Saturday, 31 December 2011

Hare and the Tortoise

This morning we finally got to see the Hare and the Tortoise at the Studio. The last time I had tickets Phoebe was sick and we didn't think friends or actors would appreciate a vomiting bug for Christmas so I rearranged. Obviously that means I've paid twice but it was still worth it.

As you may have noticed by now I'm not the best at reviewing plays. My main problem is I don't like to be negative because I want to support drama and I usually rate the actors tremendously and wouldn't want them to be upset.

It's especially hard for me to review children's theatre because, well, I'm 36. And I rather like a bit more of a plot than three year olds do.

In the case of the Hare and the Tortoise the plot is understandably limited. There was a Hare, who did everything too fast, and a tortoise, who somewhat predictably didn't. The set was funky, acting great (especially the gurning), and the accordion playing was good. Although I don't exactly have a benchmark for that one.

The play culminated in, you guessed it, a race. You can probably work out who won.

The best bit of attending any kind of children's theatre for me is the audience. The girl in front of us found the whole thing hilarious and the children joined in to help the Hare count which would have been very helpful if some of them hadn't got the number six in the wrong place.

I spent some time watching the other parents sneakily glancing at their children to see what expressions they were wearing. Just like we were doing. Phoebe's face was often of glee. So the plot clearly didn't need jazzing up for the primary audience.

When they turned the lights off at the end Phoebe said "but now I can't see anything". She's nothing if not logical.

So the girls definitely enjoyed it and that's what counts. Tilly likes pretty much any experience that doesn't contain peril. Phoebe immediately said:

"Can we watch it again?", "When is something else on at the theatre?" and "I absolutely loved it". They can write that review on the flyers if they like.

So "when is something else on at the theatre?". Well in the Sheffield Theatres Spring programme there isn't. Not if you are three anyway. Unless you count the Chuckle Brothers and despite whatever our builder says I just can't.

Looks like we might have to look further afield for something to take her to. Buxton has tonnes of stuff on. Although the plot to Percy the Park Keeper isn't exactly a roller coaster. I guess if I need a lift I'll just look at the girls' faces instead.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Kelham Island etc etc

I've been awake since 2.30am. Probably not the best time to try and recall stuff for a blog entry, but in the absence of getting any sleep I may as well attempt it.

Last Christmas it all went wrong on the Barefoot book selling front. The snow stopped everything. This year nothing has been cancelled and finally my book selling has helped with paying for presents.

So it didn't snow. But boy did it rain. When I turned up at Kelham Island Museum to set up I was gutted to see where I'd been positioned and joined in chuntering with the rest of the stall holders near me. It seemed hard to believe that the fun fair would entice customers to take the trek down to our little building, even with the draw of grumpy traders wearing thrown together Victorian garb. In honesty though we had it better than some. At least I was warm and dry and my stall hadn't blown into the river.

Having said all that I did pretty well despite the unabating rain and I had great fun chatting with customers and stallholders. We all cheered up by a couple of hours in. Plus the girls came along with Mum, Dad and Paul and seemed to have a lovely time. Tilly was just as enthusiastic about the printing press as finding the Victorian characters wandering about. Shame it rained though. More of a shame though was that I didn't get to go shopping. The items on sale were fantastic. The girls bought me a new handmade pewter tree decoration. I love Christmas and them of course.

The following week I did Sharrow Vale market, my favourite one in Sheffield. It rained there too, torrentially for the first hour. But it stopped eventually, I traded well and really enjoyed myself. Although when it became impossible to see at 3.30 I did have less customers. It's hard to choose books in the dark. And taking the gazebo down was a bit of a trial.

I was just walking P back to the car when we passed Father Christmas taking down his grotto (the girls had been in to see him and Paul said he was lovely). Phoebe smiled, waved and shouted "Bye Santa". That's the best type of Christmas market you can get.

Vomit

I am absolutely fed up of sickness. Poor Phoebe has been being sick repeatedly since 2.30am. I think we are up to seven times.

We are both knackered and obviously our trip to the theatre to see Hare and the Tortoise is cancelled until the New Year. Tilly will be really disappointed when she gets up. Our lovely pre-Christmas week is turning out to be crap. Please don't let any of the rest of us get ill. I can't afford to rearrange the pantomime on Friday and am desperate to see John and Mel too. Grrr.

Sophisticated Night Out

I went out with some mums from school last night. Not mums I know very well really so I was quite proud of myself for going. Of course it sent me into turmoil about the usual issue of not having anything to wear (even Boden winnings don't seem to have helped) or for that matter any style whatsoever. The mums in question are pretty much effortlessly classy. Or at the very least extremely confident and therefore able to look like they are effortlessly classy.

I, of course am no in the least bit classy. I tried hard and wore what Boden clothes did fit me. Then I put make up on. I forgot to apply lipstick. Almost right though.

When I got there I remembered how beautiful they all are. One of them remarked that it was a great excuse not to wear flat shoes. Mine were flat. And frankly pretty muddy.

I'll use the excuse that Phoebe was being particularly clingy when I left the house. So much so I ended up letting her get into bed with Tilly (not an avenue we've been down before but any distraction is a good one sometimes). Of course the only excuse for me looking a little shabby on a classy night out is that, well, getting dressed up just isn't my forte.

The night itself was pretty lovely. And I didn't get drunk which is a bonus. It's never advisable with people you don't know very well. And I only dropped my bracelet in the gravy once. There's hope for me yet...

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Lemonheads

I know, I know I've not been blogging. I apologise. There's been vomit, sleep deprivation, book selling and some going out but none of that is an excuse. I'd best catch up, which could take a while as I still have entries I want to do from some weeks ago. I'll start at the most recent and work backwards but my memory is a bit fuzzy. Just warning you that anything related to an event from a week ago is likely to be sketchy. But last night I can remember.

Paul and I went to see the Lemonheads. That was after we had the obligatory argument that we always have before trying to leave the house simultaneously without children. We both left in the same taxi so it must have got sorted.

I loved the Lemonheads twenty years ago. I know it's a cliche but when did that happen? As we were driving there we talked about which songs we'd love them to play (although we thought it unlikely as they were there to do the whole of 'Shame about Ray'). Paul wanted 'Being Around' and for me it had to be 'Outdoor Type' which has been one of my favourite songs for a very long time.

Evan Dando came out and sang those songs straight away in that order. He was brilliant. His voice was just the same as ever and I was happy. I looked at him and thought what a beautiful man he was. Apart from the fact that he was wearing a fleece.

A woman behind me threw a drink over my shoulder. She was very apologetic. It wasn't like that twenty years ago. Something to do with the middle aged nature of the audience, many of whom were wearing V-necked sweaters.

About three songs in he started to look haggard. His eyes spent most of the rest of the gig looking at the ceiling, probably while he was trying to stop them rolling back in his head. He said very little which always irritates me and by the end of the album he was noticeably struggling. After that he whizzed off stage at some speed, then returned very quickly seemingly having perked up a bit. Hmm. And he still didn't take his fleece off.

They sounded the same. We sang and danced along. And I, in my now motherly way, worried about him. His songs, especially the lyrics, are clever, witty and classic. He can sing beautifully (well mostly) and played as well as ever. Which frankly was a bit of a miracle in the circumstances. I'll never understand how musicians can do that. It was an experience I wouldn't have missed but that made me sad. Because I naively want everyone to be lovely and well. And well, I would say, he is not.

Paul recently went to see Smashing Pumpkins, a band he has always loved but never seen. Billy Corgan said nothing throughout his gig either and despite playing fantastically it really wasn't worth the staggeringly high cost of the ticket. As a consequence we've decided to give live musical reminiscence a miss for a while. It's too disappointing. Apart from Billy Bragg that is, but that's another blog entry altogether...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Week One

Sorry in advance but I'd better blog our extension. Maybe in the future it will serve to remind me how straightforward a building job can be. Or maybe it will provide me with a clear reason never to have another extension. Who knows. It's hardly going to be the subject of a novel.

Week one has passed. They came, they knocked some walls down and they dug a big trench. A concrete lorry came and delivered the concrete. He managed to break at least four paving slabs on the pavement so I've no idea what we do about that. That was during his perpendicular to the roadside parking episode which must have inconvenienced most of our neighbours for about three hours. I went out. On foot as I couldn't get my car round the concrete lorry.

I want it on record that I currently think our builders are lovely. Barry is growing a moustache for Movember so he must be alright. His young helper (who I still haven't been introduced to) is very smiley. They are tidy and chatty. Mark isn't on the job regularly yet. He's lovely too. Phoebe calls him the one with the big face. I won't tell him that.

Today we have a big skip on the drive and have had bricks delivered by crane. It's a shame these things keep happening while the kids are out, but I don't think the head would approve of me keep Tilly off for the day so she can watch men bricklaying. Plus I imagine they'd want to help.

Other than that? Oh the bank still haven't given us the money and claims the forms haven't arrived. So we're submitting again, this time by fax. I can't shout at them yet because they haven't given us the money and since the work has started I didn't ought to make them think twice about the loan. Once it hits our account though all hell is about the break loose. I'm in one of those moods.

