For my sins, once every couple of years or so, I produce and direct our Village Pantomime.
And this year it was time to do it again.
And so we sat down and sort of wrote a play called 'She Ain't No Cinderella' back in March, and then sort of wrote a bit more in April. And carried on doing that during the Summer Months, until... hey presto! A play was born.
Everyone in the village was very excited (we don't get out much) about the new Panto, and our meeting in September to 'gauge interest' was an enormous success with hundreds of villagers clamouring to be in it. (Exaggeration needed as 25 villagers sounds rather dull).
And when we started to rehearse in October, all seemed to be going rather swimmingly. Each Scene had someone in charge who would report back to me how it was all going.
In November I managed to visit various scenes and do my best to make some sense out of the somewhat baffling scenes some people had concocted. (Eight Sugar Plum Fairies, four of which were men)
In December we had big rehearsals for all the cast, taking place at the venue where the play would be performed on the 20th and 21st December.
And finally, on December 15th, we held our Dress Rehearsal! All too exciting!
The next day the stage was built, the lights were going up; it was all going wonderfully!
That afternoon I was sitting comfortably having my hair cut, while Middle Son reclined on the sofa in the sitting room, recovering from Pneumonia. Hadn't I mentioned that? Or the fact that I was covering at work for a colleague who had had an operation? Or that I had done no Christmas shopping owing to sick children and colleagues? No? Oh, well. Suffice it to say that I had been a tad Busy.
No, not busy.
Frantically, horrendously, tortuously Busy.
And so, sitting in my kitchen while having my hair cut was a total Luxury.
Until the phone rang.
It was Graham, fondly known as Boxy as he was in charge of the Box Office for the Panto.
'Proddy?' he asked.
Yes, I know. Nick names are naff, but we like them, OK?
'Proddy?' he asked. (short for Producer. DO keep up)
'Yes?' I answered in a dreamy kind of way. People fiddling with my hair always makes me go a bit cross eyed.
'Bit of a problem. Our venue for the play doesn't seem to have a Licence for the Entertainment.'
And so began the Nightmare.
Apparently, everyone needs a Licence (french accent) for any Entertainment they might be providing to their unsuspecting audience. And the place where we were setting up for the panto Had No Licence.
I won't bore you with the 'maybe we could put a stage in the barn' or 'what about the pub, could we fit it in there?' or 'Sod it, let's do it in my house' sort of thing.
Because WHEREVER you want to put on a play, even if you WROTE the BLOODY thing yourself, it makes no difference. You have to have an Entertainment Licence. And we Didn't Have One.
After I had had my hair cut and dried, and I had collected Youngest from school, and waited until Daughter was brought back by Very Kind Friend, I went for a walk with Milo, our dog.
And as I walked in this Gale and Downpour I attempted to ring various Village Halls who might have a Sodding Entertainment Licence around and about who might be able to let us perform our weird and wonderful Panto.
No answer. From anyone.
'Leave a message and we'll get back to you in March' sort of thing.
Arrived home battered from rain and hair looking distinctly Uncoiffured.
Message from Dial Post Village Hall. Could I ring Alan Childs.
Yes, I could!
Rang Alan Childs.
Who said, 'Yes, alright, you can have do your Pantomime with a cast of forty five, with a 7 x 4 metre stage for two performances at the end of the week in our village hall.'
'Really?' I asked, a little stunned.
'Yes,' said Alan Childs.
'One thing,' I asked.
'What's that,' he said.
'Have you got an Entertainment Licence?'
'Yes,' he said.
'One more thing,' I asked.
'What's that?' he asked.
'Have you got a drinks licence?'
'Yes,' he said.
At this point I think I told Alan Childs that I loved him and could I have his babies.
Which might have caused a problem as am distinctly menopausal, and have perfectly good Husband who has already provided plenty of rather splendid children.
He took it all in his stride and continued to tell me the 'slight problems' that we might have to sort out.
'Oh?' I asked. Full of optimism that any problems could be sorted. Hadn't we just found ourselves a Village Hall at the eleventh hour?
'Well,' he began. 'You won't be able to have your Dress Rehearsal on the Thursday night because there is Bowling in the hall.
'Oh,' I said.
'And you won't be able to get into the hall until 12.00 midday on Friday because of Badminton.'
