Monday, 27 January 2014


Well this post has been a long time coming, since we actually bought the beloved fish tank back in May last year. Make of this delay what you will, but I think it's because it hasn't exactly been my favourite thing in the world.

Let's be honest, when you think of a tropical fish tank you think 'calming and relaxing'. I have yet to find any of our pets calming and relaxing. What they have added to our lives compared with the stress, cost and inconvenience they cause, pretty much leaves us with negative equity.

So fish then.

Firstly you have to spend a lot of money and several days of your life that you won't get back researching the right tank, the right equipment and the right fish.

Then you take your daughter to the pet shop excited with the possibility of buying fish, only to find that it's not allowed yet. Instead you let her buy a number of gaudy tank ornaments that make the empty tank, as my husband put it, "look like a unicorn vomited in it".

For a week you can watch an empty tank while your five year old pretty much loses interest in the whole idea.

The tank buzzes. This is not a calming noise but an irritating one and suggests we should have bought a different tank, for which you curse Google. The buzzing volume increases at 10pm every night and you can find no reason for this. You cannot send it back because it is now full of water and if you start again it will be Christmas by the time you actually own a fish.

Eventually you are allowed to buy fish, but inevitably the internet was wrong and you choose the wrong ones. You let your children name them. The fish bully each other and quite quickly die. Apart from one miserable unattractive one (sorry fish) who sits on the bottom of the gravel and doesn't move much. He will live on past any more beautiful fish you try to purchase. You feel guilty.

You buy more fish and wisely decide not to name them this time. Some live, some die - you find one sticking out of the filter (so you stand in the way of the tank while you ask your daughter to check on the rabbits instead).

You work hard changing the water (which is frankly much more of a faff than Google suggested) and cleaning the tank. You mess with pH levels and water temperatures. You use holiday blocks for weekends away but daren't leave the house too long in case they don't work and more fish die, this time of starvation.

Eventually everything seems right. More fish are purchased and they stay alive and make the tank look attractive. Well if you ignore the multicoloured rainbow, beach bar and pink gravel.

One of the new fish takes the post of barman at the beach bar and two move into the castle. Apart from the buzzing all is well.

Then begins the curse of the snails. You didn't buy snails and yet they appear everywhere. Teeny tiny ones that you remove with difficulty and yet they multiply when you next look round.

But it's ok. I've said "you" a lot in this entry, when in fact I mean "my husband". He had tropical fish as a child and he has very kindly taken on the whole thing. He has the patience of some kind of fish tolerant saint.

I feel a little guilty about my lack of involvement. But not guilty enough to go and fill a bucket.

So Paul, thank you honey. You are doing a sterling job. It's quite pretty really. And at least fish don't require injections and operations and aren't gnawing their tank to pieces...

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Brownie Holiday

Well I'm not sure I would have been as enthusiastic about the idea of staying in Whiteley Woods in the pouring January rain, but maybe that's the ravages of age making me negative. Certainly Tilly seems to have been fairly taken with her first Brownie weekend away. The details are a bit sketchy but, from anecdotal and physical evidence, we have established the following:

1. I needn't have eaten the yoghurt as the yoghurt pot met an untimely demise early on in proceedings so she was given a new one. It was a Petit Filous.

2. I should have searched harder for the date she had a tetanus jab since she managed to be the only child to hurt herself on a barbed wire fence. She cried but was relieved the horse had sneezed in someone else's face and not hers.

3. She was the first to go to sleep on both nights, at 10pm and 9pm respectively. Which may be why she was asleep tonight by 6.55.

4. The £5 was spent "unwisely" by some on nothing but sweets, and "wisely" by Tilly on a packet of Flumps, a pottery squirrel and a cuddly toy. Yet another cuddly toy. I think I'd have preferred her to buy flying saucers.

5. The thoughtful panda book I so lovingly hid in her pyjamas as a treat confused her entirely and she didn't think it was hers. It's currently in lost property.

6. She had a banana for breakfast. Which is odd because she doesn't like bananas. Mind you I used to like Weetabix on Guide camp and it didn't taste the same at home.

7. It's tricky to make conkers and grass stick on paper plates.

8. She can be a effective waitress, cook and washer upper. I'm currently writing the kids a rota.

9. Reverse tie dying neckerchiefs is harder than you think.

10. It is inadvisable to try roasting marshmallows over a candle.

11. They walked, they played and they ate ice cream in January. Which she thought was barmy.

12. Brownie leaders still do inspection. I'm thinking of introducing bedroom inspection as a way to earn pudding.

So overall she had a good time I think. She managed to come home with almost everything that she took with her (apart from the book obviously) and a sleeping bag that belongs to someone else.

The negatives? She was a bit stressed that she still has homework to do, and has spent some time lamenting how she doesn't feel like she's had a weekend. Which is pretty much how grown ups feel all the time but I'm not sure saying that would have been helpful.

