Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Planning

It's all a bit odd this work thing. Especially since I don't start my new job for nearly five weeks. So my intention is to grasp these last weeks of freedom with both hands. Quite why I'm sat in the office typing blog entries then I'm not sure.

Things I need to do before starting work:

1. Organise Phoebe's party and birthday presents. Apparently she wants fish. Our house is turning into a pet shop.

2. Finish my children's novel. I just have to work out how they find the dragon and get on with it. Just to say I have.

3. Arrange very exciting lovely things to do in half term. Oh boy do I feel guilty that I'm not going to be around as much in the holidays.

4. Paint decking and garden furniture. Dull, dull, dull but necessary. And I refuse to spend weekends doing it once I start work.

5. Filing and shredding. This has the added benefit of providing bedding for rabbits but it's still excruciatingly boring.

6. Planting and sorting out the garden in general. Of course I could just let the rabbits out to eat the plants which would make weeding less necessary.

And self indulgence since I can now justify this:

1. Spa trip with my best friend.

2. See Pesky and Nicky and lots of other lovely ladies lots while I can still drink coffee and shop.

3. Some gym time. I'm trying to see this as an indulgent thing despite actually still hating exercise. But if I can lose a bit of weight and get fitter before Abby's wedding that would be marvellous.

4. Try and write a play. I have something I can submit for and want to do it.

There. It feels like I should take advantage of the time more. Any ideas?

Monday, 29 April 2013

A Job

I've bitten the bullet and last week I was offered a job. It's in HR, which is allegedly my specialist subject, but this time an administration role. I wanted something that used my skills and experience but that would fit around the girls and this fits the bill. Plus they want me which helps.

It seems like a good place to work - a place with heart and one that's held in high regard. The people seem lovely and the hours are good.

This is a positive thing. But it is also a very challenging thing.

Emotionally I instantly feel guilty. I gave everything up to be a stay at home mum and I don't regret a moment of it. Everyone has to choose their own path and this was mine and I'm proud of it. This change is a significant one.

Me not being home in the holidays worries me. The girls, especially the little one, might be upset or angry. They might not, but guilt is the big thing about parenting isn't it?

And then there's the fact that we will have to be more organised. The house and chores have to be better than this because I'm not going to be around in the day to deal with it. Everyone will have to have roles. I wonder if rabbits are any good at hanging washing out.

I don't want to make things harder for anyone and it inevitably will change things. But it should also mean a bit more money coming in for those more exciting holidays (I love Whitby but one day I will get to Venice...) and the new windows and carpet we still need.

And more than all of this, it means I have a clearer sense of purpose in the day. I can do something really useful and be around new people. My brain can get a much required workout.

I'm looking forward to it, and yet I still feel the prickle of tears when I think about it. I've loved being at home with the girls and now it's not going to be the same any more. Change is a good thing. But the tears are inevitable.

Rabbit Rabbit

Oh my it's been a long time since I've typed anything. It's as if I can't do it when my head is so filled up with other things. Anyway all the other things are moving over to make room so it's time I caught up, in no particular order.

Get ready to go aaaaah. We have baby rabbits. Well ten week old ones anyway. One is called Betsy, the other has been through a couple of personality disorders but is now called Petal. Currently.

I'm not big on furry things to be honest. We had the school hamster home one weekend and I refused to touch it, frightened it would bite me (because that would have meant a trip to a&e surely), run up my cardigan sleeve or disappear under the piano for three weeks. Or die spontaneously. But then hamsters are a bit odd aren't they? They only live for about five minutes and they are awake at night. The wheel rattling noise would be a bit annoying if you were trying to watch 'Endeavour' in the other room.

I had goldfish when I was little. I remember clearly winning the first one at the fair (is that even allowed nowadays?). I loved them but they didn't exactly do much.

We also had a tortoise allegedly, not that I can remember him to be honest. He has become the stuff of legend. The tortoise who arrived in our garden one day without a word and disappeared a while after while Dad was digging in the rhubarb patch. I like to think he is a bit like the 'Littlest Hobo' and went off to help a family in distress. It's more comforting than any other soil related possibilities.

But I digress.

So we didn't have rabbits. I suppose there was a little part of me that would have liked a more substantial pet than a goldfish and maybe that is why I didn't say no when Tilly asked for a rabbit for her birthday.

Our rabbits are gorgeous. Fluffy, friendly (so far) and extremely cute. They chill me out when I'm mardy and I'm hoping they provide the girls with two pairs of large listening ears when ours won't do.

I am also hoping they will help overcome Phoebe's phobia of animals and so far that seems to be the case as she interacting with them loads. She'd still rather walk into the road than go past a dog though so we have some way to travel on that one...

I recognise that I will undoubtedly be the one cleaning them out for most of their lives, but that's ok. I'm used to a bit of mess. The fondness I have for them so quickly has surprised me a little. It's a lovely feeling.

Not so lovely is the fact that I saw a fox walking down our road in broad daylight. In the space of a week I have gone from thinking foxes fabulous to never wanting to see one again.

So far the only real negative I can see to having rabbits is the cost. We've already spent a small fortune. And I suppose there is also the fact that we are inevitably going to have to increase the size of their run to take over most of the garden. On the plus side they are excellent lawnmowers.

Having two new family members more than makes up for the cost. Just please don't let them die anytime soon, and when they do please let it be quietly and calmly in their old age.

Right now I'm off to give them a hug and to talk them through my anxiety over starting a new job (of which more later).

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Eight Went to Palma - and back

And then it happened. It was time to go home. We all made it to the airport in time and onto the plane. which was ironic because several of us wouldn't have actually minded staying there a bit longer - it's more appealing than Manchester airport.

On the plane the theme of me and food continued as the flight attendant apologised profusely for the fact that most of the food had been eaten on the outbound flight. Genius. That'll be another chocolate muffin then.

Emma drove us back to Sheffield then Valda took me home where I was met by my beautiful girls leaping up and down. They had drawn a chalk sign on the pavement and I then had a cup of tea while I watched their swing show in the garden. It was nice to feel missed and so lovely to see them and Paul or course.

Ok so it had an unorthodox start, but other than that this was such a fantastic weekend away. I have made lovely new friends and Abby had a great girly send off. And I am still hide and seek champion so it's a win all round.

Thanks girls.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Eight Go to Palma - More

Day three and we went on the train to Soller through mountains and orange and lemon groves. Beautiful. Of course that was after we lost four of our party for ten minutes but we were getting used to it by then.

Getting there was lovely, as was lunch by the harbour and the ice cream. I did wish I could do it all again with the kids but I didn't feel guilty - it was just fab.

The journey back was less fun because the train was packed. A lady in front of me and Nic didn't take too kindly to us having the window open and we didn't want to fight a Spanish pensioner so we just sweltered a bit instead.

That night we had more larks in the room before setting off and our intention of an early night looked unlikely. Abby had her heart set on a particular restaurant so we wondered about trying to find it for a while in streets where men tried repeatedly to sell us dancing toy donkeys. We walked around in circles so many times they were actually taking bets between themselves as to whether we would be back again in a minute. Money exchanged hands when we did.

Nicky was brilliant. She knows Palma well and tried her level best to summon the restaurant Abby had in mind despite limited description. "It has palma ham hanging in the window and barrels". After Nicky produced her second wrong restaurant with palma ham and barrels it seemed unlikely we would ever find it. Then we did, hooray! But it was full and we couldn't get a table.

Man was I hungry by this point. We entered another restaurant and were given free drinks while we waited. I had a funny turn. Christ I'm middle aged.

Fortunately I then got to eat my body weight in olives and bread. And oddly lamb and chips. Nice though, even if it was the middle of the night ...




Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Eight go to Palma - the next bit

Day two arrived and we spent the morning by the pool. Most were attempting to go brown, I was attempting to avoid clashing with my hair colour. Some hotel guests seemed to be burning on the top of sun burn which made me want to shout at them or at the very least throw them in the swimming pool but I restrained myself.

It was then that I realised why I'm a bit different to other holiday makers. Well in addition to the ginger thing.

I need to eat. A lot. And often. I recognise other people don't have to, or don't want to, but my family spend a lot of time steering me towards food if I start to get grumpy. I found a soulmate in Jo who agreed first that lunch was definitely in order and the result was the loveliest meal of the weekend I think - paella by the harbour in the sunshine. Beer, laughs and seafood - perfect.

Not long after this my room mate Jane appeared (she'd had a terrible migraine) and we all headed into Palma for a mooch. It's a beautiful place.

In the evening Valda did a Mr and Mrs quiz for Abby which was great fun. Frankly we were very reserved about the whole thing. My nun's constume hadn't fitted in the hand luggage.

That night we went to a jazz restaurant. It was late by the time we ate (I got rather drunk instead of angry thankfully). We did a lot of laughing. There was dancing from Jo, some hide and seek and general larking about. Back at the hotel Valda did a Snow White impression and some tonic exploded. It was one of those nights. Valda and Nicky decided to run up the stairs to the theme tune from Rocky, and then Nicky did a headstand. Unfortunately my thighs wouldn't allow me to participate (that was the only reason, honest) but I did climb under a coffee table. My mother would be so proud.

Just to remind you all we are responsible adults.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Eight Go to Palma. Eventually. - Day One

Now those of you who know me know that I don't go away from the girls. I've had two individual nights away in eight years. So a weekend hen do to Palma was always going to be a challenge for me. It seemed like such a good idea at the time I said yes. The opportunity to get away in the sunshine with lovely people and have fun. Then as it got closer I have to say I was wondering how I would cope. It seemed too self indulgent and too wrenching all at the same time.

What it turned out to be was flipping brilliant. And crikey did it have it's moments. It's a play waiting to be written.

I somewhat foolishly started a new exercise class the night before we left. I am extremely unfit, and the exercise class was extremely hard. As a consequence, seven hours later when I was sitting in the back of Emma's car driving over Snake Pass in the dark my thighs did not really appreciate the route we had chosen. Every right and left bend was a challenge. I made it very clear then and there that I would be doing no running of any sort in the next few days.

We got to security and Jo dropped her boarding card down the machine rollers. It took quite some "excuse me"ing and a man with a grabby stick to solve that problem. But then things stopped being quite so funny. Three of our party had their hand luggage messed about with at security to such an extent that they didn't make it through in time for the plane. It was ironic really since we looked the least threatening of any hen or stag do in the queue due to a complete lack of sashes, "amusing t-shirts" and drunk party members. To say the girls were frustrated and upset is somewhat of an understatement. I can't imagine what it would have been like.

Meanwhile Valda and I were running through the airport like something possessed. I didn't even have time to consider the irony of my running related comments in the car. I seriously thought we could maybe hold the plane or something, like we were V.I.P.s. We couldn't. It took off.

Emma had made it to the plane first and had been sitting there was a few minutes wondering if she was going on her own to Palma. She was the only passenger to audibly cheer when we got on. The rest tutted and raised their eyes skywards. 

The three of us felt so terrible. It shouldn't have been us on the plane. It should have been all of us, but most importantly it should have been Abby. A hen do without her? Well it wouldn't be a hen do.

Of course it didn't help that I hadn't mentally actually registered any of the information required to go on holiday, like what the hotel was called and where it was. Thankfully Valda and Emma had more of a clue than me and we felt sure we could find the hotel since we had half the name of of the hotel and knew it was "on the main drag". So we bravely got on a bus. (Valda is thankfully very good at this stuff. If it had been me I'd have been in a right tizz.)

The bus driver decided he didn't speak English. Apart from the number '2'. This and his gesticulation that this was the right bus to be on gave us bags of confidence.

We got on and immediately got separated by a large number of people. I was a little concerned but fortunately had sat next to a Palma experienced English woman who I proceeded to regale with tales of us having lost half our party already. Fortunately she could help and we got off at the right stop having probably made her day with stories to tell for the whole weekend to come.

And then we waited. We ate something and sat by the pool. The others took lots of clothes off and moved their sunloungers to make sure the sun continued to shine on them. I simultaneously moved mine into the shade. You've got to love being ginger.

Jane arrived and we chatted and waited some more. Finally Abby, Jo and Nic arrived and everyone felt a sense of relief since it was the point of the whole weekend. And no-one would want a hen do in Manchester airport.

We drank wine. We accidentally ordered tequila for the hen, which we all saw again quite quickly after. Then we had a lovely dinner and met up with the last of our party Nicky who had flown from another airport, with whom I share a mutual respect for the Archers. There was food, too much booze and lots of laughs. The hen weekend had really begun.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Big Girl

Right what next? On to my eldest daughter's birthday party.

This year Tilly wanted a cooking party for her seventh birthday and I was lucky enough to get in touch with George from Discovery Kitchen.

George came and helped ten girls to make their own dinner. They began by making the pizza dough in pairs and getting gloriously sticky.


After that they were given knives. Well it's hard to prepare fruit kebabs without them, but I have to say this was the only part when I had an overwhelming urge to shut my eyes entirely. Fortunately it was only the fruit that got chopped to pieces. Thank goodness George had it covered.

They then iced fairy cakes and threw silver balls all over the floor.

Finally the pizzas were made and the girls ate all their creations in a big feast.


I had considered doing this party myself. I'm so glad I didn't. Sometimes getting a professional in is the only way. I got to keep my sanity, all the children's digits intact and a calm and happy party and birthday girl. Brilliant.

It was only when all ten girls went outside to play afterwards that it got a bit hairy. At least one had a seesaw related incident and we lost several garden toys over the wall. The girls didn't seem to mind though and I sent Paul round to collect the lost things later. It's always nice to see the neighbours.

At the end I brought out the disastrous cake I'd made that tasted a bit dodgy but looked quite a lot like a panda. Of which Tilly said "It's good. It's better than I could do Mummy". I'm taking that as a compliment and conveniently forgetting the fact that she's seven...


Sunday, 7 April 2013

Conkers

We stayed in a McDonald's hotel this weekend with clubcard vouchers which made the whole thing much more like a proper holiday. Once we'd managed to prise Tilly away from the Danish pastries this morning we decided to visit Conkers on the way home.

Conkers is essentially a nature reserve around a lake with adventure playground sections, a discovery centre and activity sessions. We were so stunned it was actually warm we were desperate to go outside so it worked really well.

It wasn't busy which was a surprise and meant we could get on the train, have fun in the playground and generally do what we wanted to do. We even stumbled across Ranger activities and we built our first family fire ever, and we didn't even need to brush snow off the sticks. We came away with matted marshmallow/chocolate biscuit hair and an aroma of woodsmoke. Fun though.

The only thing I didn't quite understand is the discovery centre itself. It has an indoor play area which wasn't bad apart from being extremely dark and having more than one section which made the girls scream (in a bad way). I mean why have a scary spider jumping out at you just past the woodland fairies perched in a tree? Talk about catching a six year old off guard. Also I understand that it was about nature but I was pleased it was only me that saw the footage of the decomposing rat.

All in all it was a great weekend. I like having a five and seven year old. They are decidedly fun and enjoy the Voice as much as I do. Which reminds me it's Tilly's birthday in three days. I'd better work out how to ice a panda cake...




Cadbury World

If I'd have thought it through I'd have insisted a bit more strongly that the hairdresser cut more of Tilly's hair off. I've just spent quite some time washing out the marshmallow and chocolate.

This weekend we thought the kids hadn't had enough chocolate and went to Cadbury World.

I have to say it was pretty good really. The only negative was that the actual factory wasn't running so we didn't see chocolate being made or packaged which we think is pretty poor. It would have made the whole thing mean more to small people. But other than that we had a great day.

The whole place is a bit random. The first section - well, think Yorvik for cacao. Then there was a sort of social history section where someone did an uncanny impersonation of Dame Edna while dressed as a nineteenth century aristocrat. After that we learnt about how chocolate is made and the seats shook us about. Add one small car ride through dancing beans, a decent playground and a magic monkey and you are pretty much there.  Honestly it was only chocolate we'd been consuming.

The most interesting bit for us grown ups was a toss up between reliving 1980s advertisements ("A finger of fudge is just enough...) and learning about Mr Cadbury's Quaker ideals and the community he created around the factory with a village called "Bournville". I genuinely had forgotten or maybe never knew and it was frankly fascinating. He let women learn to swim in work time (I have no idea why but how brilliant).

He even moved a tudor manor house into Bournville to save it. So we added a bit of historical culture into the day too and the girls tried on armour and played quoits. It's a lovely place especially in the sunshine.

The worst bit of the day was Tilly discovering that wine gums do not go with melted chocolate. She bit her own tooth and a bit of screaming and increased wobbliness ensued. But nothing that a bar of dairy milk wouldn't solve. Which was good because we'd been given four curly wurlies, four bars of dairy milk and four crunchies before lunchtime...