'Oh,' I said.
'And you can't go into the hall on the Saturday as there is a party from 1.00 until 6.00. for twenty five four year olds.'
'Oh,' I said.
'And while you are setting up on the Friday, there's an Old People's Lunch in the meeting room.'
'Oh, 'I said.
'And on the Friday night there is also a Bingo Christmas Party in the meeting room where you would be changing, so you'll have to change in the hut outside.'
'Oh,' I said.
'But apart from all that, it shouldn't be any problem at all.'
But do you know, it wasn't! A problem at all.
We went to the village hall the next morning to check that it was going to work with our stage there. Me, Boxy, Chas and Nick. Chas was one of us who wrote the play, and Nick was doing all the sound.
We enthused and cheered as we saw that it Might Actually Flipping Well Work.
We cheered a bit more when we saw the hut where we would all be changing on the First Night.
We cheered again when we saw the immaculate kitchen where we could flog all the drink.
We clapped when we saw the meeting room, where we could change on the Second Night.
We clasped Alan Childs warmly by the hand as we told him how grateful we were.
And then Chas had to ring the Scaffolders who had just spent four hours putting the stage up in the old venue. And ask them if they could they take it down and put it up again in another hall?
'Yes,' they said.
'When?' they asked.
'Friday,' Chas said.
'Fine,' they said.
Honestly, aren't people flipping gorgeous?
Boxy got the lights. Nick sorted the sound. I emailed everyone to say there was No Need To Panic but we weren't in the old venue owing to an Entertainment Licence Absence, and we were now in Dial Post Village Hall. Could anyone help on Friday?
Tsunami of offers back to help on Friday.
The unbelievable kindness was extraordinary. These people are seriously SERIOUSLY nice.
By Friday our stage was up, our lights were up, the sound system was up, our spirits were up, and the doors opened at 6.30 to welcome the first of our audience.
Oh, did I mention that Boxy and his wonderful Wife rang around to make sure that everyone who had bought tickets knew of the change of venue? Or that the stage people took another 4 hours to set up the new stage with not One Cross Word. Just smiles and hard work.
Did I say that the entire cast turned up at the dress rehearsal and calmly got on with it without lights, or a stage? Because we had to practice in our old Venue owing to the Bowling in the new one.
Did I mention the small fact that NONE of us had actually REHEARSED on the STAGE before the actual PERFORMANCE?
The Panto brought the house down. I sat with Boxy who was also doing the lights. (Did I mention the fact that he hadn't been able to practise the chuffing lighting cues until the FIRST PERFORMANCE?)
And while I sat with him, watching his careful moves with the lighting cues, seeing the terrified faces of the cast through the makeshift curtain, hearing Nick behind us muttering about the next sound cue, doing everything PERFECTLY, watching Scene One as it started, the Ugly Sisters (Husband was one... black wig and lipstick....) and Pantomime Cow (as you do) doing their utterly crazy but hilarious Scene, I felt SO proud of my wonderful, mad, generous DEAR cast. .
That can be told on Monday that their entire play was to be moved to another venue. And to carry on with all changes so calmly and with such good humour.
We added a bit to the play. At the last minute. Simon, our Village Tenor (has the voice of an angel, so does his wife Sarah) started the play by becoming a member of the Horsham District Council,. and demanded to know it we had a Licence for the Entertainment. Dunno, said Chas (Step Mother). 'Audience, do you call this entertainment?' 'NO!' came a roar from the audience, already somewhat lubricated by the extremely well stocked bar.
Horsham District Councillor was then gagged and 'frogmarched' down the aisle by myself and Mandy (Fairy Godmother).
Brought the house down.
The applause at the end was thunderous. And I looked over at the cast (I was up on that stage as well owing to a small part in Scene 3) and every single one of those darlings was smiling fit to burst, gazing out at their friends and relations who were yelling their appreciation for a fourth curtain call.
And I thought to myself that it doesn't get much better than this.
Because, quite frankly, it doesn't.
Thanks, Cast! Here's to the next one.
And can someone sort out that BLOODY Entertainment Licence before the Dress Rehearsal.
