Monday, 3 December 2007

where has the year gone

that it is already time for friends to have up the Christmas tree and nativity plays are looming large on the horizon?

It is months since I last blogged and it has been a busy time, fiiled with more than I would have predicted. My whole life has changed since the warm days of August when we sat outside with glass of wine and watched the children play on the campsite.

We came back from holiday to a very poorly mother in law who needed lots of love and support and we took ourselves off many weekends to see her and to give other family members a break. Rosie was still unwell too and we started the term with one of many weeks off school puntuated by trips to the hospital. Eventually we found a kindly paediatrician who seems to have sorted her out (after many false starts). And still the trips up the motorway continued to see mother in law.

We decided that we'd had enough and started to investigate moving nearer to her to make the trips easier. We decided upon Northamptonshire as it is more than half way there, near to canals (my husband has a love of narrowboats) and a lovely part of the country where we have spent happy days throwing dog (and the occasional child, in error) into the canal. Blackberry picking, chatting over the loch gates, friendly pubs - you know the sort of place. We picked a village and found a house. We loved the house. Oh how we loved it. Rosie could walk to school (first time ever, here we are too far) and there were horses in the field next door. We made an offer. It was accepted. I filled in the school admission form. And got excited. Then we did an early Monday morning trip to my husband's office and found it took 3 hours. We'd thought 1 and a half tops. Disaster!

So we withdrew the offer, I cried, Rosie cried, Tim was stoical. We decided not to move. Then looking on rightmove unable to get out of the habit, I saw the perfect place. To be honest the house is horrid but the location was fantastic. Huge garden and next to a nature reserve. School in the village 5 minutes away. In the same road as eldest daughter's best friend from school ( our 2 eldest live half with us and half with their mum so we commute them between the two). So we are moving away. Next week. This was a good move we decided. Very sensible, in the right direction and to a house needing less work (hmm?). Our lives will be easier we said and looked forward to free time and evening walks with children and dog.

And then we started to say goodbye to our friends built up slowly and lovingly after 9 years here. We moved in when I was pregnant and started to make friends almost immediately with NCT groups and quiz nights and preschools, nursery, school, french club, rainbows, brownies. Rosie and I have cried most nights for weeks thinking of all that we will be leaving behind Suddenly common sense doesn't seem to come into it. As she said ' mummy my heart is buried in the garden'. Of course I reassure her that we shall keep the true friends and will stay in touch with everybody we love, she can have sleepovers and I shall too! We have holidays and weekends and all the time in the world to see the people we love. But still we are both uncertain and unsure. My nervousness increases as the date gets nearer - 7 days to go -and I say goodbye each day to someone I shan't see now until after we move. How long will it take to build up this much love around us again?

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Summer and the living is easy.....

And so this summer continues in its very own fashion, not really a summer at all.

We have been away, down to France (Ile d'Oleron) and had a lovely family holiday. I have been set my homework and being an obliging sort, here it is:

We travelled late on a Friday with a flurry of activity. Normally we take the overnight ferry and have a shorter drive at the other end but this year did the short crossing. This meant two hotels on the way down, one in poor grubby Calais, and one in the pretty town of Avrille just outside Angers. This hotel is a converted windmill and has our family essentials, a pool and a creperie. So the first afternoon of our holiday was spent by the pool sipping drinks watching the children 'perform'. The weather was lovely, not too hot but incredibly pleasant after the rotten weather we have had at home.

The next day we visited the beautiful chateau at Angers before reaching the campsite in time for a repeat: the kids in the pool but this time us unpacking the car and sorting out the tent, cooking the first meal and generally relaxing. For the first time ever we took the bikes and this was a good decision, although more hassle on the way down, it meant that the kids could cycle around the campsite, Tim could go for a bike ride while we had a lie in (he misses his early morning walk with the dog) and pick up supplies from the covered market and they could all go off for a ride to the beach. The campsite we had picked almost by chance we found to be perfect for us - lots of Dutch and French families and with very few pitches (they built the site and then applied for a licence and got permission for only 63 pitches when they'd built for 200). It was pure bliss - quiet and family oriented.