And finally to everyone I know who has had an extension that was a nightmare, or knows someone who has had an extension that was a nightmare...I'm not listening ;)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

My hero

The feeling when he comes onto stage is one of love. Not passion or excitement but love.

I love Billy Bragg.

Oh yes you know I'm a fan and have been for years. I suppose everybody has someone that they can't imagine having missed out on in life. For me it's him. He is the only artist that makes me feel this way.

He appears with no fanfares. He is honest and real. And yes he transports me back to being 15 again. My brain suddenly remembers every line of every song. That feeling when it comes out of your mouth before you even seem to have thought it.

I've not always agreed with him. But his passion I could never argue with.

No other artist or band I have ever seen gives so much of themselves on stage. The trouble is I saw him before I saw anyone else. And since then no-one has ever matched up. Most play the songs but speak very little. Or if they do speak they aren't speaking about anything real or anything in particular.

I saw him again last night at the Leadmill. I'm not a superfan. I don't even own every record.

But for me the artist of choice is Uncle Bill.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ups and Downs

I definitely write more often when Paul's out. Because I'm bored and avoiding housework largely.

Building on yesterday's more depressed theme I thought I'd better do an update for fear that anyone worries about me. I'm actually fine just being a whinge-bag.

Up
1. Phoebe got through only one pair of pants today. Mostly through my involvement at key points but you can't have everything.
2. I didn't shout today. Even when I realised on reaching school that I had forgotten Tilly's lunch and book bag.
3. Have decided my toe is just mashed and no broken. If I could get by without shoes I'd be fine.
4. The kids are already enjoying Father Christmas on DVD and our Christmas books are out. It's too early but I don't care. It makes me and them smile. I think I've managed to convince Tilly not to leave Father Christmas a present out by suggesting that the present to-ing and fro-ing might confuse him.
5. Tilly asked me how toothpaste is made. She had imagined it was like wine. I have spent all day chuckling at the thought of people squishing a vat of toothpaste with bare feet.
6. The builder starts on Monday.

Down
1. I'm knackered. P woke three times last night, and T once. She ended up sleeping with me because I was too tired to move. When I woke in the morning I was teetering on the edge of 4 inches of my king size mattress. How do children do that?
2. Still no paperwork from the bank. I rang again and she is resending tomorrow. Useless.
3. Paul still isn't here.
4. I still have no wine.
5. The builder starts on Monday.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Will Young

I went out last night. I know, I know, I'm like a social whirlwind.

I tell you what that Will Young can sing. Brilliant. Although for the cost of the ticket I'd have liked him to chuck diamonds at the audience.

Will was on good form though. Lots of banter and laughing, and all his best songs including a new pretty magical cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill". I'm not very good at reviews but if you secretly love him but daren't tell anyone, you should go and see him. You'll feel liberated. Although you might have to groan a little when he sings Evergreen.

He made the slightly interesting move early on in the first song of gesticulating to the crowd to stand up. I was just beginning to wonder whether my middle aged legs could cope with standing up all night when the second song ended and some of the crowd sat down. Then a faster song began and they stood up again, by which time some other people had got a bit tired and sat down. It was a bit like an odd, very long version of musical chairs.

The women in front of us were very enthusiastic and stayed standing (and doing that dubious various speed swaying dance move) for much of the gig. The knock on effect was of course that we had to stand up as well if we wanted to see anything more than the elevated drummer, as did the people behind us, and so on and so on until there was a line of standing people stretching to the back of the hall. Every one else was having a nice sit down. Even Will Young sat down during two songs. He probably wondered why we were standing up.

Amidst all this the steward ran about with hawklike expression trying to stop anyone from videoing or using flash photography. She had no chance. There were blinking hundreds of flashes going off and anyway it must have been tricky to keep track what with the audience bobbing up and down.

Anyway it was a great gig overall. Will is lovely as, of course, are the ladies I went with. We might be feeling it in the thighs tomorrow morning though.

Away blues

I think it's safe to say I'm not enjoying Paul's absence in the slightest. There have been two notable nice things (Will Young and a lovely book selling morning today) but other than that it pretty much sucks. And he's only been gone 34 hours.

1. I stubbed my little toe this morning, did very well not to swear loudly and have been suffering the consequences all day. I didn't do it whilst doing anything impressive, worthy or even just dramatic (I came off worse than the door frame at least) and I think I've broken it. I have tried to explain to my children that walking isn't easy and that I'm limiting it to the absolutely necessary. They got cross that I wouldn't come out into the garden, root around in the choc-a-bloc shed for gardening gloves and pick up a soggy dirty sunflower head so they could extract seeds from it. Then Phoebe trod on my foot. I don't think it was malicious but still...

2. I have one daughter who can't make it to the toilet in the night time and one who can't make it in the day. Specifically four times today. The house is festooned with washing and I can't get the smell of wee out of my nostrils.

3. Phoebe is being fussy and ridiculous with food. Ham is too "crunchy", she is regularly "too full up" to eat any kind of fruit and she wants to dip everything in butter.

4. I still have no paperwork from the bank. Apparently first class Royal Mail can now take four days to arrive. Seriously. Is there some snow storm I'm unaware of? I also haven't heard from the builder. If the work starts on Monday I'll eat one of the numerous pink bobble hats we have, when I can find one that is.

5. I have spent a large amount of time on hold to Nikon before hanging up. There's half an hour of my life I'm not getting back.

6. My clothes from Boden came. Very little fitted so had to go back. Perhaps sizing is different if you are a Baroness. Thank goodness I bought a bag. If the replacement clothes don't fit everyone's children will be getting Boden tops for Christmas.

7. Every night on Facebook someone says they are off to drink wine. I don't have any. I have even had to forego my quiz night pint tonight because I'm so broke from the babysitter yesterday.

None of these things are a big deal but do you know what? I just plain miss Paul. I'm lucky that he is here so much, but when he's away it's rubbish. Roll on Saturday morning.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Fireworks

I love bonfire night. Apart from in the rain of course. I love the smell, sight and noise of bonfires and fireworks. I love the noises people involuntarily make when the fireworks are impressive. And I love the look on children's faces as they look on in awe.

I don't remember a time when I didn't like it. In the garden while my Dad wrestled with a tin box in the dark on my brother's birthday. Writing our names in the air with sparklers and wishing my name was shorter. Big displays at Baytree Nurseries while wearing a snood. Gingerbread men and home made treacle toffee - the bigger the bits that stuck together the better. The year when the traffic was so terrible we got to the venue just as the fireworks finished wasn't such a good year, but that's the only negative night I remember. And we just ate treacle toffee in the back seat of the car instead.

And now? I've found it a bit harder with the girls. Both have been freaked out by the pitch black of the garden and the bangs and screams of fireworks when they were very little. But tonight it seems back to being wonderful, albeit in a slightly different way. Paul walked up to Chelsea Park with his big girl all wrapped up and excited. They both loved the display and the bonfire and Paul loved having quality time with just her. He even got to wear his hiking boots again which is a plus.

I stayed home because Phoebe really hates the bangs. She was bathed and dressed in her snuggle suit before reading stories. Then we've looked out of every window of the house to see which is best for firework viewing. She still had her hands over her ears at points but she loved the colours and I loved seeing her face and not having to deal with a tantrum in a field and the possibility of losing one or both children.

Who knows about next year. Maybe they'll be old enough to both go out and I will work out how to make treacle toffee. Or maybe not. But if it's another alternative bonfire night like this one I'll be just as chuffed.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Luck

Well my winning streak has finally come to an end. Let me explain.

On Thursday we stayed in a hotel (winning number three). This meant that I left the girls for the first time ever. I stayed away from Tilly once...when I was giving birth to Phoebe. Since then I've been with them every night. It seems odd then that this momentous occasion would be so Paul and could go to a pub quiz and stay in a slightly tatty hotel, but you can't look a gift horse in the mouth.

My lovely generous friend brought her daughter over to sleep here with Tilly and Phoebe. She's a braver woman than I am. We left them running round in circles shrieking.

Paul and I stopped arguing about him being late home by the time we got to the ring road. We checked into the hotel, drank warm wine out of coffee cups (classy I know but this was supposed to be a cheap night away) and went to eat in the bar. Not before the receptionist had tried to book into the restaurant as it "gets really busy later". There must be a lot of people ready to pay £19 a main course in Renishaw then.

The bar food involved chips and was cheap and cheerful. We settled in to chatting and listening into other people's conversations (admit it you all do that in quiet pubs. That's how we heard the couple on the next table order Ham, egg and chips without the ham.) This was interspersed with checking in about the kids every few minutes and establishing that I chose that particular night to run out of pull ups. It was a good job Phoebe has a very small bottom and could fit into my next door neighbours baby's nappy.

In memory of our youth we threw some money away into a quiz machine. It was a laugh.

At 9 o'clock we made a financial commitment and entered the pub quiz. Based on my recent pub quiz experiences we weren't hopeful. One sheet was a picture quiz to win a free drink. There were 20 faces. We didn't recognise several of them. I spent ten minutes dredging up the name Mia Farrow from the back of my brain and felt quite pleased with myself. I then managed to confuse Max Wall with Marty Feldman but hey ho. Sufficed to say we didn't win that bit.