(Exit Producer, followed by Horsham District Councillor with clipboard)
On Saturday we unblocked a drain. It took 7 bamboo sticks, 2 hose pipes, 2 blankets, 1 pair of pyjamas, (don't ask) 12 saucepans and 3 kettles of boiling water, plus half a pot of bicarbonate of soda, a bag of salt, and 5 bolshy and bad tempered Garnetts. That's us, by the way.
Husband was seen after lunch brandishing bamboo sticks, and disappearing up to his neck in the two drains close to our kitchen. Each time I looked out of the kitchen window I could see him, head deep into the drain with his boots sticking out onto the grass.
'What are you doing?' I asked him cheerily as I came out to join him.
'Clearing out the drains,' he said, wiping a rather grimy hand over his hair, leaving small bits of suspicious looking bits in it from the drain.
'Want some help?' I asked, hoping he'd say no.
And so I pulled on a pair of boots, plus a pair of marigolds, and got stuck in, as it were.
Man, it was fun!
There was a blockage between the two manholes (????? sounds rather unpleasant) which needed to be unblocked.
First of all I got a huge bucket of water, and hurled it down the manhole nearest the kitchen. Then I ran to the other manhole to see if the water came out.
Like Pooh Sticks!
Only it didn't. Nothing came out, except the stuff that seemed to be on Husband's hair.
Husband started shoving the hose up the drain. 'Grab it when it comes out!' he yelled, into the bowels of the drain.
'I can see it!' I shouted back into the bowels at my end. As it were. The ground was all wet so grabbed a couple of old blankets and laid them down at each manhole (that word is not getting any less savoury) so we wouldn't get soaking wet. And grabbed the end of the hose and pulled it through. We see-sawed it back and forth with the hose, as Husband instructed, removing rather nasty looking bits of stuff, and then pulled the hose out.
'Let's tie a knot in it and put that through,' says Husband. I look at him to check he's not joking.
He isn't. He is tying a knot in it, but it's in the hose, not anything rude.
Then he carefully shoves that into the drain,and we yell at each other from one end to the other when it comes out the other end, and repeat the see saw thing, and then pull the hose out. Even more stuff comes out!!
'I know,' I say, thinking that I am a perfect natural with drains, and maybe I should be a plumber. 'Let's attach something to the hose, and then pull it through,and that should bring out even MORE stuff!'
'Yes!' agrees Husband, and we carefully attach a pair of my pink pyjamas, long relegated to the 'rags' drawer in the workshop.
And then back the hose goes, into the drain. And we PULL! PULL! PULL!
Only this time there is a wee tiny problem.
It gets stuck.
The hose is straining so much it might actually snap, and there appears to be no way at all that we can get the hose out.
Husband is looking Rather Agitated.
I yell at the children to come and give a hand pulling the damned hose out. And all five of us, (Eldest is in London) have a go pulling the hose.
It is stuck hard.
'I know!' says I.
Husband is not looking very hopeful.
'Let's boil all the saucepans, and the kettle, and pour it down the drain, so that it melts all the nasty fat in the drain!' It appears that the hose can't get through because of huge deposits of fat along the pipe.
So in we go, leaving Husband up to his armpits in the drain, trying to pull bits of fat out.
There's lots of jolly chat about what will work best, and what saucepans we should use, and who will pour them out and what will happen then.
The saucepans finally boil, and out we troop, four of us with brimming saucepans. Back I go to get the kettle. And with a ONE TWO THREE we pour the boiling water down the drain at the same time, and watch with bated breath for a result.
There is no result. Nothing happens. Bugger all.
There is a thin drizzle of rather dark looking fluid that seeps out of the end of the drain.
Husband says nothing but lowers himself again into the drain with a very gloomy expression on his face.
'Let's pull on the hose!' I suggest, and we all have a heave and a ho, but the hose stays resolutely where it was.
'Back we go!' I say, with a forced cheer, 'Let's boil some more saucepans!' And back we go and boil all the saucepans again, this time loading them up with salt and bicarbonate of soda, as someone has read on Google that this is what is needed with fat in drains.
Out we go again, with the four saucepans and the kettle. We all say ONE TWO THREE, and WHOOSH! Down goes the boiling water, and we tear to the other end of the drain and watch with barely suppressed excitement for a result.
There is no result. Nothing happens. Bugger all.
That thin drizzle thing happens again.
Husband looks like Eeyore.
We heave a bit more on the hose. Daughter is convinced she can hear the hose snapping.