Another first was that because of the bikes we hardly used the car - we certainly never left the island and mainly headed out for the little towns and their markets: both covered and 'nocturnals'. The kids love the marche nocturnals almost as much as we hate them. Hate is probably too strong a word but while we do like to mooch around the food markets picking out fruit, veg and fish the tat on sale nowadays at the night markets is pretty much the same tat as you might find anywhere in the world. The exception was the market at Boyardville where we went several times to allow the kids to walk around by themselves and spend 'their own money' while we sat at a cafe having a coffee or drink (in truth we could see them the whole time but no need for them to know that). They bought endless 'bargains' and I bought a lovely ring and also a secret Christmas present for the eldest. We ate caramelised nuts and 'chi chi' (does anybody else know this stuff - it is like the churros found in Spain but long thin strips of doughnut deep fried and sprinkled with sugar. Our kids ask for nutella and they wander along dipping them in the gooey chocolate and getting themselves and anybody else near covered in sticky sauce!) The setting in the little port town was beautiful: bright and shining and relaxed and happy.

The pattern for the holiday was much the same as always. We slept late (except for Tim who wakes at 6.30 every day of his life) and read our books (two kids on Harry Potter, one on Secret Garden and Tim on the God Delusion while I read lots: John Irving's Widow for a Year and (of course) We were the Mulvaneys), cycled, ate salads and grilled fish, played boules somewhat lethally (MJ got sent off for bad behaviour), pingpong and swum. Even I got in the pool one day when the temperature reached 38 degrees. Everyone got brown (either that or their bottoms have got whiter) even MJ with his fair skin and red hair and one day we all burnt in the deceptive cloud cover.

We ate two meals out and nearly fainted at the cost: once because it was so cheap and once because it was so expensive. After that we decreed meals at home and puddings out: glaces or ci chi only. One night we tried sorbets from a little shop and the cassis sorbet I had transported me back over 20 years to Berthillons on Ille St Louis in Paris. We used to queue outside even in February freezing half to death to have sorbets or ice cream and then go to the salon de the around the corner and have chocolate cake and brandy to warm ourselves up. Misspent youth indeed! Can't wait to take the kids.

We tried to find a place to go landsailing but failed miserably but luckily the eldest's keen observation skills found us the most successful day out: parc des arbres, which was one of those tree top zip wire death defying kind of things which all the kids loved. MJ got sent off for dangerous behaviour but only right at the very end. I was ridiculed endlessly for shouting 'ma files est stuck dans la rouge top' very loudly when he froze, couldn't go up, couldn't go down. Yes, I do know he's a boy and I probably do know that stuck isn't french. I panicked.....he got down, of course.

And on the way home to the UK we visited Futuroscope. Too much to do and the queues are too long but it was fun especially watching me (vertiginous) attempting to get to my seat on the glass floored cinema for the 360 degree film. The night show was amazing and we all stayed up far too late resulting in an awful last day of the holiday but hey, who cared? On the very last night we went to a hotel which was really grotty, found online through Logis de France and deeply disappointing. We picked up the day though by finding a cycle track and the kids and their dad rode along the banks of the Seine past Victor Hugo's house and lovely gardens. A 'tasting' menu at a good local restaurant saved the evening and the kids were most impressed by the amusee bouches (and the whole thing cost a fraction of the crap hotel).

So what did we get out the holiday? Time together as a family. Three lovely 'the best/worst thing about my holiday' essays written by the children. A wonderful Q&A session from the two youngest who found our condoms and wanted to know if we were 'breeding' and had a list of queries they had obviously always wanted to ask (the eldest covering her ears repeating 'this isn't happening'). Laughter. Being beaten at swingball. Watching the kids playing wordlessly with the dutch children next door, complete with a full blown water fight and a game of 'it'. A determination to learn French properly. A desire to buy a place in that part of France maybe to retire but preferably earlier than that. Memories for the store. Happiness.