The rest of the quiz was in four sections. You can imagine what happened. It wasn't pretty.

So is this the indication that my luck was running out? Oh no. Pub quizzes are a serious business and it's much more about knowledge than luck (although not my knowledge obviously). The worst was yet to come.

There was a weekly jackpot which on this occasion was £120. They pulled out our number. I nearly passed out with the shock thinking we had won. Then the landlady said she needed one of us on the hot seat to answer a question. Ah, more knowledge required then.

For some reason I couldn't recall the name of the famous steam train the Perseverance so we didn't win. As if the humiliation wasn't enough the landlady urged me to stay sitting on the bar stool looking like a muppet as there was one last chance to win. She held out four envelopes, three of which contained money, and one which contained a voucher for a packet of crisps. I'm guessing you are ahead of me already. I could have won £5, £10 or even £20. I picked the wrong envelope. Or the right one if I'd had a desire for an unhealthy snack. She rubbed it in further by then asking me what flavour I would like. Flavour?! Largely I just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. I chose ready salted.

So overall? Despite an incredibly uncomfortable bed we had a great night. And breakfast was pretty good too, (and free which made it taste even nicer). But by then we were keen to get home to see what they were up to. They were hanging monkeys on a tree when we got home. My luck may have run out but my family is brilliant. They aren't getting their hands on the crisps though...

Friday, 21 October 2011

Winning Stuff

When people win something they always say "Wow, I never win anything!".

I said that a few weeks ago, along with a few "bloody hell(s)". My daughters weren't in the same room I might add.

I was quite excited because I won £300 worth of Boden vouchers. Paul's initial reaction was that it wasn't real. I found this thought thoroughly depressing (and on consideration highly likely), but for once it actually wasn't spam, but a genuine £300 Boden voucher. Apparently I'd won by joining Dorset Cereal's mailing list (evidently one has to look chic while eating muesli) and subsequently being picked out of an electronic hat. I had been trying to win a campervan but hey ho.

I was seriously chuffed. We'll set aside for now the fact that you can't exactly buy a lot with £300 worth of Boden money. About one pair of boots and a cardigan or 84 pairs of socks if you're interested. But even so £300 is quite a prize.

Then I entered a small raffle and won a night in the Sitwell Arms in Renishaw. Admittedly I can't go on any useful kind of night and I have to have used it within about a fortnight but that's not the point.

People kept telling me that winnings come in threes. Today on Twitter the theatre asked a very quick easy question, I tweeted back and immediately won tickets to see Lungs at the Crucible on Monday. Ok I'm guessing that it wasn't exactly a sold out show but still. It's a brand new show directed by Richard Wilson and since we spent a small fortune last week on comedians and babysitters not one I would have got to see in a hurry.

Whilst writing this I've also remembered I won a puppet on a facebook page not so long ago. And a gym pass and a bottle of wine in recent small raffles.

So I've decided there must be some kind of strategy to this competition thing.

1. I will continue to join mailing lists if there is a semi-decent prize, especially if I stumble across the page and prize as surely that means the odds are better. I may not bother to enter if it's an excellent prize - hardly seems worth the effort but then again it might be free.

2. I will continue to enter raffles at the small events I do (if I have actually made a small amount of profit at the event of course). I am much more likely to enter if the prizes are a little bit crap and the number of event attendants is low as the odds will be considerably better. Even though I may not actually want the prize.

3. I will keep a very close eye on Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook, especially local companies.

4. I will still not buy a lottery ticket.

Please be assured. This isn't the start of a surefire gambling system that will send me into a spiral of debt and substance abuse. Well not unless I make a lot of profit selling books. Maybe by next year I'll be standing at the school fayre buying tonnes of tombola tickets in the hope of winning the Babycham.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

While we're at it

Yesterday I poured soup in a bowl then put it in the cupboard to cook.

Paul buttered both sides of his toast this morning.

Concerning.

Scarecrow Refusal

Ok I know all children are different. I am very aware of specifically how different my girls are, but this morning highlighted it further.

Phoebe was supposed to be a scarecrow this morning in the Harvest assembly. As such I sourced a checked shirt, jeans and a floppy hat as requested by the preschool. I attempted to dress Phoebe in the costume.

Phoebe went ballistic saying she didn't want to be a scarecrow. Then saying she didn't want to go to school.

Paul was concerned this was about her not wanting to be in the limelight. It now transpires it was almost entirely about the fact that the shirt a) belonged to a boy and so therefore b) was not a pretty frock. She also refused to wear the hat. I suspect had it been a tiara she'd have gone with it.

There are two things to note here. The first is how did I managed to bring up someone so girly? She's always wanted to wear a dress for as long as I can remember. She would prefer it to be green. She knows her own mind alright. I actually had to buy dresses specifically for her at her request because we hardly had any for Tilly.

Secondly while Tilly follows instruction, request and rules, Phoebe, (on the whole) does not, as evidenced by the following:

Phoebe (Standing by the treat jar): "Can I have a sweet?"
Me: "No Phoebe your dinner is ready"
Phoebe: "Please can I have a sweet?"
Me: "No Phoebe your dinner is on the plate"
Phoebe then takes sweet out of the treat jar in front of me and puts it in her mouth. Phoebe then spends some time on the naughty step.

Don't get me wrong differences are cool. Differences make the world interesting. It's just that I'm so not used to defiance. It's going to be an interesting ride.

Dave Gorman

I was fully expecting our night out on Friday to be just as ridiculous as the previous one but the curtains stayed on the wall and Tilly accepted that now wasn't the time to continue putting her books in alphabetical order. All very uneventful thankfully.

I'd love to review Dave Gorman's show properly but I just can't. Largely because any thorough review would be full of "spoiler alerts" the use of which just annoy me frankly, about as much as I imagine they would annoy him.

I will say that he was hilarious and didn't let me down on the use of technology we've all come to expect. I absolutely loved Googlewhack which we recently watched on DVD, but had not yet seen him live. His current show loses a little from not having a journey associated to it I think, but I still laughed so hard my face hurt.

Of course it also helps that I think he is lovely. My favourite people are mostly those who:
a) make me laugh, and
b) I imagine would be nice to have a pint with.
Dave Gorman fits into this perfectly. If I find out he's really horrible I'll be hugely disappointed.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Going Out - Part One

We had tickets to see Jeremy Hardy last night. It's a rare occurrence for Paul and I to actually leave the house at the same time and end up at the same destination so we were looking forward to it.

The evening started exactly as expected with Paul being a bit later than usual and Phoebe finding the need to start a 48 piece jigsaw, naked, while I was trying to hoover the floor (because in my head I need to impress my 18 year old babysitter with my housecleaning prowess).

I strongly suggested the girls should help me tidy their bedroom so Amara could actually cross the floor without falling headlong into the dolls house. There was a bit of enthusiastic tidying so I left them to it. Whilst I was hastily applying mascara I heard two things that concerned me:

1. "I know you said put the books on the shelf Mummy, but I think it would be better if the books were in alphabetical order"
2. "Aaaaaaaaaargh!"

I went into their room to find:
1. All the girls books all over the floor while Tilly attempted to find all the ones beginning with A and,
2. Phoebe screaming under the curtains and curtain rail which were now in a heap on the floor. Oh brilliant.

Once comforted Phoebe went with Tilly and ran around in circles in the living room while the babysitter looked bemused. I convinced Paul that we should put the curtains back up before leaving the house and managed it with only a little swearing under our breath. I imagine the babysitter thought we were a bit odd.

We left eventually and went to town. Fortunately we were early enough for a drink, but unfortunately we chose the nearest bar to the City Hall and ended up in Yates. Which seemingly has poles to dance round. Thank goodness it was early. We left feeling a bit grubby and ancient.

We then went into the gig and in contrast were the youngest people there. There were to be quite a few jokes about his Radio 4 demographic.

Just before he came on the five women behind us decided to have some kind of picnic. The ring leader produced multipacks of chocolate. Specifically "a Bounty or a Snickers?" I realised I was on the verge of tutting a pensioner (or at the very least giving her a Paddington hard stare). Then she managed to turn my anger into amusement by asking her friends if they "do Activia?" and offering round yoghurts. Now that's something I've never experienced before.

And the gig? Very funny. I saw Jeremy Hardy about 18 years ago. He is still brilliant and of course just as left wing. I was secretly hoping that an audience member had brought along an unsuspecting Tory voter for a laugh. If there were any in the audience they certainly wouldn't have dared mention it. There is something extremely cathartic about mass appreciative verbal Conservative bashing.

We are going out again on Friday. More comedy. Probably before and after we leave the house.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Running

As well as two birthday parties and a book stall over the weekend we had to fit in Paul running the Great Yorkshire Run.

This would have been OK apart from the fact that I hadn't realised quite how disorganised he was on the actual morning as I was too busy wrapping a rabbit up and hastily replacing party clothes with fancy dress costumes due to my own disorganisation.

Fortunately despite the mountain of dirty washing in the wash basket he did find a clean running top to add to his brand new running shorts bought the day before. The new shorts were at my suggestion or he would have been running in shorts with fence paint on the leg.

Then he asked me for safety pins. Apparently he wanted eight. He had to make do with 3 safety pins and a nappy pin from 1975.

Anyway we made it to town only a couple of minutes later than planned and Paul disappeared into the crowds of runners. He did a joint warm up which I was disappointed to learn didn't feature Mr Motivator or Mad Lizzy. Apparently stretching sideways in a crowd of several thousand is tricky.

Then he set off running. And Dad and I wandered about in town looking for a copy of the Guardian. I did toy with the idea of getting on the tram and trying to spot him but thought better of it. I must admit I felt a bit guilty as we window shopped, especially since we'd already had a coffee and an almond croissant and he was knackered and drinking powerade. But then it was all his own idea.

We decided to go and try and watch him finish and after several minutes he shot past ta ludicrous speed as he sprinted to the finish. I screamed quite a lot. It made me feel a bit like a groupie.

He finished the race in 50 minutes, 50 seconds and he managed not to be sick. Then it took a while to find him amongst the lions, superheroes and more normally dressed knackered people. But we did find him and even managed to meet his equally batty friends who had run the race too. As an added bonus the tin foil blanket seems to make quite a good space ship den roof.

So for the last time here's my plea for you to sponsor him. He's been such a star these last few months and is taking a breather now I think. Well he hasn't mentioned the next thing yet and I'm not asking him what it is.

Monday, 10 October 2011

All tomorrow's parties...and the next weekend...and the next

My children have a much more hectic social life than me. I didn't see it coming to be honest. They used to tag along with whatever we were doing (albeit it in a have to fit a nap in, have food in your bag to avoid meltdown sort of a way). Now they have their own social life and I seem to be managing their diaries. Which since I can't manage my own is a bit much. I'm slightly dubious PA to two children under 6. I think a reference would be doubtful.

The parties are coming thick and fast now. They are all very exciting. So far this term we have had one involving holding an owl at the butterfly house, one with an impressive and (judging by the children's reactions hilarious) magician and a playball party which they loved (and the children slept extremely well after this one). In a couple of weeks Tilly will be going to a pony riding party. It is a bigger girls party and anyway Phoebe would hate it (her last encounter with a donkey didn't go well) but she'll still need a hefty alternative bribe to avoid her going stratospheric.

The trouble is I'm getting less and less organised as the weeks go by. I nearly sent the girls without suitable fancy dress for the Peter Pan party on Sunday until I re-read the invitation at the last minute. I knew that blessed crocodile costume would come in handy sometime. If the invitations keep stacking up I shall, no doubt, end up getting it even further wrong. Like sending them in armbands to a soft play party or thinking they are due to paint a pot when they are actually supposed to be paintballing.

I just hope I get an invitation to a party soon to shift the balance. It doesn't need to involve holding a hedgehog but holding a gin and tonic would be a start. Anyone?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

I who know nothing

I went out on Wednesday. Actually I went out once last week too. My social life must be hotting up.

As well as going out I also went back in time about fourteen years and went to a pub quiz. We used to go to a music pub quiz when we were 21 and often knew some answers and sometimes even won beer. To be fair I think that was mostly due to my other team members but it was so long ago I'll claim joint glory.

Anyway this wasn't a music quiz. It was a random general knowledge type quiz with a smattering of local knowledge questions.

It transpires that we don't know:
1. The capital of Vietnam (despite one of my team having been there)
2. Which country has a new tax on high fat food (despite me watching it on the news that morning)
3. Who the MP for Sheffield Central is (despite him actually being a friend of a team member)

Less surprisingly we also knew nothing about Super League, football, dart boards and fairly obscure Beatles lyrics. And a host of other things.

We got 5 right and 15 wrong. I expected to be no help, and I wasn't. But to be honest it was hard to be embarrassed when we were all fairly hopeless. The extra positive bit was that I didn't talk about the children all night (just a little bit), and I laughed a lot. I did however swear at one point and was a little frightened because the black board read "If you want to swear, drink elsewhere"/ Fortunately no-one lynched me.

It seems we will be going back. Someone won last week with 11 out of 20 so for some reason my friends think it's within the realms of possibility that we could be victorious. I have my doubts.

My friend feels that we all need a specialist subject for next week and set us homework to read different sections of the newspaper. I thought she was kidding. Then I met her this morning as 9.15am and she said she'd finished reading today's newspaper. Very commendable and a bit mad. But also, how the hell did she manage to read an actual newspaper AND feed her three children and get them to school and playgroup before 9.15am?

Monday, 3 October 2011

Rant

I like my blog but there are things I can't put on it. Which is frustrating since part of the reason for having it is to provide me with a way of venting my emotions.

In the interests of my sanity, however I need to rant somewhere. So here, in as anonymous a way as possible, is my rant about just some of the things that are making me mad.

Five and six year old girls can be frankly horrible. Fortunately Tilly isn't too upset by recent events but I am. Neither of my girls are of course perfect, but I'd like to think they wouldn't ignore other children to be mean, or say things that are obviously meant to be hurtful.

If a particular child teases my daughter again for not being about to say her "r"s it will be dealt with. The temptation to tell Tilly what to say in retaliation is immense but I'm trying to control myself.

And while we are on the subject of school (albeit a much more minor point) we do actually have a school uniform. It doesn't include red tops, green dresses, leggings with Hello Kitty on, red shoes, gold crocs or sandals.

There is also some specific feedback for teachers. Which I don't feel I can write.

Do you know what I don't feel better. That's censorship for you...

Monday, 26 September 2011

You are joking?

It seems we have hit the hardest thing to explain to children yet (no, no, not that question).

How on earth do you get children to understand what a joke is? My two just don't get it. Tilly has learnt two jokes which she repeats ad infinitum. If you don't laugh, or you tell her the punchline before she does, she gets cross. Her jokes are:

"Why did the orange go to the doctor?
Because he wasn't peeling well."

and

"Why was the broom late for work?
Because he overswept."

Yes I know they aren't hilarious, but at least they are jokes. The trouble is she heard them on a tv show and doesn't really understand why they are funny.

Phoebe is even worse and joins in with enthusiastic joke telling using whatever random things she notices in the room. Like

"Why did the potato go to the doctor?
Because he wanted to play the piano".

Maybe she's showing early signs of becoming a surrealist comedian, but after the tenth version (delivered at the top of her voice while falling about) it can get a little draining.

This evening we have tried to remember jokes so we can tell them, then explain why they are funny. The trouble is we can only remember about five jokes, most of them with content that is either not appropriate (how do you make a snooker table laugh?) even more confusing (how do you fit four elephants in a mini?) or a bit scary (the one about the vampire and the crow with a machine gun - for clarification that's two different jokes). Knock knock jokes are even more difficult to explain.

We have toyed with the idea that we shouldn't even be trying to explain jokes. But hearing this:

"Knock, knock
Who's There?
Me
Me who
Meiow I'm a cat"

ten times has led us to seek assistance. So tonight's challenge if you choose to accept it is to tell me a joke.

It has to be age appropriate (max age 5), vaguely amusing and easy to explain why it's funny (this obviously rules out jokes about chickens crossing roads). In the spirit of mental function please don't go find a book or website to help. Where would be the fun in that?

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Nice try

Phoebe "Can I watch telly?"
Me "Ok but just one programme before bathtime"
Phoebe "Five programmes?"
Me "No. One programme?"
Phoebe "Four programmes?
Me "Good negotiating but no. One programme."
Phoebe "Aaaargh!"
Me "Look at the clock. It's nearly bathtime. The little hand is pointing to the six and the big hand to the top so it's 6 o'clock"
Phoebe "So I can watch six programmes?"

Back on Track

I've obviously had a slightly shonky week because I haven't written a blog entry since Sunday night. I tend to communicate less when I'm grumpy. But I'm back and in the absence of any chirpier substance I'll do another round up and try to get back on track tomorrow.

1. Paul and I are now 36. My birthday was spent stuck in the house with dodgy stomached toddler and a broken washing machine.

2. I am embarrassed to say that I am totally incapable of mending technical appliances, drilling and generally "doing it myself". Paul fixed the washing machine and put up Tilly's shelf. I am officially a wife from the 1950s. Note to self: Find previous feminist ideology and refresh my memory of different screw types. (I used to work in an Ironmongers so the information must be in my brain somewhere).

3. We've picked a builder. He's very nice and highly recommended. Soon begins a stressful few months but in the meantime I need to win the lottery. I did win £300 to spend at Boden but I'm guessing he would rather have cash.

4. I am going to admit that I learnt about EID from an infant school assembly and after party. I clearly need to read the curriculum before Tilly gets to it each term or this could get embarrassing.

5. Paul can run 10k. It was only his third ever attempt at a long distance run (previously he ran 7k twice). So much for a slowly increasing training plan. He's showing no sign of suffering and is eating me out of house and home.

6. My fitness levels are very slowly improving and I am discovering which songs are not ideal to listen to at the gym. So far I've ruled out Stevie Wonder and a large amount of acoustic folk.

7. Today I cooked from scratch roast beef, yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, parsnips, glazed carrots, broccoli and crunchie bread and butter pudding for six people. And it tasted nice. This is astonishing. I suspect the success was due to the plates being aligned with the moon or something. Or maybe there is a glimmer of hope that one day I can be just a bit like my mum.

8. I've watched quite a few films this week in a grumpy haze. In summary "27 dresses" is terrible, "Time Travellers Wife" made me cry and "Megamind" was silly and vaguely amusing. "Source Code" I remember quite enjoying but it's just taken me ten minutes and a conversation with Paul to recall the plot which probably says something.

That's it. Pretty dull and generally blah.

Tonight we write a list. It will be scary and probably the longest list in the world. The thing is the presence of list usually shows that I'm pulling myself together so it's a good thing.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

36

Well looking at the time it's 2:17am so I guess I'm 36. And no I am not up revelling more's the pity. I'm up because Phoebe has been sick twice. Poor little thing has never had a sick bug and is a little freaked out.

On the upside I get to watch Cinderella Two on DVD again (I know who knew there was a sequel?). It's good because I had forgotten what happens. Nope actually I haven't. Oh well you can never have too much princess.

Phoebe did ask to watch "just whatever's on CBeebies" but I had to point out they don't really show programmes at two in the morning.

We always put the TV on when the girls are sick. Not before of course we have changed the bed fully and tried to put them back in bed so they can cover all the clean stuff in sick as well.

My eyes are struggling since they should be closed so I can't write much more. Maybe I'll just open a birthday present instead...

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Saturday stuff

The day began with the girls helping Daddy learn to juggle. Phoebe threw two balls high up in the air and one landed in the toilet. Queue much hilarity and a bit of disinfectant.

In town there was some kind of initiative going on and I pointed out a colourful dress they had on display to Tilly. Fortunately she wasn't listening as it turned out to be entirely made of fluorescent condoms.

And finally quote of the day so far when Daddy was pretending to eat Phoebe (as you do).
Phoebe: I'm not a bug.
Daddy: I don't eat bugs.
Phoebe: Ok. I'm not a croissant then.

Now the girls are packing for a sleepover at Nicky's house. I'd better go and check they have packed pyjamas as well as the stones, hairclips and mixing bowl...

Friday, 16 September 2011

Round Up

It's that time of the week when I try to remind myself what's happened. One day my daughters will be bored rigid by this diary but hey ho.

1. Paul has discovered a natural aptitude for exercise. I, despite having been to the gym twice, have not.

2. Tilly has received her first piece of homework which is due in on 22nd September and is not obligatory. We get home at 3.30. She'd finished it by 3.45. Apparently if Red Riding Hood wrote a shopping list it would include "Bread, Cake, Wulf Kiler, Strong Gloves, Stones, Fresh Flowers, Red cloth and a needle".

3. Phoebe has started preschool and is extremely grown up. She is amassing new friends at a rate of knots. She can also write "3" and "7" unaided, and knows about five letters, although if you ask her one she doesn't know she says it's a "P".

4. Tilly is a bit sad about playtime. Mostly if she can't find her best friend. I need to have one of those conversations with the teacher where I try not to look like an emotional muppet.

5. We have still not picked a builder, but we don't think we'll pick the one who quoted £20k more than the others. He was very professional and lovely but I'm flippin pleased we didn't get his quote first or I would have had a heart attack.

6. James Corden is hilarious and it is extremely healthy to go out with your best friend. I must do it more.

And finally next week? Well on Monday Paul and I are 36.

I think 36 is a crap age. The worst so far. It means you have to tick the next box on census forms. Ugh.

At least "life begins at 40". Nothing begins at 36 apart from several weeks of extension based mess and an emotional child going to preschool related breakdown. Unless of course you are Paul is which case "extreme exercise begins at 36".

One Man, Two Guv'nors

I decided to be all grown up and to write my blog entry sitting on the sofa with a coffee whilst listening to music - something girly and sophisticated probably. My iPod, however, only wants to play me Alan Bennett reading Winnie-the-Pooh. I'm sure there's some kind of message in that about my life.

Anyway in the absence of Adele I shall soldier on and blog in the eerily quiet house (while Phoebe is out eating pretend chips at preschool).

Han and I went to the NT Live screening of One Man, Two Guv'nors last night at the Showroom. My Mum and Dad recommended the experience, but I was a bit uncertain whether watching a play on a cinema screen would work. I so love live theatre, and conversely I can't stand watching stage plays on television. It felt a bit strange for about the first thirty seconds. Pretty much from then until the end I was so absorbed I forgot I wasn't in the theatre and mostly just fell about laughing, as did the rest of the audience. I haven't laughed that much at any play or film for years.
The play is a comedy about a man who, spurred on by an intense desire to eat, and then by his love of Dolly, ends up with two bosses. It is essentially a farce which isn't usually my favourite kind of comedy. But apart from the obligatory 89 year old character spilling soup and being hit in the face and knocked down the stairs a lot, I found the whole thing hilarious. Especially, of course, the inimitable James Corden.

I have always loved James Corden since I saw him in the History Boys. I think he is a wonderful comic actor and was so pleased to see him return to his real craft. It makes me rather proud to be British when I see actors of his calibre and skill. I won't go into detail about the play - it needs to be seen. But sufficed to say I was left genuinely believing that his interactions with the audience were unscripted and off the cuff when I now have a sneaking suspicion they weren't. That takes real skill.

I also loved the music between scene changes where every member of the cast did a musical turn, from Glockenspiel to carhorns via steel drums. Brilliant.

The whole cast were excellent, notably for me Daniel Rigby as Alan, Oliver Chris as Stanley (once I'd got over the similarities with Flashheart from Blackadder) , and Suzie Toase as Dolly.

There was even some singing and dancing so it squarely hit the transformation and dance criteria for me. Plus watching at the Showroom has the added bonus of you being able to drink wine out of plastic cups and eat ice cream while you watch. It's win win!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Changes

Well he's back and apart from a slightly sore heel he is remarkably well. So well in fact that he is seriously considering doing the Great Yorkshire Run in four weeks time. Well that's good then. Just half the amount of time he had to train for the last thing. Signing up for the mountains seems to awoken a fitness monster. Add to that his current enthusiasm to go to the climbing wall and I'll be lucky if I ever see him.

An inevitable consequence of his fitness enthusiasm is the immense amount of guilt I feel when I sit watching TV. So today I rejoined Ladyzone (I know, here we go again). Anyway I did my half an hour circuit and felt much better about myself. Especially since I'd amazingly managed to still be under eleven stone as my starting point. I was positive and quite enthusiastic. Until I came home and spoke to my seemingly bionic husband. Ok I'll keep trying at the gym but I clearly need to find whatever hidden natural talent I have somewhere because it sure as hell it isn't in the fitness arena. Maybe I am secretly an excellent poet. I'm sure I could beat him in a haiki competition.

Other than all that it's been a bit of an odd day. My baby spent her first day away from me in childcare. I cried. She didn't. That's the right way round at least. In retrospect I should have gone to the spa or at least gone shopping to somewhere other than the supermarket. I'm not sure what I really did do today to be honest. Brooded mostly. I'll get used to it eventually. Maybe next week I'll use the time to work on my rhyming couplets.

And tonight I'm watching the British Bake Off. Which features another thing I'm terrible at. Today has not been so good for emotions and self esteem. But tomorrow is another day and I'll be spending it being a mum which I am usually quite good at. Specifically I'll be helping to make monsters so it should be a good day.

*Newsflash* Scratch the idea that Paul is "considering" the Great Yorkshire Run - he's gone and signed up. Now he's out for a run in the dark. Anyone know a good nutritionist? It's hard enough cooking well balanced meals for growing children and adults without managing to feed an aspiring Olympic athlete. Help!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Ricky the Red Panda

Well evidently all this stuff about Paul going up three mountains was not an elaborate cover up for his actual appearance in the Big Brother House. Nope he really fancied climbing three mountains in 48 hours. From what I can gather it has been an elating experience but also a ridiculously windy one. The weather forecast suggests he was "buffeted". I get the feeling he might use a stronger word.

Anyway he's on his way home from Wales in a bus and I imagine when he comes in he's going to stink and the washing machine will struggle with the state of his clothing. He's also going to get a massive hug. Well probably after he's had a bath.

I'll tell you more about what he's been up to when I find out, but for now I thought I'd blog our weekend without him.

Tilly came home on Friday as Star of the Day, Star of the Week and weekend keeper of Ricky the Red Panda (a toy I'm relieved to report). Clearly I don't need to worry about her settling back in at school. So then we had to incorporate Ricky into our weekend and unsurprisingly Tilly was keen to take pictures and write the diary provided. That girl does love a project.


Firstly she wanted me to find out where red panda's live and on doing so insisted on making the Himalayas in our living room out of books. She also discovered that they eat bamboo so went out to pick leaves from the garden. Obviously he didn't fancy the toad in the hole I cooked for tea. I tried not to be hurt.

After brief but intense fighting over the panda and subsequent Mummy diversion Phoebe selected a giraffe as her pet. Then she changed her mind to a bear. When the Himalaya caves weren't big enough to house the bear Grandad made some more out of cardboard boxes. Paul would have been in his artistic element.

The following morning Grandad took Ricky to watch Tilly swimming. It's blinkin boiling in the gallery. I expect he wished he didn't have a fur coat on. I wasn't responsible enough to hold Ricky so had to help Tilly get changed instead.

After that we went out to Sheffield Manor Discovery Centre as they had a heritage open day on. Several women referred to Ricky as a "nice raccoon". I hope he wasn't too upset. I'm just pleased Tilly didn't hear them get it wrong or there would have been hell to pay.

It was a lovely morning. Ricky sat on some rocks,
watched Tilly make some rope and went round the lodge on a guided tour. Then we ate sandwiches and bought a kite which was a bit mental in the wind but quite hilarious. Ricky had his photo taken on a branch and went down the slide a few times. Funny how Ricky wanted to do all the things Tilly likes doing.


Last night I couldn't sleep for obvious reasons and through a sense of profound guilt this morning I felt the need to do something useful. So I attempted to condense an enormous amount of stuff from the studio into a small shed. It was impossible but I did move some things around so it looks different.


I spent an hour, while mum and dad were in the park with the girls (and Ricky), convincing myself we had rats. I was sure I could hear squeaking. After a hour I realised the squeaking was coming from my shoes. That was a relief. I am very scared of rats though. I think Ricky would see off any rats though. So now I need a Red Panda to live in my back garden along with the wasp attacking badger.

Throughout the weekend I checked Facebook, and Google Latitude, a million times as well as continually checking the weather forecasts for Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon. The mention of Hurricane Katia didn't do much for my nerves.

And then this evening Paul rang to say he'd done it. He's happy, I'm happy, Mum, Dad and the girls are happy and Ricky was chuffed to bits.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Dreams Part 3

It's 4am and I'm awake. I have just dreamt that Paul has finished his three walks and I've had to go and pick him and 5 of his walker mates up in the car in order to get him home in time for his debut performance on stage in a Shakespearean play tonight. What the hell is the matter with me? Is walking up three mountains in rain, dark and galeforce winds not enough?

I couldn't get back to sleep for worrying about him so came downstairs to check on his progress. Now I'm wishing I hadn't since he's only been on Scafell Pike for an hour and I was hoping he'd be finished by now. The weather is dire. I almost wish it was raining here so I could walk up and down Carterknowle Road in my pyjamas in some show of solidarity and responsibility. Although I imagine I'd get arrested. And before you ask no Paul is not wearing his pyjamas.

I cannot express how proud I am of him. And how worried I am. I'm off back to bed to try and sleep. Please can I have a nice dream about him coming home happy and well? Or failing that can the play he's attempting not be Shakespeare? At least if it was Abigail's Party he wouldn't have to learn any lines...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Dreams Part 2

Last night I dreamt that I lost Phoebe in a supermarket and was convinced someone had taken her away. I spent several dream hours looking for her and panicking, then found her in the bread aisle. I have some separation issues going on.

In other news Paul is going up three mountains this weekend. I am going to be spending this evening packing and repacking bags and trying to stop him eating all the mars bars before he sets off. Please send him all your words of encouragement. I think he's brilliant.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Classic Phoebe

Phoebe has come out with a couple of classic comments today that I want to keep forever:

We were sitting in a cafe which had big green highchairs, and one red one.
Phoebe: Look at that red thing. What is it?
Me: It's a highchair
Phoebe: Why's it red? Does it have an emergency button?

(Holding arms up to me)
Me: No you can't have a carry
Phoebe: I don't want a carry I want a walking hug.
Needless to say I picked her up.

She's fab.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Dreams

I had a dream last night that I'd driven Paul to Ben Nevis to start his climb. He'd set off then I realised he forgot his rucksack. He came back to pick it up then set off again before remembering he had forgotten to put on his hiking boots. Obviously I am a) concerned that he won't make it to his destination because I'm not driving him there and b) he'll forget key items. Not exactly a coded dream so far.

Then he set off a third time and got quite a way up the hill before I realised he had forgotten to take with him his hand drawn picture of a mermaid to colour in at the top (clearly my worlds are colliding somewhat). I took the mermaid picture with me to give to the organisers who said that it wasn't very good. Which is ironic because Paul is actually pretty good at drawing mermaids. And why mermaids? Maybe because we are convinced it's going to rain torrentially on every mountain.

So in light of the state of my head, and the challenges Paul faces, why not sponsor him if you haven't already ;)


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Why do I feel nervous?

I am sitting in my living room and I feel extremely anxious. I can't pin point why.

Is it that Tilly is going back to school? Have I forgotten something crucial? I've remembered to purchase a revoltingly cute cat lunch box and drinks container. I've remembered to check that her clothes still fit her and have replaced the coat she lost on a school trip (grrr). I know which children I have volunteered to look after and when and I have checked the finish time of cheerleading. I have even checked that there weren't any vital letters in her bag that I forgot to read and I know what she wants in her sandwiches tomorrow (cheese apparently in the absence of salami). I'll miss her and have had a truly brilliant summer holidays but I don't think that's why I'm anxious.

Phoebe starting preschool? Emotional definitely but I know the setting well and she doesn't start for another week at least so I don't think it's that. I'll save the inevitable sobbing for after I drop her off.

Hmm. Maybe it's the extension. That is a source of some anxiety for sure. In fact I don't really want to think about having to choose a builder because it's too hard. And I'm definitely struggling with the fact that two of the builders are called Mark. I might change one of their names to Bob to make it easier to remember. But the big anxiety doesn't come until we pick one of them so I don't think it's that.

Paul going up some mountains? Well this one is a bit of a concern. It's a pretty big thing he's doing compared to anything he has done before. But he's out now walking up Carterknowle Road with 1.5 litres of water, 3 litres of orange juice and a dozen cans of ginger beer in his backpack so he must be physically ready. And mentally frankly if he's prepared to do that instead of watching TV. I'll save my personal panic for Thursday evening I think when I make a last minute dash to buy more flapjack.

Me? There is a chance I might have a job interview coming up for an evening job. That's scary since it's been a good few years since I had an interview and I don't own a suit any more. But it's not definite so I don't think it's the source of my current anxiety. It's clearly daunting that I will have more time on my hands once Phoebe is in preschool, especially since I need to use it effectively, but that's sort of exciting. Books (and all my other responsibilities outside of being a mum) can finally get more focus. That's a good thing.

So what is it? I'm pretty sure that it's all really about change. The girls are growing up and don't need me in quite the same way (gulp). My husband has gone even more sporty (he mentioned a marathon today, God help us. I think I preferred it when it was Tuesday night football). And I'm getting some time to myself so I need to use it constructively (eek). Things are starting to be different. Frankly it's no wonder I'm anxious. I thought it was going to get back to "normal" from tomorrow but "normal" seems to be shifting.

I'm going to keep calm and have a drink of orange juice. Oh bugger Paul has taken it up the road with him. It'll have to be a cup of tea then.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Things I have noticed and/or learnt this week

1. After 14 years in Sheffield I have finally worked out where Padley Gorge is and where to park. It's our new favourite place and I am reliably informed contains a one legged pig, a crocodile and a lion. Also getting water in your wellies and having saturated socks apparently isn't a problem.

2. We won't be joining Esporta. We had a free week's pass and I nearly fell over when I heard the price of joining. See, I'm saving money for the extension.

3. Going swimming every day makes my hair look even worse that usual. And I say swimming - I have been four times so far and not swum a stroke. I am now an expert at catching toddlers though.

4. The girls have become excellent at playing when friends come over. Although I have no idea what they get up to. Based on this photo they seem to have been hoovering up soft toys while playing the xylophone.

5. Wasps can look like they are setting up a nest in your eaves (dive bombing your window) then actually give up and move on the next day. Maybe they didn't like the neighbours.

6. I don't like Paul in hiking boots. He makes me feel even more inadequate height-wise.

7. It is incredibly difficult to find a small diamond in the contents of a hoover. It is made even harder when your children have a love of glitter. As a consequence I have no engagement ring and it feels weird.

8. Picking a builder is a blinking nightmare. They go on holiday a lot, don't seem to know which day is which, don't like writing things down and all have a totally different way of quoting. I might just ask the girls which one they like best and choose him.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Fairies

The impact of the Just So Festival continues. The other day puppets were the in thing (a la Talullah Swirls in particular).

The stories largely involved puppets introducing themselves to each other. And space ships.

On Sunday we did "Kids with Cameras" which was a session we couldn't fit in at the festival and the girls took pictures of things in specific categories.

When taking a picture of a flower Tilly fell face first into a wet flower bed but all photographers have to start somewhere.

Yesterday they put on a circus show but I drew the line at them wanting to "use the bed steps as the way up to the trapeze". They did juggling with one ball instead.

Then this morning we were invited to see the Fairy queen and were greeted with this:

We went on to question the Fairy Queen about a number of things.

What do you do?
I look after wildlife, toadstools and stuff.

Where do you live?
In a special fairy den in a forest I really love called Sherwood forest. (Apparently each forest has it's own fairy queen)

What do fairies eat?
Blueberries and shiny berries.

Can you fly?
(Looks at me like I'm an idiot) Yes.

Do you know the Tooth Fairy?
Yes her name is Arabella.

How much does she pay for a tooth? (I thought best to get it from the horse's mouth since a friend recently told me it's £10 for the first tooth and £2 for all subsequent teeth and I thought we would need to remortgage...again)
£1 (phew)

What does she do with the teeth?
She puts them with other teeth and makes false teeth. Like the ones Father Christmas has. (Raymond Briggs' responsibility)

What do Fairy Queens have for Breakfast (we hadn't eaten yet)?
Blueberries and shiny berries. And toast.

Shall we go and tell Daddy what you want for breakfast?
(Whispers) You know what, I don't think he knew it was really me dressed up.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

More training

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, my husband Paul is climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon over 48 hours with some radio station people and the cast of Emmerdale. All in aid of Hallam FMs local charity Cash for Kids, and in the spirit of adventure.

In the beginning he was determined to do a lot of walking, cycling, and not drinking for the few weeks of training he had. He's actually done a reasonable amount of walking (including hills) and a reasonable amount of cycling quickly, and rather a lot of drinking. To be fair he was never going to be successful on that front and it is the holidays.

So this morning, after half a bottle of cava the night before, he headed off on the Round Walk which is 14 miles long. The total distance he will travel in two weeks time is only 25 miles (although obviously with a lot more ups and downs) so to make it more relevant he decided to do it as quickly as possible. He set off at quite a lick and despite several signs being removed (and adding a further 3 miles to his journey), he completed it in only 4 hours.

As a result he returned home absolutely knackered. His legs only just made it up Carterknowle Road apparently. And he looks slightly like he's suffered a tiger attack due to an unfortunate leg meets bramble incident. He also has his first walking related blister. We have no idea what all this tells us about his ability to climb three peaks in 48 hours.

What we do know is that I'll be glad when all this is over for one huge reason. Paul's appetite. All week I have been trying to assist him in his ventures by "carbing him up". But since he got back today he hasn't stopped eating.

You know the image of a desperate man climbing the last sand dune weakly calling "water"? Well Paul stumbled across our front step calling "protein!". I had very little in frankly (having been concentrating on carbs) so he had to make do with a mountain of pasta and four slices of ham on top. That was after he had eaten his sandwiches and snacks on route (including a revolting recommended high protein flapjack and energy gel). Since he ate his second lunch he has had crumpets, banana bread, toast and double dinner. And I keep catch him opening and closing kitchen cupboards.

Apparently he's going to do some more exercise in the morning to keep up the momentum in the last two weeks before he goes. I clearly need to go shopping again.

Seeing his sponsorship money go up is a massive incentive for him. So can you spare a couple of quid to spur him on in the last two weeks? Or failing that can you pop over with some high protein meals for me to give him please? ;)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Nina and the Neurons

The girls were just in the bath talking about science experiments and Nina and the Neurons on CBeebies.

Phoebe :"I'd ask Nina why the water comes out of the teapot but the bubbles don't."

Tilly:"That's a good question we should write and ask her. Then you'd have to be on telly."

Phoebe (looking concerned): "...but I'd want to come back"

Tilly: "You don't actually go inside the telly you know."

Phoebe: "Oh, OK then."

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Flagging

I think I have post holiday blues. Which is a bit daft since it's not the end of the holidays yet. But it's the end of the really exciting events we have all looked forward to and loved. It genuinely has been the best holiday we've ever had.

What is left is a week and a half of bickering - that's if today is anything to go by.

No that's not fair it isn't bickering. It's mostly Phoebe irritating her big sister by being silly, ruining her activity or simply by hitting her around the head with a table mat. It's not always a table mat. Sometimes it's a cushion. Or sometimes she just pokes her repeatedly while they are watching TV.

I think they make the summer holidays 6 weeks long for a good reason. If it was only 4 weeks long there is a good chance you wouldn't take your child back to school at all. Four weeks of playing, seeing friends and family, going away and everyone getting on well. The last two weeks make the holiday just too long and ensure any harmony you have experienced will be forgotten. You'll be lining up at the school gates two
hours early on the first day back. The keenness to return might be that your school child is driving you mad. Or maybe you are craving a return to routine bedtimes and personal space. For me I simply want her to go back to school to protect her from table mat related injury.

Not that I want you to think Phoebe is terrible. She isn't. She's 3. And has a big sister who will react every single time she prods her. So even if Mummy is out of the room (so is clearly starving her of attention for ten minutes) she has an audience on tap.

The worse thing is Phoebe smirks every single time and I have to repeat ad nauseum "it isn't funny". But it is when you are 3.

She says "sorry" to Tilly and then she throws herself on me and says "beautiful mummy". It's hard to stay mad. But then I think she knows that.

So I have post holiday blues. I'm missing the good bits already. On top of that I am shattered. As is the rest of the family. I think I need a sleep and some quality time with my big girl before she goes back to school.

Fortunately it's bank holiday Monday so Paul has volunteered to have Phoebe. He's going to take her on a 14 mile round trip walk as part of his training. Hmm.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Just So Festival


We have been away camping for a few days for the Just So Children's Festival in Staffordshire and I can heartily recommend it.

There were of course some negatives, to an extent to be expected since this is only the festival's second year. The main problem was that the site had a water problem and ran out early on day two. This left festival goers who care about personal hygiene high and dry. Fortunately my family aren't cursed with concern over cleanliness, well not during a festival anyway.

We did have vague good intentions and bought a new towel to take with us but it didn't come out of the bag. To be fair I suspect it wouldn't have done even if the showers had worked. We made do with baby wipes and hoped that the muck spreading on the next field could be used as an excuse should anyone question our own aroma. Plus it's a bit like garlic, if you all stink it no longer matters.

There was a very tense moment when the lantern making people ran out of latex glue (aaah memories of peeling copydex off your fingers) and Tilly started to cry. After being encouraged to try our best to finish our lantern anyway we set to the task with gusto. Never have you seen a more swift and determined set of family gluers. We managed it though (well just the bottom bit but enough to call it a lantern). Shame they didn't quite get the resources right though. Although I hold the six foot long shark lantern makers slightly responsible.

And the only other thing that irritated us was the cost. Not of the festival but of the food. On the first day I agreed to buy the girls fairy cakes and asked for three. He handed me the cakes then asked me for £9. I was so stunned that I actually opened my purse and paid him. Ten seconds later I realised what I had done. And I realised he hadn't had prices visible on the cakes. I mean I know the "if you have to ask you can't afford it" quote but didn't consider that could ever apply to a cupcake. Obviously I'm being sent a message from somewhere to go back on that stupid diet.

Other than that? I'd go so far as to say it was magical. I worried that I would look through the programme and struggle to find things for Phoebe but she could be included in almost everything Tilly wanted to do. And man did they do a lot of stuff. Dancing, puppet shows, sandcastles, donkey riding, board games, and tonnes of craft (dragonflies, clay models, moustaches, fairy postcards). There were brilliant performers including characters from Alice in Wonderland, jugglers, fairies, Elmer, the Gruffalo, the Jumblies, story tellers - the list goes on and on. Tilly especially liked being amazed by science experiments at the Physics tent.

Planning what to do each day did take some effort on my part. Then half way through Saturday Paul lost the programme which rendered me in a state of slight panic. Honestly I relinquished control of the programme for one minute and asked him to pick it up, then we never saw it again. I'm no good without a timetable at
these sorts of things. Next year I'll take my own laminator and hole punch and string the programme round my neck. Anyway I tried hard to manage without a programme, then decided now was not the time to change the habit of a lifetime so bought another one. Which I did not let Paul touch.

It was all pretty fantastic and imaginative but there were particular highlights. Being book obsessed in this house we loved seeing the authors and illustrators read and draw for the kids. Mini Grey was particularly brilliant and left the girls with lots of ideas and a little book each to complete at home.

The beautiful lantern parade on Saturday night was a perfect end to the first main day. Paul eventually recovered from the neck sleeper hold Phoebe inflicted on him (she was a bit too tired to walk) and they went straight to bed afterwards exhausted but happy.





The Toy Stories animation session run by B-Arts was a big hit too. The girls took their favourite toys in to be filmed with stop frame animation and Sleepy Bear took Barbie for a ride on a flying carpet (Phoebe's comfort blanket). Then we watched the film premiere before coming home on Sunday night. It was inspired and hilarious.

Finally we loved "Fly Away Katie" by Long Nose Theatre Company so much we bought the CD and I'm not yet sick of it despite having it on quite a few times today. Perfectly beautiful puppets, story and music.

But the best bit? The kids loved every minute of it all. So many new experiences and the opportunity to build sandcastles and hide behind trees. Genius.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Bridesmaids

I went to the cinema last night with my mum, which is a very unusual occurrence. Grandad had the opportunity to encourage the girls to go to sleep and we were going to a girly film with a good review. It should have been a good night. Hmm.

Maybe I've become a prude. Ok watching fairly explicit (albeit supposedly funny) sexual opening scenes sitting next to your mum is never going to be entirely comfortable but I guess we got through that bit relatively unscathed.