'That's not the hose,' says Husband, 'That is my foot.'
'Back we go again!' I say. Children are beginning to grizzle a bit about the repetition of boiling saucepans and kettles and one of them wanders off to watch the telly. Middle Son roars at them to come back.
And so we wait another 7 minutes for the water to boil, and then out we go again.
We aren't very optimistic.
ONE TWO THREE! WHOOSH.... and down goes the boiling water. There is a gurgle and then silence.
'Let's pull the hose!' I shout. My enthusiasm is quite genuine, but I can see that my optimism is not matched by Husband or by children.
We heave. We heave a bit more. And oh JOY, the hose starts to move a little.
Husband starts to shout orders. 'Stop. Start. Pull. Stop.'
Thoroughly confused we stop and start, and then feel the hose REALLY moving. And then, with a slurp and a whoosh, OUT comes the hose, and we all yell and shout with joy.
My poor pyjamas. They are utterly disgusting. Clinging to them are bits of fat and grease.
There is a healthy sound of rushing water, and out comes the most disgusting display of fat and detritus.
'Ewwwww,' we all say, awe at such a revolting sight. And we cheer and dance and pump the air.
And after that we clear all the bamboo sticks and saucepans away, and take Milo for a walk, our patient labrador, who had been watching the entire episode sitting on his haunches, with his beautiful head on one side.
Such fun, as Miranda would say.
Am definitely going to train as Plumber. Clearly very gifted with kettles and boiling water and old pjamas.
Went shopping with Youngest. Started at the Post Office where I had large amounts of Cash to pay in, and where Youngest had brought all his savings, wanting to exchange his twenties, tens and pound coins for lots of £5 notes. This was because he wanted to be able to 'throw them all up into the air'.
As you do.
So we did that, and out came Youngest with £130 worth of £5 notes. I managed to stop him from throwing them all up into the air before we got home, and also managed to get them out of his clutched hands, in case he dropped the damned things.
Into the Pet Shop we went, to get yet more rabbit food. This is clearly for our rabbits, two of them, rescued some years ago for the gasp inducing price of £200. At the Pet Shop they cost £25 each.
Long story, but due to having to have 'inspection' from the Rabbit Rescue Place where we had visited, after our dear old Milly the rabbit had died. We passed this fearful examination. I lived in agony for three days before the Rabbit Lady came, attempting to make our garden a Rabbit haven, and not the Dump Ground it had been for old lawn mowers, rotting furniture and rusting ironware...)
We were then allowed to pick up our rabbits from the Rabbit Centre, which was THIRTY MILES AWAY and then go and get a VAST rabbit cage as our one wasn't big enough.
Husband had very nice colleague at his work who didn't want her old rabbit cage (vast) and so off we went in a Rented Van costing £100 for three days to get the double rabbit hutch from FORTY FIVE MILES AWAY, ditch our old one, plus get the sodding rabbits, who cost £120 as they had been stuffed full of every vaccination possible known to Rabbit-kind, plus a Donation which quite frankly I felt like stuffing up the Rabbit Lady's dungarees.
Anyway, I digress.
So into the pet shop we went today, and while purchasing Said Food, had a conversation about Antlers with the sales lady, as you do.
Dogs rather like chewing the things, and in particular Antlers, and there were a whole lot of the rather sinister looking antlers for sale. Youngest listened earnestly while Sales Lady talked about how strong the necks were on Deer, owing to the Antlers, and how huge the Antlers were, and wasn't it amazing. Clearly we agreed, and after another minute or two about Antlers and Necks and Dogs, we left.
'What next?' asked Youngest, as we dragged the Rabbit Food along the street.
'Co-op,' I said
'No, what's NEXT,' asked Youngest again.
'CO-OP,' said I again, loudly and clearly.
'No, Mummy, what's NEXT?'
This time I think I shouted it. 'CO-OP!!!!'
'No, Mummy, I said, NEXT. What NEXT?'
Oh, my dear Lord Almighty. If I had a choice I might have smashed my aching head against some nice thick concrete and achieved the blessed oblivion of the dead..
But I didn't. Clearly I wasn't getting what Youngest was going on about.
So with an admirable display of Patience and Motherliness I asked him what he meant.
'Next'. He said. 'Next. What next?'