Monday, 23 July 2007

water over the bridges

This summer has been very strange. Apart from the obvious lack of summer weather we have had illness throughout the family. My mother in law has been unwell and has had to have a biopsy. She is depressed and lonely and rings and talks to the children telling them 'i am depressed, I am lonely' I wish she wouldn't do that but completely understand how she feels.

Rosie has been ill again, still, forever, it seems. We are weary with her illness and achingly desperate for it to wear itself out. How much longer can she vomit, not sleep, have tummy pains, not eat? It is no comfort for the GPs to say it is not serious - it is having a significant impact on our lives. 'thank god' we say 'our daughter hasn't got something serious like leukemia. However would we cope with something 'serious' if we cope so badly with this?'

We have had no relationship other than of people who discuss illness and coping strategies. We talk about who can go to work, how to collect the other two children from their mother's home and what to do about buying food and calpol. Our stocks are low in all senses of the words. We are sleep deprived, taking it in turns to get up in the night, to wash duvet covers and to take her to the out of hours doctor's surgery. We have no food and eat leftovers from the fridge and freezer. We have one black banana and two rotting apples. I go to the garden and pull the end of the season's rhubarb and stew it and we eat that with yoghurt and honey and congratulate ourselves on eating something healthy for a change.

And then, all change. Rosie wakes one morning full of smiles and refreshed, full of energy. She asks if she can go on a bike ride and 'can I help clean out the chickens?'. We are astonished and grateful and try not to believe that this might be the corner turned. She and her father spend the morning in the garden and they clean out the chickens and they contemplate the ducklings. The ducklings came in a moment of weakness. I was not really concentrating and we bought two when we went to replace the chickens killed by the fox. They were dear little things and are now dear great big things. They seem fully grown and have all their feathers and quack rather than 'peep'. They have outgrown two temporary homes and we have to sort out something permanent but are baulking at the cost of a purpose built duck house. We have had two duck ponds dug by my husband and are now the proud owners of a hippo sandpit from Toy R Us as we have worked out that as they shit so much we need something we can easily clean out. Our garden isn't big enough for a large pond that might be self cleaning and so this is it.

The ducks are a little overawed by the bright orange pond (as are we all) and they sit on the ramp looking in. Pip moves closer to the edge and a chicken comes near to its side of the fence. Daisy is flustered and flaps her wings. Pip falls in. Yes really, she falls in and then swims round and round her little pond dipping and ducking and loving it. Daisy looks on. Rosie looks on. 'may I go in and teach her what to do' she asks. We think that's daft and tell her so. 'Ducks can swim. They will both be fine Pull up a chair and watch but let them get on with it'. Rosie's face falls. The idea of teaching a duck to swim was a good one she thought.

And then the next day she awakens again happy and no longer in pain. We seize the chance and arrange for her to go to a friend's house for a couple of hours to play and maybe even to swim in their pool if it gets warmer. And then we have time alone. Together. We didn't have much time just the two of us like other couples might. We were both married before and he brought two part time children to the marriage. I fell pregnant after just a few months unbelievably - I had thought that I would never have children. We conceived Rosie in Suffolk while looking for a second home to buy for weekends and holidays and eventually to move to when the children finished at school. But Rosie put paid to that - and wonderfully so - no less wanted than any child could ever be. But what it did mean is that we haven't ever really had a 'honeymoon' period when it was just the two of us. We have had the odd weekend away and once had a whole week but since Rosie was born 3 months after we married we haven't ever really been alone. So getting to know one another is still an interesting proposition.

So what do we do? We garden. We tidy up the bedraggled climbers and cut the grass. I deadhead the flowers and he digs holes to finally put in plants we'd bought at Easter. We have a cup of tea whilst companionably looking around the vegetable patch and watch the chickens and ducks. We look at the hundreds of different greens in the garden and marvel at how clever we are in our planting plan (in reality all a happy accident). A sausage sandwich accompanies the news and the stories about the dreadful weather.