Since coming home she has played Lego with her dad, done some cartwheels, played cuddly woodland animal tea parties with her sister, eaten carbonara, watched The Voice (she was too tired to press her cushion button) and fallen asleep in five minutes flat, after a huge number of hugs and reassurances that she will see me more from now on.

It's quite nice to be appreciated and to know that, despite her enthusiasm, she isn't in too much of a hurry to grow up just yet. I'm proud of my independent girl but next time she goes away I'm going to come too.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Switch Off Week

My eldest daughter, aged 7,  has gone to bed after coming up with this plan (one of many) to save the earth. Could you share this blog entry and join in next week to make her day?

Thank you x


It's 7.30 in the evening and I have just been to the supermarket to buy a single Longley Farm yoghurt and a box of cornflakes. I am a committed mother.

At home we have located most of what we need including a pair of waterproof trousers (somewhat short in the leg), an old top (that really isn't that old but what is when you are seven and grow out of clothes after about three months),  a working torch (miracle), a purse containing £5 to spend on sweets and crisps (seriously £5 - I'd buy fruit salads...500 of them), and the ingredients to make fairy cakes tomorrow (because apparently shop bought ones won't cut it).

And why? Because it's brownie holiday this weekend. And my eldest daughter is going away from home for two nights. Don't, I might cry.

They are travelling to the wilds of...well Sheffield. And indulging in activities that include the need for a yoghurt pot of specific proportions and a cereal box. No I don't know either. I only know I need to eat a rhubarb yoghurt at some point this evening.

The whole going away from home thing is freaking me out a bit. She is extremely enthusiastic which manages to be a hugely positive thing (isn't she grown up and brave) and at the same time wholly unacceptable (since she was only born about five minutes ago).

Despite her enthusiasm she has encountered "future home sickness" twice this week already. This is a phenomenon that most people would refer to as "worrying" or perhaps "butterflies", but she does like to make up her own medical conditions.

Well to counter the overwhelming sense of guilt I feel at letting her go (in-spite of the fact that she actually wants to) I bought other things in the supermarket. Including a new pair of age 7-8 pyjamas, some stripey socks and a twee novel with a panda on the front to hide in her suitcase. It doesn't make me feel much better but at least I won't be worrying about her wondering naked through the room having had a onesie popper malfunction. And it might just make her smile....or cry. Oh shit I didn't think of that. Maybe I'll show her the book in advance.

Ok, I'm off to eat a yoghurt. And some cornflakes.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Everyone I know will vouch for the fact that I have never run out of things to say before. It seems unlikely then that this is the reason for me being so quiet on the blog front.

I did briefly wonder whether the surgeon removed something else during my op, but I'm fairly sure she didn't go anywhere near my brain. So no-one else to blame then. Just my own state of mind.

I've been thinking it over for the last few days and I think it's more to do with pin numbers. Now, now, hear me out...

Obviously we all know we only have the capacity to remember a certain number of pin numbers. Add another in, like for example the door code at work, and either I simply cannot remember the door code and fail to access the staff room on a daily basis, or I lose the ability to pay for things by credit card. My brain simply cannot allow both (stick with me on this.)

So I think this is what has happened to me with my writing. After my op (when I sat on my arse for several weeks and did very little but write - and eat chocolate), I had to get back to normal. Which was hectic - even more so than usual because I was back to work (including an immediate need to remember more numbers and a password my brain had ejected when I signed up to a new forum about rabbits).

And of course it was pre Christmas.

I love Christmas. But if I had been blogging my run up to Christmas would not have been joyous descriptions of relaxed family snowdome making and the joys of ice skating. I'd have been lamenting having to bake umpteen dozens of fairy cakes, buy umpteen difficult presents and attend umpteen children's activities (including one which I didn't really understand).

That plus work and home and something gave. And that something was the writing bit. Which is the bit I do for me. So that's a bit sucky. But not altogether surprising.

If I am being painfully honest one other thing happened which involved me submitting a short play to a competition and being knocked back. Not exactly surprisingly - I mean I'm no Alan Ackbourn - but I was a bit gutted. So I stopped for a bit. Not consciously you understand but stopped none the less.

Although I still think it's the pin number theory.

So now it's nearly February and I am only just picking up my laptop (well for anything more than browsing the internet). Of course I meant to get back to it in January, but the extended delays are probably down to me coping with doing stuff at home and work and spending most of my evening hours banging my head down on the keyboard and swearing at Trip Advisor (I mean how can something be the top thing in the world ever and still given one star reviews?). But I've booked a holiday now so I have spare time on my hands.

Perhaps you have seen this gap as positive. No wittering to read. No inevitable posts about new year's resolutions and vomit. Well all I can say is brace yourselves. I'm back. Hopefully.