I wondered then about his sanity. 'We. Are. Going. To. The. Co-op.'
Youngest then spoke in Patient Tones as if to a moron. 'Mummy, NECKS. What NECKS?'
Oh, Ker-ist. Necks!! It dawned, finally, like the promise of light at the end of a very long Tunnel.
'You mean the necks, with the antlers?' I ask with barely suppressed excitement.
'Yes!' he replied, 'What necks?'
And with relief and a fair amount of giggling, I explain that they are Deer Necks and very strong.
And with the odd chuckle from both of us, we enter the Co-op and continue our shopping.
Honestly, whatever next.
Oh, deary, deary, me. It's NOT good.
Youngest has done it again.
We were talking about what present to give my friend whose birthday is on Friday. Last year gave her the most enormous pair of pants EVER.
HUGE. SO vast that two grown men can fit, one entire body in each pant. As it were.
Why? Why did I give her enormous pants?
Absolutely no idea.
It is her birthday again, so thinking caps were on, and my three children were all having a thought about what I could give her.
Giant thongs? asked Middle Son, guffawing and spitting out tea.
Youngest giggles hard. Obviously finds that very amusing indeed.
'What's a thong?'
We all spit out our tea again, and try to explain what a thong is. Difficult to keep it clean.
As it were.
Anyway, we all agreed that it's NOT a great idea, not in the grand scheme of things. Thongs.
Big silence while we all think again.
'Giant condom?' asks Daughter, hardly able to get the words out.
After we've all shouted EWWW and told her how disgusting that is, and NO, I WILL NOT buy giant condoms, we all settle down again.
Youngest still giggling. You can see the think bubbles working.
'What's a condom?' he asks, clear voice slicing the quiet air like a knife.
'Well,' I say. 'Um.' I absolutely can't think of a nice, clean way to explain this one.
The other older children looking across at me with grins as wide as the M25. Wondering what on EARTH I am going to say.
Youngest pipes up. 'Is it a Love Bag?'
That's it. We've all had it. Tea, biscuits, spit, all comes out in total hysterical bout of painful laughter. Youngest looking on, all interested and amused that he has caused such a riot.
Middle Son horrified and delighted at the same time. Daughter pealing with laughter and unable to talk, let alone stay on her chair.
'Love bag?' I ask feebly, unable to frame words with mouth that is so wide open in mirth it has stopped functioning as tool for language.
'Yes, is it a Love Bag?' asks Youngest. You could even HEAR the capital letters as he said the words.
It was no good. I couldn't answer as paralysed by hysteria. Gave up. Washed up and ran bath for still giggling Youngest.
And as I did so, mused in confused sort of a way WHY Youngest would come up with Love Bag?? But have to say that it is rather brilliant way of describing said item. New marketing tool?
And so Youngest now believes that condoms are Love Bags and that thongs are pants without a bottom.
Great conversationalist, my kids.
And so my friend's birthday? What will I get her? I thought a nice book and a bunch of flowers.
Am SO not asking my children for any more advice. EVER.
Youngest and Husband are off for on a Rugby Tour today.
Staying in a Caravan for two nights. Not exactly the Dorchester, but should be good fun.
Rugby all day Saturday, and nearly all day on Sunday. Otherwise mucking about with lots of other eight/nine year olds, doing all sorts of eight/nine year old sort of stuff. Kicking balls. Throwing balls. Scratching balls.
Youngest had some worries about Stuff.
I asked him fondly what it was that was worrying him.
'Well,' he 'pondered. 'I think that I am a bit worried about the caravan.'
Well, so am I, my angel. So am I.
'And I think that I am a bit worried about the Pirates.'
It seems that he is a Pirate for the weekend. Has to take some Pirate costume sort of thing.
Husband had come home from work this afternoon, with about an hour to spare before leaving for Rugby Tour, and started to think about what sort of Pirate things they could take.
(he's had about two months to think about what sort of Pirate things they could take.)
He had found two eye patches in a shop. Hooray!
Nothing else. Naught. Nada.
Right. OK then. Time for Motherly Intervention.
And so together we find two spotted handkerchiefs.
'I think Youngest might need something else apart from a spotted handkerchief and an eye patch,' I said, hurling Youngest's pajamas and socks into suitcase.