In short we did nothing out of the ordinary but it was all the more remarkable because we were alone, together at last. We worried not one jot about our child and we thought about nothing more contentious than where to place a plant or how high to tie the jasmine. Sheer bliss. These are the building blocks of our marriage that will see us through storms and the overflowing of life.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

do unto ourselves as we would do unto others

My friend’s mum has been seriously ill and in hospital for weeks. She spent weeks in intensive care, then the high dependency unit before going to an ordinary ward. Her mum was nursed one to one and then 1 to 3. In the medical ward she was one of 15 patients to 1 nurse. My friend can’t understand how one minute you need this level of care and then next the care has to be provided by family members. Now mum is coming home. Or rather she’s going to be taken home by my friend and they are going to turn the dining room into a bedroom. She needs rehab and can’t manage at home yet although hopefully the aim would be for her to go home eventually. There’s a loo downstairs and they are trying to think what to do about a shower or bath. They have a funny staircase so they don’t think a stair lift would work.

So when I went round there the other day I asked the questions: have you had the discharge planning meeting yet? You know so that you can sit down and work out what will happen, how mum will manage, what level of care she needs at home and what help they can give her. And then you should have an assessment too as a carer to see what help you need’. And of course the answer from her was a blank stare. I repeated myself and said look I happen to know about this stuff if they are going to discharge your mum home then both you and her should have a pre discharge planning meeting and an assessment of both your needs. You can say you’re happy to provide all her personal care, if you are, but that you would want some help with the housework in order to be able to run the house and do your job as well. All this was news to her.

What astonishes me is how people like this manage to slip through the net. My friend is articulate, smart and sensible. She is assertive without being pushy and won’t normally take no for an answer. We live in a local authority area with really excellent services for users and carers and no shortage of voluntary sector provision, although this is under pressure. She had assumed that she would automatically get everything she needed in the way of help without having to ask for it. So I have sat down with her and she has a long list of what she wants, what her mum wants and how she needs help with her family, her work and her home if she is to provide the lion’s share of the support her mum needs.

How does it happen that we go to pieces when we have to ask for something for ourselves? I am so assertive (maybe even rude?) when I am trying to sort out work issues but trying to get an appointment for the GP before the end of the month or to tackle my daughter’s awful teacher is an impossibility. I know I need taking in hand and perhaps it is the feeling of being out of my depth or anxious and worried for my child but I would sooner pick up a spider than speak to my daughter’s teacher about her maths homework and how none of us understood it (so that is my husband, him with a double first from Oxford and me with a BA and an MA both shuddering and juddering in front of Mrs X. Where exactly is the sense in that, pray?)

Sunday, 24 June 2007

life is ordinary

I can't believe how long it's been since I've had time to sit here and type thoughtlessly into this machine. The time since our holiday has passed in a blur. On Friday I finally sat down and transferred the photos onto the PC and sat and watched the slide show of them all. It was lovely to watch the holiday replay itself and see Rosie turn browner and browner with each new photo. I was in awe at the absolute beauty - of her unconscious gorgeousness and of the island where we were staying. The resort was a horrid little English enclave to be sure but going just a few hundred metres out of the centre we found deserted coves and bays where we could sit and just watch the view. And tiny little bays we clambered down to very carefully so as not to fall over and where we could dip our toes into the clear water. All alone on a small island filled with 10,000 visitors!

Rosie of course made friends with every adult she encountered charming them with her blonde hair and big blue eyes. The children she found trickier - she was shy and nervous of not being the 'cool' one (she's most definitely not that!) But oh how she enjoyed herself in the water, splashing and jumping in and swimming for as many hours as we would allow before dragging her off to explore the history and natural side armed with a copy of 'my family and other animals'. We didn't really get very far but it was fun trying. Rosie read it too, not bad for an 8 year old, and loved trying to imagine that she was seeing the very same creatures found by Gerry in the book.

