.

Anyway we awoke on the Sunday to much brighter skies. I was relieved. It would have been a shame to fly for two and a half hours and subject ourselves to passport control and 5 different modes of transport in a day to spend two weeks with weather that was available at home. The trees were bending ominously though.

We had read somewhere that this area of Portugal was windy. And when I say somewhere I mean on Trip Advisor, which my husband had been pouring over daily since he booked the holiday last year, giving me regular updates on the reviews left by other tourists of our destination hotel. To be honest it got a little wearing during the depths of February. He had a chronic and classic case of ‘bookers regret’. That feeling one has when one has reserved a holiday in an unknown place on a bit of a whim hoping it will be worth the considerable dough. Apparently the only way to deal with the worries is to read endless reviews. And hope they are all good.

We hadn’t really booked this holiday on a ‘whim’though. We had fancied Portugal for a while. Because I had been there before; pre children, in fact pre husband. And really enjoyed the sardines and beaches and friendly locals, many of whom were tanned and fit and of the male persuasion. And we picked this hotel because it has three room villas and all the pools are heated. This may seem irrelevant when the air temperatures regularly hit the high twenties to early thirties. But it really isn’t. Middlest cannot do cold water. We went to a Greek island three years ago and he would last literally ten minutes in the unheated pool before emerging blue lipped and shivering. Despite it being in the low 40’s air temperature wise. I got sick of playing rummy with him.

The next time we went to Greece we ensured there was a heated pool. We didn’t see him all day. Perfect.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes Trip Advisor. Wind. This part of Portugal (the south western tip where Atlantic meets Med) was apparently windy.

I had stood over my suitcase for a while when packing. I had had to sacrifice my usual middle sized suitcase for the emergency Mickey Mouse case in order to fit in wet suits, sun tent and flippers. The Mickey Mouse case is only an emergency case in the sense that I had to buy it in the States in an emergency to house all the extra purchases that we had made in Disney World. It is actually a fairly well made and laid out case and usually my one of choice. Despite it being adorned with a large silver picture of the mouse himself. It screams tourist. And not really in a very subtle way. But it is not my case of choice when faced with two weeks of packing.

The middle sized case which is usually mine was full of things to enjoy on the sea and to combat the wind. And all the sun cream and toiletries which wouldn’t make a mess of anything that wasn’t already covered in sand from Devon if they exploded in the cargo hold. Middlest and Youngest were sharing one of the two large suitcases, Eldest had the other middle sized one (he is now as big as me and was insisting on such bulky items as pre ripped jeans which his hormones considered essential and my hormones had no wish to fight over) and husband needed the other large case to allow room for the forty eight t shirts he requires on a fortnight’s holiday. It is a standing joke, his over packing. Well when I say joke…

I had packed my thin, flouncy cardigans that I only ever wear on Greek islands or to posh dinner dances. But I was trying to decide on whether to take a hoodie. Because of Trip Advisor. And that oft mentioned wind. The question was what I was going to sacrifice out of my groaning suitcase that already had its extension zip fully unzipped to make way for it.  Mickey’s face was already looking distorted as it strained against my clothing. I decided I could take out a pair of linen trousers but was loath to do so.

In the end I decided to wear it en route. Airplane air conditioning can be over zealous and I could always tie it attractively round my waist in extremis.

My god that was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It is up there with going to university, having children, moving to my south eastern corner of England.

I have worn it at least daily since we got here. I need it in the morning  to get to breakfast and in the evening to walk to dinner. It also best when swimming in those heated pools to not raise your shoulders above the water level. For fear of goose bumps. And that run from pool to towel is… bracing.

For although the sun may shine here a lot no one was lieing about the wind. In fact wind is really under stating it. Gale is more appropriate. The prevailing wind, moreover, is north westerly. And that means it has a ‘nip’. In the evening it is down right cold. There is nothing balmy about an evening spent here. I had a stand up row with Youngest before we left as she wanted to squeeze a pair of jeans into that shared suitcase. And I refused. What an arse I look now as she wears her trackie bottoms to dinner for the umpteenth time. No pretty dresses here.

Eating  al fresco doesn’t really work. It is too cold and anyway condiments and serviettes cannot withstand the breeze for long.

It has its compensations. Waves for instance. I am struggling to think of another. Well it is cooling when it is hot. I guess.

Yesterday the wind shifted direction and came from the south. That was warmer. I didn’t need my hoodie at breakfast anyway. It is moving again today. It seems to be easterly now. Still warmer than before but getting a bit of that ‘nip’ back.

According to the kids’ kayak instructor  they only have 50 days a year without wind.