'No! He'll be fine with this,' says Husband, hurling pajamas and socks into suitcase. His own.
Youngest arrives home from school.
'Daddy is the stupidest daddy in the world,' he tells me as he hurls pajamas and socks into a suitcase. Apparently I had packed it 'all wrong'.
'Why?' I asked, repacking the hurled pajamas as soon as they touched the suitcase.
'Because all I have for a pirate is a stupid hanky and a stupid eye patch.' He scowls at the socks and stuffs in about fourteen t-shirts. I take them out, fold, remove twelve of them, and stuff them back in.
'Better make one then,' I say nonchalantly.
I can feel him staring at me, appalled.
'Yes. Make one. We need a really tatty pair of trousers and we hack them to pieces. Got any?'
His eyes light up, hope shining bright. He searches his room.
'This pair?' and he holds up a longish pair of shorts, hideous shade of goose poo green, and never worn.
Our eyes meet and we grin at each other.
'Come on!' I say, and we TEAR into the kitchen and race over to the scissors.
I grab the orange pair. They cut like a dream, and I start to cut jagged lines up and down the hem line.
Youngest gets really excited and pleads with me for him to have a go. He attempts to make holes in the shorts. I warn him not to have huge holes in the wrong places.
'Or all your friends will see your pants.'
Youngest finds this hysterical, which doesn't particularly help with the cutting.
But we get it done and within five minutes the shorts are tattered and beautifully Pirate like.
'Right. Now all we need is a top with horizontal stripes. WHERE will we find one of those?' I look suitably doubtful, knowing full well there is a top with horizontal stripes sitting in his chest of drawers.
'WAIT!' he shouts and dashes out of the kitchen.
Twenty seconds later he is back. Brandishing the top with horizontal stripes.
'HOORAY!' I shout, and we grin some more.
He tears off his school uniform and puts on the new Pirate costume, along with spotted handkerchief so despised five minutes before.
And with the generous loan of my gorgeous eye liner ready to be applied later to create a suitable moustache, my darling Youngest and Husband are off, grinning like Cheshire cats.
As their car crunches over the gravel I wave and wave. Youngest is waving back, all reservations gone, looking JUST like Jack Sparrow.
Only MUCH more handsome.
I SO love being a mother.
Have fun, Youngest. And don't you DARE lose my eye liner.
Daughter decided to make pudding the other night to welcome Grandmother who was staying with us. She took ages to choose which one, and then eventually went for a Chocolate Swiss Roll.
Goody, we all thought. And left her to it.
From the kitchen came the sounds of cooking and pans being moved about.
We lit a fire in the sitting room. I sat back knowing that the casserole was in the oven, potatoes cooking nicely, and vegetables ready to go when needed.
Delicious smells from the kitchen. And not long later we all sit round the table.
And finally pudding arrives.
Proudly, Daughter places it in the middle of the table, next to the candles. We all stare at it, spellbound. It is beautiful. A chocolate swiss roll, all delicately powdered with icing sugar, cream gleaming from the carefully folded rolls of chocolate sponge.
Youngest stares at it too.
There is a short silence while he thinks.
And then he speaks. Oh, dear God, no...
'Now THAT is exactly the size of Middle Son's poo,' he announces finally, in triumphant tones.
For DAYS he has been trying to describe the size of said Son's poo, viewed with incredulity one morning before school in the downstairs loo.
There is an appalled silence.
And then chaos. I cannot keep in the bellyful of laughter, and heave great wheezing gasps of mirth. Daughter gives out peal after peal of giggles, which makes us all go off again. Middle Son is utterly appalled and then totally pole-axed with laughter. Mother in law goes pink, and then is off herself, giggling helplessly. Husband is seen bend double over his glass of wine. On close inspection he is crying with laughter and cannot sit upright.
And so it continued, for about 3 minutes of solid (do beg your pardon) laughter, until with hiccups and sighs and 'oh dears' we gradually stop.
Husband gallantly takes up knife to serve pudding.
'Right, who wants a piece.'
And we're off again.
Honestly, you really can't take us anywhere.