And since then we have tried to keep hold of the relaxation and closeness that every holiday brings and every working day pushes farther and farther away from our grasp. Working in the garden trying to create a bigger vegetable patch, planting up all the little plants from the greenhouse (a plastic tall one, I long for a real thing, next year?) and we label and mark and plan endlessly. Rosie helps in the garden although main tasks are snail related. These she collects and makes houses for and names each and every one. And I place the house at the end of the evening in a spot where I hope they will find their way into the chicken enclosure rather than the vegetable patch!

The new ducklings are enjoying themselves and they do indeed seem to have taken to our home like, well, a duck to water! They love the little pond dug for them by Rosie and her dad and have enjoyed being moved around the garden while we try to find the perfect spot for their duck house (in reality an old rabbit hutch). They have to fight off the attentions of the chickens who clearly think they get too much food and also from the jackdaws who also dive bomb them in an effort to eat the chick crumb. I am touched by my husband who gets up each day now at six to open up the house and to wait to make sure they are ok. We all stood anxiously while they took their first swim. Rosie makes Pip and Daisy scrambled eggs for breakfast (I think this is a bit odd and creepy, too much like cannibalism) and cuts them nettles too.

We have thought about moving, for schools and a bigger house, but I don't want to push our luck. Here is where our happy memory store has been made and although each holiday I exhort the family to store up the views to get them through the winter months to be truthful it is the ordinary everyday that actually sustains me. Rosie singing to the snails, picking up chick chick and putting her on the climbing frame, running through the field with the dog, the kids' laughter as they tell each other 'dirty' jokes far too loudly in the garden, the combat of swingball. This is what shall shall sustain me in the months and years to come.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

of death and ashes and flowers

I read Mousie's blog from 9th May and was so moved I just had to get this down.

My own mum's ashes are scattered on a beautiful hillside overlooking the sea. It was a favourite picnic spot for her and my dad in their (too short) retirement. They had planned to move to the sea but events overtook them and when she was in remission they used to drive here with an M&S picnic and gaze for hours at the beauty of it all. When we knew she had only weeks left we all discussed with her what kind of funeral and so on she wanted. At her 65th birthday party I sat writing down all the hymns she hated and all the ones she would put up with (and this from a former sunday school teacher). Her instructions were no black and no sad faces and no wasting money on expensive flowers or coffins. Summer dresses and joyfullness at her life please. On the day she died we phoned and booked the funeral negotiating with the minister who was shocked as we were actually calling BEFORE she died! We were on a tight schedule, my sister was over from the US and had to get back to her boys. She died a few hours later. And we are control freaks.

In our best summer frocks we went in the pouring rain ('god crying for granny')to George Herbert's tiny little church at the evening service and sang our hearts out. Grandchildren cried. We cried. Friends cried. My dad, stoic, refused keeping his tears for a private moment. It was beautiful. We actually taped the service for my sister to take to her boys as they couldn't come over. The cremation was held a few days later and the ashes scattered a day after that. My pooor sister from the US was torn, her adopted religion forbids crematation but to me it is a fitting ending place. We had lizianthus (which make me cry now) and my beloved sisters put in a flower for my (first) lost baby with the flowers from their children.

And now my (third) tiny baby's ashes are scattered under a conker tree in our tiny local churchyard. I go there to sit and think when I need to be alone with my memories. All the children know it is 'Toto's' tree as we have never hidden it from them - a somewhat surprised grandad was taken to it recently and had it all explained to him by a serious 8 year old (my second baby if you are counting, the one that made it!). And when for the first time I took her to 'granny's hill' she took it all in her stride and looked for my bouquet that I had strewn there 2 years after her death. Long gone of course. Like granny but never far from my thoughts.....

Friday, 11 May 2007

a kind doctor

Well, we are doing well! Last night an emergency visit to the out of hours GP service (awful location, impossible to find, and in the driving rain that has replaced our glorious weather (sod the garden)). She is still unwell but had started perking up. I'd talked to her about maybe going back to school to see all her friends but with no swimming lesson! Arranged a tea with a friend a whole week away to give her something to look forward to.