So upon my return I will be adding to the cacophony of voices mentioning ‘breeze’. I thought on the first day that people were staring in disdain at me and my family in our matching England Rugby World Cup 2015 hoodies. But after a week I realise it is actually envy.

They should have paid more attention to Trip Advisor.

 

 

To Do — August 27, 2015

To Do

To Do list

When we started on this long summer break from school and clubs and routine my kids and I made a To Do list of essentials that we wished to, well, do.

I am wedded to my To Do lists. I could not run my daily, usual life without them. A typical one during term time looks like this:-

To Do

THURSDAY

  • CELLO!
  • get chicken out of freezer
  • Put on slow cook sausage casserole
  • birthday cards!
  • clean 2 bathrooms and kitchen
  • Bank accounts and money
  • 3 pm bung jacket spuds in oven (highlighted in pink)
  • Leave to collect Youngest
  • Homework!!
  • Feed youngest 4.20
  • 4.45 leave to collect boys
  • Feed boys
  • Youngest to Beaver Scouts 5.50
  • Homework!!!
  • Drive eldest to football 7
  • collect Youngest 7.30
  • collect eldest 8

These are just things I might otherwise forget in my day to day racing around. I wouldn’t actually not collect my children but having the timings written down just allows me to slot in jobs without temporarily ‘forgetting’. The daily tasks don’t get listed; laundry, washing up, admin, making beds and all that jazz. That would just be silly. And give me writers cramp.

In the bottom corner of my To Do list sheet (which I write weekly on a Sunday evening) is my Larger Projects section. This tends to be a mere repetition of all those bigger jobs which I never seem to get round to. Currently, if I remember correctly, it has on it

  • Tax returns x2
  • PUT PHOTOS IN ALBUMS (the whole of 2015 is outstanding)
  • Upload photos to Flickr
  • Tackle BT bill.
  • Sort filling cabinet and shred/ bin stuff over 2 years old. Certainly guarantees and instructions for appliances I no longer possess.

This is is actually quite a short larger projects list. It is probably because the moving house process made me do a lot of those projects I had been putting off. But not all.

I temporarily discard these lists during the school holidays and it is a blessed relief. I do feel a little as if I have left the house without my knickers on but I think sometimes one does need to live life on the edge. To keep ones own edge…

So we agreed a kind of ‘macro’ To Do list.

HOLIDAY TO DO LIST

  • swimming at fun pool (done….twice)
  • cinema for Inside Out and The Minions (big tick)
  • Shaun the Sheep hunting in Bristol (done)
  • a day at one of our favourite woodland parks to build dens (tick)
  • Bike ride into town (done with friends an added bonus)
  • Costa Coffee trip (not done this yet… well we did do it on Birmingham station when we missed our connection but it was a takeaway and quite ‘fraught’- it wasn’t really the relaxed cafe experience the kids were after)
  • Loom bands (Youngest and I enjoyed making Belle and Elsa, Eldest made a catapult….)
  • Rebuild Tolkein Lego (Eldest hasn’t really stepped up to the plate here- I have made in roads though, a Hobbit Hole and Lake Town)
  • Knebworth House- without the house- just with the giant slides, adventure playground and dinosaur trial. (done in the rain)
  • birthday sleepover (just recovering)
  • Hosting play dates for all (have managed boys but not Youngest. No doubt that will be brought up in later years)
  • National Trust farm place near here (again with friends yippee)
  • meeting up with cousins and loads of other friends who we don’t see enough of (this has gone quite well).

Then I spoiled it all by adding a few things

  • shoes
  • school clothes and sports kit
  • hair
  • teeth
  • stationery
  • learn to tell the time (youngest not me…)
  • music practise
  • times tables

Some of that boring stuff has been accomplished. Some has not. When they are back at school and life resumes its normal hectic pace I will kick myself for allowing them to slob in front of Wreck It Ralph instead of grilling them on their 7 times table. But for now we are revelling in the freedom. Let’s put that on that ever growing list.

  • lie ins
  • too much TV
  • too much video gaming
  • being in PJs until obscene times.

We have done other stuff too. Trampolining has featured strongly. Middlest has devoured about twenty books. We have been to a wedding, an outdoor brass band concert, Youngest has built Blott houses, Eldest catapults and cross bows. We have flown kites and we have waited in for a lot of furniture…

Also on the unwritten imaginary list;

  • fighting
  • tears
  • slamming doors
  • screaming
  • insolence
  • whining
  • complaining
  • saying ‘I’m bored’ every five minutes

I would like to say this was a child only list but I have been guilty of a fair few of them.

So that appears to be our recipe for a nearly perfect summer. In the week remaining we have to sort out stationery and I think that will also cover off the Costa trip. We also have another friend in the diary and we are off camping for the weekend with more friends.

When next Wednesday rolls around I am hoping for an unqualified To Do list success. That rarely happens in my usual day to day life (although I do at least try to make sure all my kids are home by bedtime) and will be a ‘good feeling’.

I am not looking forward to returning to my usual more mundane schedules. But hey as I say to the kids

“If it was a holiday every day it would stop being special”.

Hmmm…

The Tower of Babel… — July 14, 2015

The Tower of Babel…

I am not one for racial stereotypes. Usually.

We are on holiday. Did I mention this before? Sorry… Anyway we are. Over our many years of overseas holidays- which were punctuated by a run of cottages in the south west of the UK during my children’s early years (we weren’t brave enough to go abroad until youngest was just three and even then we took the car so we could take everything we owned in the boot)- I have noticed a shift in the nationalities of those we share the dining room with.

In our years BC (before children) we went on many a last minute get away to inexpensive places such as the party resorts of the Balearics. And other than the British making the most of those sea front dives serving warm ale and steak and kidney pie in front of the English Premiership we were mostly joined by Germans enjoying a slightly different sort of joint serving sauerkraut and beer in jugs with handles.

There was that running joke that in order to bag a sunbed one had to set the alarm early. Or throw a towel deftly off one’s balcony directly onto a lounger. And it was true. We would watch the scene unfold from around 7am from the safety of that balcony as well padded German men carefully and precisely laid out enough towels on enough loungers for their entire party. Ensuring they were tucked in all round to avoid the wind blurring the lines of demarcation. They have always been a race prone to take over though eh?

Our trips to France and the Canaries which formed the majority of our early PC (post children) forays abroad were full of Scandanavians. And French. The former imposing in their sunburnt blondness, forging a pathway directly to the cold meats section at breakfast, loading up on processed protein before hitting the all inclusive lager at 10am…I kid you not. Their offspring emptying the pool with every forceful dive.

The French women endlessly elegant, cigarettes dangling alluringly, sipping tiny espressos, surely an advert for any teenager to begin smoking. Their equally beautiful little daughters with better toe nail polish than me (not difficult) and sun streaked blonde hair talking in their lyrical language to other charmingly turned out preschoolers swinging their legs from bar stools. No threat to anyone poolside when they finally emerged, immaculate, from their rooms at around 10am.

And now, in Greece, there are few Germans, I am not sure they would be able to show their faces here, even the mild mannered and laid back Greeks may find it tough to cope with. No the dominant race is Russian. I don’t want to offend anyone, really I don’t but I find them a tough nationality to share a hotel with. They are strident and pushy, massively entitled, put German sun bed hogging to shame, and lack manners. Of any sort. Or maybe that is just the ones here. The season is clearly hotting up and this hotel has hastily issued some new sun bed rules. One forbids the saving of sun beds at both pool and beach simultaneously. It would never occur to me to do such a thing. Russians.

And then there is us. The good old British. I have a soft spot for my race abroad. They are easily spotted. Queing up sensibly for the bacon (I call it bacon but usually abroad it is a kind of ham that has been vaguely shown a grill), getting quietly irrate when those sun bed rules are not adhered to (let us be honest here we are the only ones even giving them a passing thought), looking pink whilst being streaked with white from hastily applied and malabsorbed suncream and making their children wear rash vests all day. Oh and shark fin buoyancy aids. We had a whole family wearing them in here earlier. They created a little shoal of sharks. Anyone swimming myopically could have been seriously worried.

We sit in the shade, doing Soduko and failing to gain the waiter’s attention. And I love us for it. I love our manners and reticence and gentle fuming.

I love being British. It sees me sitting on a wall watching my kids swim most afternoons for fear of antagonising a Russian returning finally to their sunbed which has been occupied by merely a pair of sunglasses since 9am. But still, I love it.

Greece is the word… — July 12, 2015

Greece is the word…

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Currently we are on holiday. Not to make you envious or anything but that is the view from our balcony.

We are in Greece. Before we went we did have some concerns. Everyone is warning of doom and gloom on the money front. And yes we brought a suitcase of hard cash…

I had expected the country to be reeling. For the indigenous people to be a little bit ‘off’ and possibly down hearted. But since we arrived the Greeks have been unfailingly cheerful. The service, as always, has been second to none. But it is more than that. They seem genuinely pleased to see us. Which I suppose is unsurprising for an economy 40% reliant on tourism.

Our plane wasn’t full. Which I have never seen before. I have no idea if tourists have been put off by the EU wrangling.

They shouldn’t be.

This place is simply stunning. Warm, friendly and courteous. That’s why we came back. And probably would again.

Its also why this blog is likely to be very short on entries for a week or so.

I will be too busy relaxing to write.

Sorry.

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