The clock is ticking. The house is quiet. Everyone is in bed, except me and my mug of horlicks. As I sip at the deliciously creamy warming drink, my socked feet curling up with pleasure, I sigh with the joy of solitude. ALL DAY LONG people have talked and chatted, laughed and giggled. And I have talked and chatted, laughed and giggled back. Lovely. But how lovely too, to be here in my silent sitting room, tapping away on these keys, while the fire crackles and mutters to itself, and the curtains are shut to the cold night air.
NOVEMBER!!!! That's when I last tapped away on my last post. Crikey. A while back.
Christmas. New Year. January. February. Nearly flipping March.
Oh! Just loving the peace.
Had a somewhat trying day yesterday. Mother in law here going off to Malaysia to visit other son. Wanted to wrap up a sword to take on plane to Malaysia.
Husband had kindly bought an ENORMOUS snow boarding case in which to pack sword. About five feet long. Two feet wide.
Sword is two and a half feet long. About eight inches wide.
And so, yesterday afternoon, while the children were at school, and Husband was at work, we stuff the sword into huge yawning space of snowboard case. Stand back.
A bit big. We think.
Mother in law thinks we should bend the snowboard case in half.
I think we should put sword back in car and forget it.
Mother in law suggests binder twine.
I think we should put sword back in car and forget it.
Mother in law suggests putting other things in snowboarding case.
I think we should put sword back in car and forget it.
Mother in law repeats all the above quite a lot of times.
I go to shed. Get the binder twine. Put all sorts of things inside the snowboarding case that Mother in law passes to me. Bend the snowboarding case in half. Sit on it. Put binder twine round the snowboarding case and pull hard at binder twine until snowboarding case is shrivelled to half the size it was. Tie binder twine very hard. Repeat at other end of snowboarding case. Get the label that has disappeared INSIDE the folds of the snowboarding case OUT, having undone half of the binder twine knots I had already tied, and put label back again, this time clearly visible to the naked eye.
Finally, it is done.
Stand back and admire.
Mother in law very pleased.
I wander off to the kitchen, thankful that the complicated exercise is now over. Cup of tea time, I think.
Mother in law wanders in after me.
'I think that I may have left the other travel labels in the snowboarding case.' she says.
Start to unwrap the first bit of binder twine.
Mother in law insists that we don't do that.
But spends the next four hours wondering whereabouts in the snowboarding case her labels are. I know that the labels are NOT in the snowboarding case, as I got to know the inside of the flipping thing very well indeed.
After quite a lot of wandering about and 'I wonder if they might be in here...' sort of thing, finally the labels are found inside her handbag. Hooray! Duty done, I retire to kitchen to make some supper.
Mother in law enters into kitchen.
Could Husband bring into the house the gun cupboard that is in the car, although it might be a Bit Heavy.
Go out to car. Peer through the boot window. In the gloom can see totally MASSIVE gun cupboard lying across the boot, while the back seat is down as the fecking thing is so huge it fills the entire backside of the car. Weights LITERALLY a ton.
Sigh heavily. Want to pound head against cool metal of car until I can't see, hear or think.
Go back inside the house and tell Mother in law that Husband can sort it out when he gets home.
As she starts to worry out loud about the gun cupboard being too heavy for the car and it might break it, I DON'T say that if it's that heavy perhaps it might not be such a good idea for Husband to stagger in with the bloody thing on his back.
Nor do I remind Mother in law that we already have a gun cupboard that has never been used because we Don't Have A Gun.
So, carry on with supper, offering Mother in law a nice big whisky and soda.
I pour rather a large one for myself too.
And together we raise a glass to each other, while shoulder to shoulder we prepare supper for the family.
Which is why, tonight is rather wonderful. No one is wanting anything or asking questions about gun cupboards (yes, it IS still in the car and probably will be there until she returns in three weeks time) or searching for something that it seems only I can find. Instead, the fire carries on crackling, and I carry on typing.
Mother in law is safely en route to Malaysia. Everyone else is in bed. And it's Just Me.
Have created a Homework Drawer. It has sellotape, glue, pencils, pens, rulers.... ANYTHING your child will need for their homework.
This follows on from approximately 18 years of homework, when a child will say, where is a Pencil, and we will spend 30 minutes finding a Pencil, which we find under the cushions on the sofa, lead smashed to smithereens by a week's worth of bottoms sitting on it.
Then child says, where is the Pencil Sharpener, and we spend another 15 minutes finding the Pencil Sharpener, which we eventually find under the sofa, next to several felt tips that have no lids on, next to the lids, with no felt pens in them.