Then it moved into some rather lovely amusing best friend relationship stuff and I thought we were home free.

After that it became the sort of comedy that makes me uncomfortable. I genuinely began squirming in my seat as the lead character embarrassed herself in front of a large number of guests. I have never really been able to enjoy awkward comedy.

Just when I thought it was only going to be a bit crap the (I realise now) inevitable excrement and vomiting scene happened. Based on the audience's reaction we must have been in the minority but I genuinely have never considered those two things to be amusing. Mum suggested that motherhood might have made it worse. Then we agreed that no, it wasn't funny before I had kids either.

The film essentially follows the planning of an extremely over the top and expensive wedding, and the somewhat tragic private life of the maid of honour. My friends will know that I have always said the best films have two things in them: transformation and dance. This should have been an ideal candidate then since it had lots of both. But it also had a food poisoning vomiting scene. Transformation, dance and vomit shall henceforth be the categorisation of a bad film.

The actresses Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph were pretty good. Most of the other characters were pretty hateful, but then American film makers rarely see humour in nice people.

The only real saving grace of this film for me was Chris O'Dowd who played the love interest for Kristen Wiig. I wasn't expecting him to be in it so his appearance was a relief frankly, and by the end my heart leapt a little whenever he appeared on the screen.

There were a few laugh out loud moments for me and my mum so it must have been funny it parts. But to be honest they were mostly from Chris O'Dowd's character.

There were also some more cringeworthy comedy moments including a breakdown chocolate fondue flinging moment and then it finished off as it had begun with a very different, but just as awkward, sex scene. It had the added extra of being revolting.

The audience seemed to to find it funny. And they all went "aaaaah" in unison when andrex puppies were shown wearing bow ties. Obviously the film makers knew what they were doing then. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nice to go out with mum though. Next time we'll read the reviews more closely before we go...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Wasps

I thought I heard an ominous buzzing in our roof space before we went away on holiday and had half convinced myself that we would come home to an infestation. In fact by the time we came home there was no buzzing. Obviously that particular wasp didn't think we had the right sort of conditions to set up home.

Then on Wednesday a daughter of my friend was stung in our garden and I noticed a wasp nest under our neighbour's guttering. There is a serious amount of wasp activity.

The following morning Paul woke up with a wasp in his ear at 5am. Frankly it was rather disconcerting for him.

So I went round to tell the neighbours about the nest, but I doubt they will deal with it. They are in an upstairs flat and since they hadn't noticed and have no garden it's not a big concern for them. Plus it's a very dull thing to spend your money on.

What to do then? Oh yes the Internet. Paul looked and discovered two things about wasps:

1. Wasps are a bit slow. If you hang a blown up paper bag somewhere they will be fooled into thinking it's another wasp nest temporarily and leave that area alone. I was at a show today situated next to a cupcake stall so was preparing myself for a wasp onslaught. Then I remembered about the bag. I figured it wouldn't hurt to try out the theory, at the very least it would stop Paul going on about it. Bizarrely it seemed to work almost instantly. From loads of wasps, to one or two. After about three hours they came back. Paul said we should have moved the bag at this point as they might be slow but they aren't stupid and work out pretty quickly it's a fake. Who knew?

2. The only predators you can introduce to deter wasps are...badgers. So a few problems there then. Paul's first concern was how to to get the badger into the attic in case the wasps did decide to move in here. Then he was concerned about how to get it to leave since badgers have no known predators. Based on a previous run in with a badger in our back garden there is no chance Paul would be chasing it down the stairs.

I'm more concerned with how we are going to get the badger to float up to the neighbour's bathroom window.

I know my uncle has purchased a fake wasp nest. I'm going to make do with paper bags and move them around the garden every couple of hours. Well obviously I won't be doing that but I'll put one up when we're eating outside. And I'll look sternly at the wasp nest every day and see if I can make them feel uncomfortable.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Day Seven

Friday was a beautiful day. We made it out of the tent early, didn't attempt to go anywhere further than Whitby and spent hours on the beach making ambitious naval projects out of sand. We also buried the girls in the sand a lot. It took about a week to get all the sand out of their ears afterwards.

In the afternoon we went back into Robin Hoods Bay to the museums. Tilly then finally understood what smuggling was and spent some time smuggling stuff in and out of the tent.

So the end of the holiday was nigh and Paul had sourced cava from a more orthodox route. I imagined another evening watching the sunset sipping cava.

In actuality I spent most of the evening swigging cava out of a red plastic mug on my own while Paul joined in a game of 3andahalf-a-side football...with three boys age 3 to 6 and two other dads (one with a limp so Paul fitted right in). I wasn't sure that football on an uneven field with long grass whilst wearing crocs was wise but he didn't sustain further injury.

It was a classic jumpers for goal posts pitch. Apparently you can still have offside in this kind of environment. And Paul is the Hooks House Farm Peter Crouch. I confirmed that, just like Peter, Paul can't dance either.

The goalie on Paul's side was three and was reminded every four minutes not to bite his nails. He was still giggling despite being 8-2 down. This was my kind of football match. Towards the end he lay down in the goal and went to sleep.

I let Paul have one mug of cava before we called it a night. Paul says he gets what the fuss about camping is about now. And I remember the whole point of it all.

As if all this positivity wasn't enough we managed to get up early and pack the last bag in the car as the torrential rain just began. We drove home without getting stuck or lost and made it back in time for a farm birthday party. Sometimes it just works. I am glad I've written all this out so I can remind myself in years to come that summer holidays aren't always damp.

Day Six

We aimed to walk from the campsite to Boggle Hole and back on day six. We had bought and eaten cake within the first fifteen minutes. Well you never know how long it will be till the next cake shop on a trek.

Then we filled Paul's pockets with fossils again as we walked along the beach. In the Boggle Hole Youth Hostel Phoebe spotted a friend from playgroup. I thought she was just befriending children again as she tends to do, but turns out she was right and I then met her mum and dad and arranged a play date for the girls the following week. A bit bizarre.

Turns out Tilly doesn't believe in boggles. She still seems happy with the tooth fairy and Father Christmas thankfully. I thought that was going to be a tricky conversation walking along the cliff top.

We had extortionate but delicious fish and chips for lunch. Which was then slightly spoilt by us seeing frozen Russian fish being delivered afterwards.

In the evening I put the girls to bed while Paul went on a training expedition. Well he went to try and buy wine and ended up at the bottom of Robin Hoods Bay surreptitiously buying a bottle through the window of a pub snug. But he did walk downhill one way and uphill back.

I personally definitely believe in boggles. I reckon it was a boggle that arranged the sun over the sea, orange sunset and rainbow to end our day.

Day Five

We are always early for everything. Early rising children tend to do that to you. While camping they still rise early but for some reason today we couldn't manage to leave the campsite before 10.30...along with every other beach bound holiday maker. So day five started badly.

Tilly wanted to go to the folk museum but I had insisted on the beach. So we attempted to get to Runswick Bay. We failed to park so went back to Sandsend. Then failed to park so went back to Whitby and after I'd stopped the steam coming out of my ears we had a nice hour on the beach.

Then we set off the car again to the folk museum at Hutton-le-Hole, which was of course where Tilly had wanted to go in the first place.

The folk museum was lovely, full of period houses for the kids to explore. Plus the blacksmith made Tilly her own nail to take home.

We read "You Choose" by Nick Sharratt last night and there's a page where you have to pick what job you'd choose. She said hers wasn't on there as she wants to be someone who makes nails. So she had to pick a hairdresser instead. But I digress.

Anyway it turned out to be a lovely day and I shall listen to my five year old for planning advice in the future.

The kids went to bed even later that night. I was a bit concerned that if the bedtime kept shifting at this rate they would soon be going to bed after us. I must remember to teach Tilly how to operate the dishwasher.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Day Four

We went into Whitby on Tuesday and did more seaside things including going out on the old lifeboat and seeing porpoises. Well Paul saw the tail of one. I didn't since I was too busy reassuring Phoebe that she was't going to fall in. We also went to the paddling pool to make use of the inflatable turtle and around the somewhat bizarre Wizard Science Museum (whose proprietor reminded me strongly of the unusual volcano guy we met in Iceland).

On returning to the campsite we bumped into a friend of mine from Sheffield who was unexpectedly camping on the same site as us. She has girls a similar age to ours so the evening was spent watching them play whilst drinking home brew and Lidl lager with her and her husband. Now there's a recipe for a hangover.

During the evening I explained Paul's plan to climb three peaks in 48 hours. The impact of this statement was a little undermined since Tim has already done this, but in 24 hours. Paul tried not to feel disheartened and we did explain how few mountains Paul has climbed so far in his life, his enlarged ankle and his love of programming. He looked suitably impressed then and suggested steep road in Sheffield for him to walk up and down.

Bedtime was getting interesting. The girls had seemingly decided to sleep on the floor instead of the mattress. Ironic really since Paul's side of our airbed had now developed a slow puncture and by the end of the night he was practically on the floor with me sleeping four inches higher than him. I didn't think it was reasonable to commandeer their mattress.