Friday 26 February 2010

I'm locking up my son..the kittens..the chickens...etc..

My daughter the 7yo positively leapt from her bed this morning. She dressed without being asked, fed the cats, brushed her hair and washed her teeth all without a murmur of dissention. I watched her like a hawk desperate for her to make a mistake. She had two bowls of cereal without spilling the milk and then, ah ha! just as I thought I had her, she wilfully took her bowl and spoon to the utility room and put it in the dishwasher. (Huh?) I was gutted.

It was a mighty shame there were no infringements to the rules of behaviour, I was itching to ground her, desperate to send her to her room, to punish her, to retract earlier promises made. I feel these psycho-mum tendencies purely because after school tonight she is not coming home! She is on her first ever sleep-over. Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!

I've met the parents, they’re lovely. So I'm stuffed, there is no earthly reason why she shouldn't go, except the fact that I'm pathetic.

I did try to scupper the sleep-over yesterday, saying 'Won't you miss Mummy and Daddy?'
She was very tactful 'I will miss you,’ she said, ‘but I'll just give you extra love on Saturday when I see you.'
I then stooped a bit low.....'The kittens will be really sad, they’ll reeeeeeally miss you...'
She hesitated at this one but taking a big breath she gathered all her strength and magnanimously suggested that her 5yo brother would be there for them until she returned home. Damn.

In the bath she told me her innermost fears;
'Will A's mother have food?'
'Probably not,' was on the tip of my tongue but I swallowed that down and assured her that there would be food, a big pizza had been suggested.
'Only we're having a midnight feast and I'd like you to pack some foods that I like. Some crackers, tomatoes, cheese, a carrot.....' Oh My God I've raised a Saint!


Her bag weighed 4 ton this morning, hope A's mum is a weight-lifter. Better still maybe she'll call me on my mobile and say the 7yo can't come as she can't fit her and her bag in the car.....must go, I'm off to charge my mobile to make sure I don't miss that call.....actually I'm just wondering if I should I text her and let her know that daughter had diarrhoea about 4 years ago....

Thursday 25 February 2010

Feeling Blue if I need to Poo.....

We've now been in The Larches for almost six months. If you've been reading previous blog posts you'll know the history of the house and how 'abandoned' it was when we took it on late last August.

We were very lucky in 2009, the summer seemed to go on till late November so we worked outdoors on fields, hedges and vegetable plots. We rescued chickens and found tenants for the stable block. We seem to have missed the passing of autumn (I just didn't notice it because of the warmth) and next thing I knew we were in winter.

Forced indoors we found a great builder and he and his team created a functional utility room from a large room off the main kitchen. We mended the central heating and lined 3 of the 5 chimneys, repairing two huge log burners in the process.

Put it this way: We did lots.

In our previous modern cottage in Oxfordshire we had precious little furniture, blond wood from Ikea ruled and the house was spartan, shaker-like. In this house we looked like the bailiffs had just been in, so since September we have bought pieces of old furniture from the auctions (real cheap but beautiful pieces.) Last week we bought a slim Edwardian wardrobe which is silk lined!! It is warm mahogany brown with a mirrored door, it cost just £50. That's almost cheaper than Ikea!

[I might have to leave you briefly to go outside and smack the rooster's bum: He's outside my window cock-a-doodle-doing.....]........

......OK I'm back, he's gone off in a huff towards the neighbours property. I can't see if he's got a suitcase or back pack but I think he's running away from home!

We are not made of money but over the next 5-10 years we will refurbish and bring back this house to look comfortable and as far as possible we will return the Victorian features to the house. It is our project and we relish the task.

HOWEVER the previous owners have made some of this task a teeny-weeny bit difficult. The family bathroom is interesting, the white glossed exposed beams look like a crucifix suspended above the bath. The dark blue walls will take immense layers of undercoat to change....

.....I'm OK about the outlay in paint........what we will NEVER afford to change is the ensuite bathroom attached to our master bedroom.........

There must have been a sale on of blue glass blocks from B&Q that day, or maybe Diamuid Gavin had just finished a garden project nearby and offered the remainder of his sculptural clutter as a job-lot.