Almost every homework has begun this way, with varying times of 'finding' things. By the time the Object has been found, all enthusiasm for Homework has evaporated, and the next half hour is spent either crying (them) or shouting (me).
Imagine the bliss of my Homework Drawer!
Child says, 'Mum, where is a Pencil?'
And I say, with ill-concealed excitement... 'In the Homework Drawer!'
And said Child goes to Drawer and opens it and FINDS THE BLOODY PENCIL ALL ON THEIR OWN!!!!!!!
Oh, the joy. The satisfaction. The peace.
Have also got my own Tool Kit, Matches, Firelighters, and Torch. They are all hidden away where NO ONE CAN FIND THEM AND PUT THEM SOMEWHERE 'SAFE'.
Because how in HELL am I supposed to know that 'the matches are outside in the shed under the chair that has some paint on it'?
Or that 'the hammer is in the greenhouse next to the black pot with seeds from last year's runner beans in it'?
Or that 'the firelighters are on the patio'?
And so I am at last an organised person, who knows where things are.
Well, where THOSE things are.
Still haven't a clue where my wellington boots are, last seen on my feet before the weekend, and worn by someone else since, who put them 'somewhere, but can't remember quite where'.
Or where my entire sock collection is. Husband says he put them in my drawer.
'Oh', he says, 'Maybe I put them in someone else's? What colour were they again? Yes, they might be in Daughter's sock drawer.' Go to Daughter's sock drawer. Find Youngest's entire sock collection, plus Middle Son's entire sock collection, but not mine, or Daughter's.
Go back to Husband and tell him, who says, 'have I tried Middle Son's Sock Drawer?'
In a word, no.
And so while some things are blissfully in the place where I have put them, other things aren't.
Mystery solved! Cat thoroughly does business on bathroom floor. As we are about to leave for rugby with Youngest. Make sensible decision to leave until AFTER rugby as pushed for time.
Arrive back from rugby (cancelled, so watched London to Brighton Old Car thing from rather nice cafe in Cuckfied.... beats hovering on edge of filthy pitch for two hours)
Get marigolds, disinfectant, bucket, hot water, knife (don't ask) and courage. Tell family that I am going up to deal with large cat dump in bathroom. Oh, they say, and carry on with the making of Yorkshire Puddings. Sensible decision.
Arrive in bathroom. Place bucket on floor. Put marigolds on. Deep breath.
Gone. Sniff carpet. (well... wouldn't YOU?) Scratch head. Sniff again.
Where the HELL is the poo?? Clean as a whistle on floor. No sign of poo. Anywhere.
Behind me there is a noise. Look round.
Milo, our labrador, looking Very Guilty.
And it dawns on me.
He's flipping well eaten it. Every last bit. And may I just add that it was a particularly revolting one... not very well formed, if you see what I mean. (Are you still there? How lovely!!)
Took bucket, marigolds, disinfectant, hot water, knife and courage downstairs again.
Told family. Who all went Ewwwwwwwww.
Poured Large Gin and Tonic. Raised a glass to my poo ingesting canine friend.
Sure gives Poop Scoop a new meaning.
Bigger. More lethal.
Requiring attention and military detail.
Cancelling everything else in order to give time EXCLUSIVELY to it.
So familiar and yet so strange.
Chicken Pox is back.
Youngest has discovered spots in orifices he didn't even know he had.
He is COVERED.
Almost got to the point where they all join up.
Am doing comforting things and being generally rather a Good Egg.
He is not impressed.
'My bottom itches. MUM. It ITCHES'
Clearly I can't scratch that area for him. Can I?
And how on EARTH is he to scratch that one INSIDE HIS EAR.
Calamine lotion not here yet, as Husband will bring some. Helpfully, he won't be home until 1.00 am.
Meanwhile will continue to be in Patient Mother Mode (PMM) until Husband Get Home. (HGH)
Am a Mother. To four children. Am a Wife. To one Husband. Live a chaotic, task-filled life, where nothing is ever tidy enough, clean enough or paid enough. Despite that, there are moments of great contentment.
I try to write about the things in my life that make me spit out my tea. And any biscuit lurking.
I LOVE this life. But sometimes I yearn for a clean and tidy one.