Then at tea time she started complaining of a sword stabbing her in the neck and a knife in her side (good use of imagery?) and then throwing up. After 28 times where only one missed the loo/mixing bowl on her lap and me finding her on the bathroom floor writhing we decided enough was enough. Phoned the GP got the number and called in. They were delightful - thought it could be appendicitis and could we please go down there as soon as possible? We went down there loaded up with loo roll, sick bowl and the cuddly toy she always sleeps with. Forgot the inhalers though.

The GP was a real sweetie and waiting for us at the desk. Very kind to her. Gently examines her all over. Doesn't bat an eyelid when he says he wants to rule out urinary tract infection, chest infection, sickness bug and she says 'oh I've had that!'. Turns out she has tonsillitis with really swollen glands everywhere. He gave her some antibiotics and told her she was very brave. She cried when he gave her pink medicine - she's most definitely off pink this season.

And back we went. She cuddled up on daddy's lap while he watched newsnight and I stacked the dishwasher and made tea/hot water bottle and sent a text to a friend.

Up we went. Tucked her into my bed and went to kiss my lovely husband goodnight. At the bedroom door. And then I remembered! ' Happy Birthday. Oh my god I'm sorry'' 'Oh don't worry, it made a change from the usual routine.' Oh god now I have to make up for that. Takeaway tomorrow perhaps? God I am running out of steam this year already!

And this morning he revealed that he was probably over the limit when he drove to the GP. I hadn't even noticed him drinking the half bottle of wine. In my defence I was in the loo with her all evening.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

of sick children

I am so not a good mother! My 8 year old has been off school for 10 days out of the last 13 (and one of those was a bank holiday). What an earth am I doing to her? We thought that chickens and the dog and the country air would be really good for all the children which was why we moved here. But I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm doing something wrong.

She has had a chest infection, then laryngitis (me too actually couldn't talk for a week much to the merriment of all) and now simply has a cold. But oh my goodness it brings with it a great big hacking cough. She has eczema (badly, really badly) and asthma now has crept in. So she puffs and she steams and she sleeps propped up (in my bed last night, it was the only way I could think of getting some kind of rest for myself, I also have a soaring temperature) and kissed husband good night chastely at my bedroom door. Maybe it will bring back Romance. Somehow I doubt it.

We went away at the weekend on the assumption that she might as well be ill away as at home and we'd paid for it already. Disaster! Freezing cold. Children all arguing. Us 2 arguing. Dog fed up. Too many chips and chocolate and no wine whatsoever. Oh well, it spurred me on to book our summer holiday and that is giving me something to look forward to.

At the weekend we shall buy new chickens, lets hope the fox keeps away...

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

death and foxes

so yesterday after school Rosie was to be found in with the remaining chickens. She picked up and cuddled chick chick and sang to her. Mostly in tears. She asked why the things she loves always die (her goldfish died at the weekend too). She is also worried about me. She has often asked why I am so old (she has a slightly more disarming way of putting it) and yesterday asked when I would die, did I know? Oh god! How to discuss death with an eight year old? I won't lie to her and say I won't die as she knows only too well that it is a real possibility. And of course the thing is that my mum died at 65 and her mother at 62 so I guess I may make it to 68 or so - less than 20 years away! I have promised her not to die until she's big enough to manage by herself but who knows when that will be? Truly I doubt I am at that point yet myself. It was never in the plan to have children so late - my age just sort of crept up on me.

But yesterday evening we talked about new chickens and whether to hatch some from fertilised eggs or get point of lay hens. I would like to get some point of lay hens and take it from there, there are too many worries in hatching eggs and they may all turn out to be cockerels like the last lot. Last summer we found ourselves in the actual Marans in France and idly went in search of some hens. Marans are lovely hens, they lay dark brown eggs and are friendly and good natured. Excellent pets that also lay lots of eggs, so they would be nice.

We shut the chickens up early and went to bed as normal. Then just before 4 am the dog started to bark and bark. He never does this so we knew something was wrong. When I went to him and opened the back door he rushed outside and ran straight down to the chickens and barked more. He then went around the entire garden sniffing and checking on everything. He spent lots of time near the rabbit and was in a state of high dudgeon really. We got him back in and hoped that the noise and lights would have frightened away the fox that must have come into the garden again. In the morning my husband found digging at the place where he had buried the few remains. And the rabbit was very jumpy too. So tonight he will wee all around the garden (it's supposed to help warn off the fox) once it is dark.

Today has been a strange day. I have worked a little but distractedly. I am not feeling well which doesn't help but my spirits were raised by the walk I took after lunchtime. Our dog sprained his wrist a couple of months ago and so has been resting. Over the last couple of weeks we have been building him up again, watching anxiously for any sign of a limp. As a consequence I have hardly walked and it was a joy to go the entire length of the field and back with him trotting alongside me. With the blue skies and the oak trees dotted about the field it is the most beautiful sight in the world. Though I did wonder why, for the first time ever, the farmer has planted broad beans one side of the footpath and 'something else' on the other. In all the years we have lived here I have never known broad beans in the field. I confess that part of our annual ritual is the first family walk with the dog and children in tow through the field at the height of the barley crop. The children rush off (along the network of footpaths) and we hold the dog. Moments later the signal is given and we say 'where is Rosie' or 'Michael' or 'Katya'? The dog stands still, nose in air and then races off to find them. He looks like a dolphin in the waves, swimming through the crop. His head and tail dipping and diving. And then he finds them! The kids jump up, laughing and spitting barley as the dog jumps on top of them licking and tail wagging madly. I want this ritual to happen again and again, press rewind for me please. The crop this year isn't familiar to me and I fear it will not bring the joy of the hide and seek. Changes, changes.

Monday, 30 April 2007

Thursday Apr 19 2007 17:49:46
Had a wonderful morning with my daughter (8) and her friend following the sleepover. I made them flat pancakes (crepes to you!) and put a basket of eggs on the table. The friend's family has just moved into our village and have got themselves some chickens. They are so excited and I wanted to show her how different all our eggs were. They ended up weighing them and working out how many of 'darling chick chick's' eggs make up a 'speckles' ' egg! Darling chick chick is my daughter's own belgan d'anjou (so a tiny little bantam) and she is at least 5 years old now and hardly ever lays. Speckles is some kind of industrial hybrid (one of 2 we bought to make sure we always have eggs as our 5 bantams are a little temperamental). Chick chick's eggs always weigh 29grams, the wyndotte (Phoebe) weighs in at 43 grams, Sunny's are 64 grams and Speckles a whopping big 84! And Clucky who at 8 years old is the oldest of the chickens never lays anything at all but luckily for her she submits to cuddles and songs being sung to her and generally being treated a bit like a living doll. I originally had to weigh the eggs to work out how many to use in recipes: why do most recipes say medium? My eggs are not medium at all, none of them! So the girls spent a lovely half an hour weighing the eggs and doing all sorts of complicated sums adding them together and taking them away. It was great, Mrs Parry, eat your heart out, my maths lessons are so much fun. And I am a good mother after all......

week from hell

Friday Apr 13 2007 19:47:47

It has been the week from hell. School holidays with the two stepchildren not here so my only just 8 year old all alone with me (husband having gone back to work). I took her down to my dad's thinking that it would be a treat for them both. Hmm. Drove back after just over 36 hours in a right state having completely lost my rag umpteen times. I can't even bring myself to give examples of the levels to which I sank whilst there. Suffice to say that at around 8.55 at the Amesbury service station on the A303 you would have witnessed me getting out of the car, examining the fuel filler up thingy, getting back into the car, looking for a lever or button or something. Me opening glove pocket, getting out car manual, reading it. Getting out, pressing the car fuel thingy. Getting back in the car. Calling husband (illegally using mobile phone in garage). No husband at home. Finally I enter the garage and say 'I know this sounds really wimpy but does anybody know how to open the fuel thingy on a galaxy?' Luckily the very kind man waiting to pay his bill was not patronising at all and patiently explained how to do it (you DEPRESS the fuel filler thingy in a sort of twisting movement I feel I will never again be able to repeat). I filled up. Drove out of garage...over a pavement that wasn't there last time (I swear) so probably completely blew the suspension (in my defence I was clearly stressed and there was half an arrow painted out and it was dark). Straight into Burger King (yes I do get an organic box delivered and I do make all our nutritious food and most of our bread, from scratch, well obviously I don't grind my own flour). My 8 year old is now the proud owner of a pink thing she (and I) can't open. Like mother like daughter. The journey took hours longer than normal and 8year old was exhausted but picking up my stress vibes so by Fleet on the M3 she was in tears. Stopped. Calpolled her. Valerganed her. Rubbed her feet. Took the dog for wee. Needed to take myself for a wee but don't know how to turn off the car alarm thing so couldn't leave dog in car. Brainwave! Get out phone, call husband. Put 8 year old on phone and tell him to talk to her. I run to loo leaving dog, child, bags all in unlocked car and get back just in time to hear her laugh 'I love you daddy, you are so calm and nice'. Today she slept until 11 am (!). Friend over for sleepover (it seemed like a good idea at the time) and I cleaned the house and sat in the garden office pootling on the PC. Watching the girls chasing the chickens and trying to work out how to fill up the feeders and the water bottles (they can't see how to fill up a basically upside down bottle with water, bless 'em!). Chickens running riot. Girls running riot. I order organic vegetable plants to assuage my guilt over the BK......... things will improve. My father may d...suppress that thought ....

of foxes and other things

This was going to be a first post about how we'd spent the weekend having a lovely relaxing time in the garden, planting and planning.

But instead it's about being woken up my husband early, taking the dog out before heading off for work, to the news that we'd had a visit from the fox. After almost eight years of chicken keeping in our back garden it comes as no surprise but what a disappontment. We trudged out (me in pjs and slippers) to inspect the damage. He had already cleared up the worst of it and the two of us looked around in case one or two had taken refuge in the trees but of course they hadn't. Three were fine:one broody had been shut in a wire basket overnight to cool her down, one really tiny little bantam always roosts in the rafters of the chicken house (and she is my daughter's dearest pet, thank goodness she was safe) and one, well I reckon she just got lucky. Four are buried in the area behind the hedge on the edge of the field over which we overlook. Not much to bury really.

I do so hate the fox. Two and a half years ago he (she?) took my daughter's tiny pet rabbit. I was working away and I can never forget the phone call from her on the train 'mummy, where is Toby hiding? You know where he likes to go. He's not in his hutch and there is his fur everywhere. He must be frightened without me' . I cried my eyes out (the Swansea to Paddington train) - the first time I couldn't fix a problem faced by my beloved. Of course he was gone, the fox must have had him the previous night but in the rush to get her to school my husband hadn't noticed. And last night it was back, this time for the tiny bundles of feathers that my child picks up and carries in her arms and sings to. Last Friday she was showing her friend how to pick them up and put them on their backs to calm them down when they are frightened. She demonstrated how we had clipped their wings (sorry chicks) to stop them flying into the garden to eat the plants. She sang her special chicken song. Damn them.

So I went back to the house, woke her up and took her to my room. I said that I had some sad news for her. Her eyes were open wide immediately despite the late night she'd had. I told her that the fox had visited and four chickens had been eaten but that Darling Chick Chick , Spice and the wyndotte were ok. She cried. She opened her eyes and told me that there was some good news because each of the children still had a chicken living (I have two step children) and that was good wasn't it? Then we talked about how we wouldn't have many eggs for a while and considerd how we could replace the chickens. Just the last weekend we met a neighbour who had hatched chickens from fertilised eggs and we thought abut that, but what if they are cockerels (we have long had a promise to our neighbours not to keep one as they are a little noisy for them). But we shall look into it. I hate the fox.