Let me describe: Behind most of the blue glass lies a desperately bright LED light so at night when you turn the lights on, you feel like launching into an Ethel Merman song! (wow I'm old.) As we live on the side of a mountain in the middle of no-where I'm pretty sure our need to pee is causing quite a big drain in the local portion of the Nation Grid reserves...not necessarily a good thing for the environment. Luckily one by one the lights are going out. Being that the bricks are cemented into place we can find no way to change the light bulbs even if we wanted to! Derrrr!

At floor level the row of bricks has just 6 lights remaining. My children like to lie on the carpet here (forget the hygiene aspect, I have.) They lie there gazing through the bricks at the chorus-line of giant spiders who pass by blowing raspberries at us while mouthing through the glass,
'Ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-ner. You can't get me!'

In the picture you can just see the circular shower wall, constructed entirely from the blue stuff....good god! On Master Chef, Greg Torode regularly berates contestants for not knowing when to stop adding stuff to their dishes. This bathroom is a good example of that failing...

If you would kindly glance at the picture of the ensuite again, (sorry I don't mean to torture you) on the wooden wall beside the bath, there is an inset blue brick nearest the floor. If you lie on the floor and you have long nails (mine were bitten away in early September) you can inch this brick out of the wall. (Why the hell would I want to do this? I hear you moan...) In order to get to all the heating and hot water controls for the whole house of course silly!

Friends who have visited have been known to step back and clutch their chests when they've seen this bathroom, so in someways I'm glad we can't afford to change it, so amusing is the reaction. It shall forever more be my piece de certainly makes me smile each time I see it.

I'm a wily old fox nowadays, interrogating each and every workman that comes to the house. I smile sweetly, bit like a crocodile, as I gently enquire;
'Have you ever worked on this house before?'
No buggar's confessed yet but I'll catch him eventually, we're here for the duration, we're The Archers at The Larches.

Monday 22 February 2010

My sledge...the car

Sod's Law:
To recap; as we all know the weather has been pretty bad here since Christmas. The children nearly drove me demented after almost 6 weeks of extended Christmas holidays as we were trapped in sodding Santa's wonderland!!! So we did it, (deep breath) we purchased a bloody 4x4 from the auction in order to ensure we would always be able to escape our rural retreat. Naturally as soon as we did this Spring sprung and I even caught sight of a couple of newby lambs.

Following so far?

As the weather had turned so nice we decided to give the beast, now named 'Dizzy Disco' by the the top banana mechanic cousin. He decreed he would need it for 1 week to fix everything and we delivered it to him last Sunday, approximately 35 miles away.

Therefore it is clearly our fault that the snow returned with a vengeance for half term week, and why it has remained ever since. I ventured out once to buy new school shoes and for a bit of retail therapy at Ikea in Birmingham and was truly scared as I desperately tried to slide home. While we shopped in the city enjoying a cosy 4°, I was blissfully unaware that our neck of the UK had turned into Siberia:

'Hold hands,' I yelled to the children as our 'real' car (not the 4x4) hurtled down a steep incline near Clee Hill. I felt like we were in one of those populated coffins from the winter Olympics, although I had marginally less idea how to control it. We were headed straight for a white van and driver (justice really) who clocked my speed and instantly reversed at top speed with hazard lights flashing. I narrowly missed him by dumping the car in a field entrance. I may have said some rude words and hope desperately that the kids had their TV headphones on high. I was definitely shaking. I am beginning to despise snow.

Finally making it home I had 3 vodkas and decided not to do the ironing (sadly just for that night and not forever more!) I can understand now why people in cold climes drink lots of vodka.....

We got 'Dizzy' back this Sunday and although it's cold, the bloody snow is immediately melting and the sun's come out. I feel powerful knowing that I control the weather for this part of the UK.

The only upside is the beauty of Clee Hill. We went to the snowy summit with some good friends who came to stay this weekend - wow it's stunning, wish you could see it.

Catch up soon

Sunday 14 February 2010

My Daughter was 'Man of the Match'...

So proud. The seven year old is one of two girls in the under sevens of a reputable rugby club. She is loving rugby training and today, on her third session she won 'Man of the Match' for being supportive of team mates, for scoring a try and for stripping the opposition of more than 6 tags. She is a superstar.

When I was at University in Wales (many years ago) the ladies rugby team asked me to join them and I'm sad to say I declined. I was concerned for several reasons, first my hair style may have been ruined, second I had really rather nice nails and third, and possibly most importantly I had enormous bosoms, which I feared may be pummelled in the fray. They should ask me again now as my hair is tragic, my nails non-existent and I could tuck my bosoms into my pants!

I'm praying daughter will not inherit said floppy bits.....and I'm doubly praying that my five year old boy will avoid that plague too.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

The joy of words and clean babies...

There is a real joy to bedtime at the moment. After scrubbing the mud off knees and cajoling warm pink bodies from the bath, I visit their rooms separately to read stories. He and she have developed different tastes; the five year old likes comedy - Horrid Henry and Capt. Underpants seem to rule at the moment while, at seven, she is completely hooked by Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Several months ago the five year old couldn't be separated from me, he would follow me into his sister's bedroom to listen to her story too. She was most unhappy with this arrangement, first because it meant he got two stories, second he was in her room uninvited and third she had to share me. Lately he has decided that Harry Potter is just too damn complicated so, sated after a bottle of milk and his private reading, he lets me depart.

I'm loving the fact that I can now share a story book like Harry Potter with my child. Until recently I read many books that they enjoyed but few stimulated me. Of the few, I did love the Dr Seuss books, Flip and Flop by Dawn Aperley, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Love is A Handful of Honey by Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban. These and others have become treasures which will always remain on the bookshelf.

A special mention must be made for The DK Star Wars Visual Dictionary without which I may not have been able to communicate with son during 2009!

I'm reading the Secret Scripture at the moment. Chosen for my book club, I'm finding it difficult to get into. I'll get there. I'm a bit anal like that, if I start it I'll finish it. Every time I struggle through another couple of pages I turn to the front cover; 'shortlisted for the Booker Prize' it declares and this encourages me to try harder.

I've written a book, one of my proudest achievements to date. It's about three girls, best friends, off to boarding school for the first time. I desperately hope my 9+ readers wont find my book a chore. I want them to be sucked into the story, oblivious to calls from mothers to set the table or put shoes and coats on. Keep your fingers crossed please.

If you have time, let me know the books you love or books you're enjoying. I'm off to the real world now to unpack the Tesco order, plan dinner and pay the Autoglass man who is on the drive replacing my windscreen.....see you soon....

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Belting Sunshine......

Very happy. Bought very, very, cheap Discovery at the auction so that we can get through the deep [promised] snow. It is now a balmy 5 degrees and the sun is out. Bloody typical.

I have just sprayed the Landy (country-speak...not) with a room deodorant that was left over from Christmas. It's a nice smell entitled 'Fireside Poinsettia' which I hope will counteract the current smell which is entitled 'Fireside Dog who has eaten a curry.'

There are a couple of things wrong with our new car, actually maybe more than a couple...but if you've been following the blog, [wha'dya mean you've been busy?!!!] you'll know that 'the cousins' are mechanics and one owns a Discovery. Method/Madness, a perfect combination.

We're taxed, insured, gassed (more ways than one) oiled, so we're off to get the kids from school in Shitty Shitty Bang Bang, 'scuse my French!

Monday 8 February 2010

The Auctions.....

I love going to the auctions. We are lacking in furniture here at Chez Larches and the auctions offer a cheap solution to our needs, especially as our Sweedish stuff looks completely out of place now. It appears that no one seems to want the mid Victorian oak furniture so it goes for a song and it matches the age of the house. Last month I bought seven pieces including a huge beige Persian-like rug for the sitting room and two interesting tables with drawers. The whole lot cost £180.

Have you heard, there may be snow again later this week? Boo Hissss. Husband has finally agreed that we need a 4x4 and has enlisted expert help to ensure we get a good one at an auction this more missed school for my two darlings..ha,ha, she laughed like a pantomime villian.....what a clever mummy and daddy.

I'll let you know the outcome later, unless we're snowed in tonight and you never hear from us again. OMG! As I type I notice a little snow is beginning to fall....Noooooooo!

Friday 5 February 2010

Batman Works at the Oxfam Shop......

Do you ever get to the point where you can't take the mess any longer? I do.

I've tried therapy: Watching Anthea Turner, (British would-be Martha Stewart,) torture housewives has, I confess, given me some nifty ideas for clearing up. She advocates placing an empty wicker basket in the corner of each room, so you can whip round, throwing misplaced items, (children's toys generally,) into it. When the room is cleansed you simply pick up the basket and appoint yourself 'Head of Relocations' putting everything back from whence it came!  - Nice theory, I generally only get as far as filling the basket, carefully balancing books and plastic aliens on top of the multiple handbags my squirrel daughter seems to wander about with.

My sister, A-M, was in the pilot programme for Ms Turner's Perfect Housewife show.  The show that outed slovenly housewives.... such a great concept..not. Mind you, how A-M didn't get her own series from it, I will never know: Picture Anthea lecturing my sister and another victim: The three of them are standing by Saint Anthea's bedroom closet which has perfectly hung clothes organised in colour groupings. The Saint pulls out an exquisite leather skirt grasped by a crocodile hanger. The hanger's crocodile jaws have been lined with two cotton wool pads, presumably to protect the leather. [Anyone thinking: Oh that's a good idea, please stop reading now!]

With a satisfied smile and a condescending bob of her head Anthea turned to my sister and fellow inmate.

'Well ladies, why do you think I've lined this hanger with cotton pads?'

My sister opened her eyes wide and replied in as innocent a voice as she could muster....

'Is it because you've got too much time on your hands?'

Priceless, please give my sister her OWN show!

Later in the same episode, the two errant housewives were treated to a movie in Anthea's private home cinema! (A house that later was sold during the recession.) Sadly, it wasn't a Brigid Jones movie, but rather a secret film shot in my sister's bedroom!!! Wha..... ? With sister's mouth agape, Anthea chastised A-M for her shoddy knicker drawer, (is nothing sacred!!!) The Saint, clearly trying to score back the point she lost earlier:

'Oh A-M,' she tutted. 'Look how disorganised this drawer is! How would you ever find a matching pants and bra set in there?'

Sister was quick to respond. Hot with crossness!

'Wait-just-a cotton-picking-minute,' said Outraged from Guildford [my sis] eyes narrowed. 'You're not seriously telling me they make bras and pants that MATCH?!'

Game, Set, Matching pants and bra!! You're not even in the same game Anthea!

'Oh actually,' A-M smiled. 'Scuse me but mine do match. They're ALL grey!' She and the other contestant dissolved into school-girl shrieks!

Maybe she should have quit while she was ahead!

Anyhow back to my ramblings. When we moved house I did take the opportunity to de-clutter but I never really tackled the children's toys. They have lots and lot of toys, all, except a few, came from charity shops or car boot sales and now I feel it's time they were returned to these places. The worst offenders are the huge trucks, fire engines, Barbie and Action Man jeeps and one particularly gigantic and sinister Batman Dark Knight car. These toys are never played with, yet take up a considerable amount of floor space in the attic bed room.

In the previous house the five year old, who was four, lived in the box room. I say 'box room' but it was more like a cupboard, a Harry Potter 'under-the-stairs' sized room. My boy loved it. Now at The Larches, he has been rewarded for the time he spent in the box; he has the HUGE attic room. Room for all toys, for car track to whizz hot wheels down. A brilliant room. He absolutely HATES it, apparently it's too big .

One day last week I duly donned my AT wicker basket and, feeling like Snow White on her first day at the cottage, though with far less help, I set about my task. The 'chosen items' were soon packed into industrial strength refuse sacks and hurled into the back of the car. A particularly satisfying sound, as I drove to Ludlow, was the sad wail of the plastic fire engines from my boot.

That was two weeks ago. My seven year old daughter seems to appreciate the cathartic process as her room is spotless even now but the five year old and the husband are traumatised. Who knew that the bloomin Batman car was some sort of prized possession: A genuine find among so much crud! Worth a considerable amount on eBay! Red eyed, the five year old (and the 50yo,) begged me to go back to the shop to retrieve it. The very next day I did. The toy was gone! I have promised to keep looking for another one just like it.....hmmmm [Saw one on eBay but my mortgage paperwork hasn't come through yet.. Let's not tell the boys!]

The five year old's room is now the box room at The Larches and he loves it. Husband occasionally still shakes his head and mutters, 'How could you?'

I feel awful, really I do, honestly the guilt almost keeps me awake at night....Mind you,  I'm loving the fact that the attic room looks gorgeous and now it's our guest suite!

Thursday 4 February 2010

The Hounds..

This morning was foggy and damp, fortunately the cloud cover combined with a lack of wind, meant that it felt quite warm.

We three drove to school, the view from Clee Hill reduced to a few metres. Although I was concentrating on the spellings for tomorrow's tests I still deftly avoided several static sheep in the road. They are very hard to see in the fog!

Along a country lane we met some regulars; a pack of approximately 50 hunting hounds and their young handlers who bore Indiana Jones-style whips. Being new to rural practises I'm not so sure that these dogs, often pictured on placemats beside red coated riders, are able to hunt foxes anymore. I think they're used to follow scent, artificially dragged across the fields.

My daughter observed them, deliberating in her mind before asking a question. She wanted to know what the dogs were for. I explained, as neutrally as possible, about their previous role. She was quiet before delivering her judgement: She didn't like the idea of the dogs chasing and killing the fox, she thought it better to shoot him, less cruel. Mr. Fox doesn't come out of the debate very well does he? Her response has come about because her friend at school has just lost all her chickens. While the fox took just one chicken to eat, it killed the remaining 11! I don't understand this senseless and recurrent trait.

My daughter is changing rapidly. Growing up fast. I'm pleased to say she has rejected the Disney Channel and isn't interested in fashion, but she's eying up the tenant ponies in our paddocks and has an opinion about everything. She looks like one of the beautiful girls I didn't dare play with at my convent school, except she is kind and generous. As we continued our conversation about hunting the five year old listened, taking it all in, but he didn't say a word. He'll question me later when he's in the bath or worse, on the loo, that's his style.

Our 9 chickens roam freely. I've just been cleaning the coop and replacing straw along the muddy path that leads to their home. I collected up 5 new eggs and remembered to say thank you. The chickens kept me company hoping I'd find them a worm or two and occasionally I do. These trusting feathered friends, rescued from their battery prison, are very dear to me now so here's fair warning: Foxy-Loxy you'd better not come near my brood!

My view on hunting seems to be changing because of my location and circumstance and I'm surprised by this. Maybe all our opinions are purley based on circumstance?

Monday 1 February 2010


My five year old is very manly. I've already told you how the girls love to chase him! He is gorgeous (as is my beautiful girl btw.) He roars sometimes and I imagine the testosterone coursing through his body. He's terribly young too and still has a baby's bottle of milk every night while insisting that I pat him gently. The patting came from nursery, where lovely nursery maids had the time to pat their little charges to sleep, never mindful of mothers who, years later, might want to read a book, pick up every toy in the sitting room or shave their legs over the course of an evening.....deep breath....sorry I digress.

Boy's new manlyism is to insist on using the male toilets when we are out and about. You can picture the scene, we are on a huge family outing to the B&Q Depot 30 miles away (hey, that is not true the kids love the DIY store visits on a Sunday, the skiddy floors are brilliant....) anyway the children start jiggling about, you say; ' Do you need to go to the toilet?' They say 'No.' You march them there anyway and they do an excellent impression of Niagara Falls. Well, this Sunday I ushered them to the loos, (which incidentally were falling apart, with broken seats and drippy taps - NOT A PARTICULARLY GREAT ADVERT FOR THE DIY STORE REALLY,) when I notice that the boy has veered off to the men's, desperate to pee against a wall.

I tried to stop him, petrified that he might meet someone unsavoury without me to Jackie Chan them out of the way, but he is resolute. 'I am a boy. I'm not allowed in the girl's toilets.' He is little and brave and I am going to have to plan ahead future I will encourage him pee on my car tyres in the car park. Gosh, I used to dispise mothers like me...

It's a bit like the ice cream van, although I've no issue now as we live so far from civilization. These vans cruise housing estates playing Greensleeves on a jack-in-the-box, seeking out sweet-toothed customers. My mother always told my sister, brother and I that the ice cream in those vans was made from minced rats. We NEVER asked for one again. In our previous house, in the Oxfordshire village, with village green and a quaint church that was built around the year 1160, I occasionally heard the chimes of the van from the garden. Before I was questioned by the sproglets I would hark my hand to an ear, look nostalgic and murmur 'Ah, listen to those lovely church bells...' I know, I KNOW..believe me I know. I know because I'm a lapsed Catholic and I am fully aware that big fat liar's pants are red hot and that I'm going straight to hell! See you there.

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon