Another week over

Last Saturday the girl decided to seal the deal on the promised purchase of a new riding hat by throwing herself from her pony, managing to ingest a good amount of the indoor arena surface that on the face of it is wood chip but in reality is wood chip with equal quantities of both horse muck and urine. I wish I was a better Mum and had taken a picture of the sight before taking her to wash her mouth out with water and hope for the best but I had already caused a ripple of judgment from the non horsey parents in the viewing gallery by going to catch the pony before going to peel my firstborn from the floor. There are really only so many pearls that one can clutch at that hour on a Saturday morning.

So new hat shopping we went. I do have to wonder if I should be making an application for the girl to attend The Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters as it seemed a little convenient that her small and odd head shape made the reasonable(ish) priced hats fit badly yet the more expensive hat, the type she had been hankering after, fit perfectly. My bad parent points for the day were already too high for me to buy the cheaper hat and simply place her head in a vice when we got home so the girl left the shop happy while I left contemplating the baked beans I will be eating over the next month.

Monday brought Brownies and being shut in a small room with a group of 10 year olds creating a Christmas dance routine. The less said about this the better to be honest but lets just say that if I have to listen to the first 30 seconds (or any) of The Chipmunks do Jingle Bell Rock again I legally can’t be held responsible for my actions.

The mid part of the week was quiet enough to lull me into a false sense of calm so when today, Friday, arrived along with, it seems, the official start of the school Christmas season (and a barrage of emails advertising ‘Black Friday’ sales, why? Myself and the companies are in the UK, here it is simply Friday!), I was quite unprepared.

First it was the children bickering this morning as the lower school where off to one of the village farms pick the school Christmas tree and traumatise reindeer. This is a school tradition that, much to the girls indignation, started only once she had achieved the dizzying heights of the juniors. She firmly believes that her younger brother should never do anything she isn’t doing or has not done. She was outraged when he had surgery on his testicles aged 2 and only backed down after being reminded that she had surgery the year before. The fact she has no testicles to locate and stitch had, in her opinion, no relevance to the argument.

After school was over it was time for the biannual parental punishment known as the school disco. The whole thing is like the recipe for the 1st, 3rd, 7th, 8th and 9th circle of hell. Take a hundred odd kids aged 4 to 11 tired from a week of school, add in a day of ‘Christmas is coming kids!’ educational activities, mix in all the sugar ever with a pinch of glow stick. Leave to prove in a school hall ensuring to add flashing disco lights, bass heavy speakers and pop songs with mildly inappropriate lyrics. When all your ingredients are reaching frenzy blast out the Macarena followed by Gangnam style, YMCA and Nelly the elephant.


So another week is over, we are now officially in the run up to Christmas. I haven’t looked at the homework books yet but the contents will be added to the boys lines in the play that he doesn’t know yet. He only has two and a half lines but it is starting to feel like they may as well be two and a half Shakespearean sonnets. I will somehow get through the week of being nagged on a loop about when we are going to put up the christmas decorations, the school holidays are fast approaching and for you lucky folk that means you get a post a day holiday diary and for the days when the children are with their Father I shall try to get out a fiction piece, my ambitious side is hoping to link a series of my short ones into something resembling a longer one. I have also today started mapping out a non humorous sci-fi apocalyptic, longer length story in my mind and feeling quite excited about the ideas I am having. That is obviously both a longer term project and a more difficult one, humour is easy to hide behind!

Living in the real world

(Fiction – thank you for the inspiration Mum, I bet you are glad you managed to get out without outside help!)

Do you ever feel like screaming ’Stop the ride I want to get off!’ before realising that the ride you are on is called life and the ride operator is so rarely seen that they have become legend. The little booth that he sits in has been nicknamed heaven but the windows are tinted and you start to wonder if there is anybody operating the ride at all.

The school run that morning had been one of the usual affairs that saw me thanking the ride operator for the fact that my sleepwear can pass for outerwear from a distance, while covered with a winter coat and as long as all the other unfortunates on the school run conformed to the rule of not looking too closely at each others attire. So with the boy and girl deposited for the day I dashed back home and into the welcome embrace of a bubblebath and it was then in a moment of weakness brought on, I think, by the hot water I foolishly allowed myself to believe that may day was getting better.

Wearing nothing but my middle age and a bathrobe I made my way in search of my hairdryer, last seen on Monday morning when it had been involved in an attempt to coverup the fact I had forgotten to turn the tumble dryer on the night before.

I found myself in the lesser visited corner of the small utility room that adjoined the kitchen thinking that I may have chucked the hairdryer onto the shelves above the hot water tank along with the towels that had also proven useless in my jumper rescue attempts. I looked for some reason at the hot water tank before the shelves, just as I was thinking that I could have sworn the tank was taller the last time I had looked at it I also noted a sudden lack of floor under my feet and then like Road Runner, a fraction of a second after the removal of solid ground, I began to fall.

A small part of my being had at least some wits left about it and just at the crucial moment my elbows shot out and managed to arrest my fall. I hung there, my weight held by my chicken wings for a moment or two while my brain processed what the hell had happened. I found myself looking directly at the suspiciously squat water tank while the cogs turned and I realised that. like I, the water tank had gone through the floor. Without arms to catch it the tank had been lucky enough to only fall part way before being caught by the joists. How at that moment I wished I was the water tank because it was about then that I realised that my bottom half was feeling rather draughty and the terrible reality that I was hanging with my top half in the utility room, my elbows stopping me from falling all the way through to the flat below, my dressing gown gathered up around my armpits and my lower half, now exposed in all its glory protruding into the downstairs flat.

Ten long minutes passed while I tried to find a solution to the rather interesting position I found myself in. Well, it felt like about ten minutes, I had no way of really knowing given that I foolishly never saw the need to mount a clock on the water tank and my phone was not about my person. I was trying to find a solution to my predicament when I heard the sound of a 20 year old male pure maths student discovering what a 30 something mother of two looked like naked from just above the waist and hanging from their ceiling. It wasn’t a pretty sound as such, more of a high-pitched scream, a pause to take in the full wonder of the sight before him followed by a string of expletives, a bit of cursing the ride operator and finally a call enquiring about my well being.

The key for my flat that I had cut to give to the neighbours was naturally sitting on the shelf in my hallway waiting patiently for me to give it to them. It had been waiting for over 6 months at that point, it had taken me 2 months to remember to get the thing cut and it was now only a month or so before they moved out ready for the new students in September.

As there were also no ladders to be had other than the ones in the garden shed (the key for which was keeping the spare flat key company on the shelf) my newly traumatised in ways his counsellor wouldn’t believe neighbour called the fire service.

Two fire engines one police cars and one ambulance was the final tally. They got me down into my neighbour’s flat quite quickly but that is to be expected really when you consider that my rescue crew was 16 firefighters, 2 police officers, 2 ambulance crew and a student doctor on a ride along.

The only real damage it transpired once I had been checked over by the ambulance staff was to my floor, my dignity and the mind of my young neighbour. Soon the emergency services started to drift off ready to dine out on my experience for many years to come, thankfully I realised before the last firefighter left that I was still not in the correct flat and that there was not a key for my flat in existence that wasn’t on that bloody shelf mocking me. The police officers and the remaining firefighters had a small standoff when it came to which one of the two services would get to use the small battering ram. I had to step in and play Mum after a few minutes as by this point I just wanted to put on some clothes and try to get a little time to sort out the gaping hole in my floor before the children came home from school. I ruled that the fire service had their turn when they got me down from my perch and it was the turn of the police now. The last firefighters appeared to be sulking as they got in their truck and departed and the two police officers could be heard at the top of the stairs outside my front door having a small tussle over who was going to break the door down. I trudged up the stairs, told the police officers that if they couldn’t agree I would do it at which point they seemed to snap to their senses, realise that they were police officers not children and broke down my front door.

It was less than two hours later when I left to pick the children up from school, now at least, dressed in proper clothes I didn’t bother picking up any of the keys from the shelf in the hall, there didn’t seem much point anymore.

A dog ate my blogging

Yes, yes, I know.

I said I know.

There is really no need to keep harping on about it.

I am sorry about the silence that has thundered from these pages this week. There has been a lot of life. Some of it fun but most of it mundane and boring and unfortunately some of it is heartbreaking.

The fun is always in what the children bring, always fresh, always enjoyable, always strange and baffling.

The mundane and boring a ranging from school meetings about the boy and his troubles (He is doing good, although I do think that if something isn’t directly effecting his academic achievement the school does glass over things somewhat.) to mucking out the house ready for a letting agent visit (random fact, I keep stable yards spotless, hate a job not done, love order and tidiness and would rather die than leave a yard untidy. I keep my home however, more akin to a muck heap, jobs will always wait until the mythical ‘later’ and I just can’t bring myself to care too much about cobwebs.).

The heartbreaking is heartbreaking. I am hundreds of miles from my family but the Appleton folks have always been a great big surrogate family to me, looked out for me, looked after me, they are a special kind of family. In the last two weeks the bottom dropped out the lady I see as my Appleton Mum’s world. Her husband became suddenly ill, then sicker and now he will not see Christmas. From the news in the last three days, if he makes it to next week he is doing well. Their story is not mine to tell and I am doing as much as I can for them (not enough, can never be enough) but finding the funny is a little harder just now and I may need to drop everything some more to take up as much slack as I am able to and this kind of thing can often leave me too tired to write, even when it is all there just begging to fall onto the page so stick with me, I will write when I can. I can’t promise it will be any good though.

A wild sentence appears

So the girls homework this week included instruction to use her spelling words in either a short story or a series of sentences. As always she is a girl after my own heart and she wanted to do the least amount of work possible while still technically completing the task as instructed.

After puzzling a while at the table she brings over her rough sheet so I could read what she had done and talk about any corrections before she wrote it out in her homework book. So far so boring typical homework stuff, I will take the boring over the girls annual hissy fit that occurs with the second homework assignment of the school year without fail. It is a spectacular, awe-inspiring and down right terrifying display of tantrum meets amateur dramatics, meets a window to her teenaged future. The sheer amount of noise, snot and tears created risk an ASBO, scrambling the village flood action group and a visit from the Ghostbusters ectoplasm recovery team. The single worst part is when I go to speak to her teacher to explain both why the homework is late and a mess of pulped paper only for the teacher (and we are talking about every single different poor soul who has ever taught my girl) looks at me like I am suffering from delusions. ‘We never see anything like that in class, she is such a hard worker and tries so hard!’ they exclaim while I locate my grip and try to clasp the last tendrils of any sanity as it drifts further out of my reach, both activities being about as successful an endeavour as the girls homework was to complete. Anyway, I digress. Back to the point. I was today presented with this:

I walked next the fence every morning with my Mum. I was certain to cycle over a huge sentence and I had an accident.

Just so, so many questions arising from so few words. Let me just try to work this one out, so while walking you knew with certainty that a bicycle would materialise beneath you along with the lesser seen wild sentence making an appearance. I bet you had an accident kiddo, I bet you did.

While trying to breathe through my laughter and wiping away tears at the picture she had painted, a wonderfully wacky image of sentient words forming together ready to grab onto that bike that was phasing in and out of existence I tried to have the girl explain her thinking on this one. The huge sentence was her somewhat confusing descriptor for words painted on roads like ‘STOP’ and ‘GIVE WAY’ she was however completely unable to explain why she was certain to cycle over it but I think, and this is unconfirmed, but I think she was thinking about failing to give way being the reason for her accident rather than a savage word attack.

Through my tears I suggested she might want to look at it again and be honest with herself in regards to it making any sense whatsoever outside the dreams of a person known for their fondness for licking toads while eating all the mushrooms in the kingdom.

She asked it there was a prize for making Mummy cry laughing. There was. She was hoping for chocolate but was less impressed by being squished in a bear hug by her mother and being told to go and have another go. The final entry to her homework book was lacking in wild sentences but gained more in sense and grammar.

On the other side of the table was the boy. My very sweet boy who view and understanding of the world is very different from most people and he struggles greatly with his additional needs to express himself. He was writing an acrostic poem reflecting on remembrance day for his homework. With surprisingly little help or prompting from me he wrote something that I found quite beautiful.

Poppies grow all around

On the battleground

People died in the wars

Please remember the soldiers

Young and old


On that note I leave it there with me proud and full of love and joy for both boy and girl.

Just take care dear reader when riding your magic bike there are wild and huge sentences just waiting to trip you up when you least expect it.

Playtime!

Walking home from school today Girl and Friend planning their rise to fame and fortune in the music business. At the age of 9 they are already well informed about the way modern pop music is created. It starts with the cool music video and then you work the song out around that vision. I was getting somewhat concerned when a back handspring was added into the mix by Friend. The concern turned to outright terror when Friend confessed that she couldn’t do it on the flat yet and needed to go from a lower point to a higher point (or the other way around, I am not really sure to be honest) but it was when the girl had the idea that this was the perfect opportunity for the friend to do back handsprings down (or up) our stairs while the girl filmed her. The terror may have in the past at least been tempered by the knowledge I could at least get £250 from You’ve Been Framed with the resulting bit of film but in the days of YouTube those dreams are gone, a million likes for a fail video can’t buy Gin.

I reminded them about the time they went to play at Friend’s house before they both performed in the school play and decided to ride down the steepest hill in the village on scooters. Was a shame the play wasn’t a gritty zombie thriller as she may have blended in a bit better.

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No more was said about back handsprings.

It was then that the friend looked seriously at the girl, ‘Remember, when you make videos and music you always argue, that’s how it works’.

‘Ahh creative differences’ I added

‘What you said, that’s what it is, whatever it was that you said’ Friend replied with a confident air.

As soon as we arrived home Girl, Friend and a passing herd of wild, over weight antelope disappeared upstairs however it wasn’t long before the girl screamed out and began creating a noise to all the world would suggest that she had just been struck down by lightning onto a bed of red hot nails while having her nose hairs plucked one by one. I dragged myself upstairs giving thanks that whatever horror had occurred it hadn’t occurred to the friend, there is nothing worse than returning a child to it’s rightful home in worse condition than when you had acquired them. I was greeted to my first born sitting on her bedroom floor, holding her foot like her hands were the only thing keeping it attached and having her brow mopped by the friend. Inspection revealed a splinter in the ball of her foot that an electron microscope would have a hard time detecting.

I would say that I dread the day that something truly painful befalls the girl however, as evidenced above, it has, more than once and ranging through skinning herself, oral surgery and needing adrenaline to reopen her airway. When the real stuff hits the fan she is the paragon of tough. She doesn’t complain, she doesn’t cry and she certainly doesn’t wail and clutch her attendants like a woman about to start pushing out a baby which was what she was doing while snatching her foot away from me and begging me to both get it out and not touch her simultaneously.

After aborted attempts to remove the microscopic sliver of wood from her foot with my fingers I searched around for some tweezers, or as near approximation to some that I could locate around the house. I failed. Thankfully I have neighbours who are all too used to me turning up on their doorsteps asking if they happen to have anything from tin foil to lawnmowers. Armed now with a pair of eyebrow tweezers I once again approached the puddle of anguish that was once my daughter. With the appropriate equipment I had the micro splinter out before she had finished gearing up to renew her screams of parental treachery and she looked most put out that she hadn’t had the chance to scream about what a poor excuse for a Mother I am.

As all the drama played out upstairs the boy had wisely tucked himself away in the living room with a box of Lego and a pillow on his head. No sooner had I joined him in his sea of tranquility when the friend appeared

‘Come and play with us Boy!’

The boy looked slightly torn for a moment, he normally has to be restrained from bothering the girl when a friend comes over however the volume of the dramatics that had gone on moments before had, due to the pesky nature of sensory processing disorders caused him physical pain so he indicated that he was siding with the more predictable and lower pitched lego

‘But was need you, it’s for… the band’ the friend coaxed with all the expertise of being the youngest of three. The boy sighed before getting up and following her up the stairs muttering about his game of Lego and noise under his breath.

I’ve seen the future and as Leonard Cohen said, it is murder.

Too tired for toadstools

I have tried to write this evening but it seems that I am just too tired. Annoying, there is material there, I spent the bulk of the school day Christmas shopping online, mainly because I had many other things I wanted to do a whole lot less. Then this evenings Brownies had everything going for it material wise, there were children who are not my own so don’t have the biological failsafes to protect them, a toadstool, a mirror pretending to be a pond, a song about elves and ‘the wood of hands’ among other things and yet my attempts to convey this to something another person may find good to read lacked depth and just seemed to be missing what ever ingredient it is that makes me feel that I could put it out there into the world.

So rather than anything interesting or fun tonight you get this, sorry about that but it has given me an opportunity to thank all the lovely folks who have either liked my efforts through Facebook/Wordpress and also all the new followers, the vast majority are complete strangers to me who don’t have to make nice due to either biological links or a fear of what could happen next time I serve them at the village shop. Thank you very much to you all, it is quite scary putting myself out there to the wider world, when it comes to the fiction, I have never let another living person read anything I have written before (but even the restraining orders haven’t stopped me harassing the dead to read my latest offering) but the reception I have received has been both welcoming and a real boost to the confidence.

What I would love to hear now is feedback, be honest and tell me what you like and what you don’t, where I need to put more work in, the places I lose my way. I would also love to hear about the things you liked to so I can try to work to my strengths.

I know for my Facebook crew that it is a pain you need to register to comment directly but if you don’t want to do that, leave me a comment on Facebook or organise a petition in the shop/online to try and get me to stop.

For somebody who said that they were too tired to produce anything today I have managed quite a lot so I shall retire, listen to The Archers because yes, I am that sad, and drift off to sleep.

Think of me tomorrow when it really is picture day at school…

An ordinary morning

Fiction

I am jumping right in while riding the high of my post earlier this evening, the below bit of writing is far from refined, has only had a very light edit, I didn’t want to allow myself enough time to bottle it and loose the drive so here it is, my first work of fiction in I really don’t know how long but about 20 years. Given all that I am fairly pleased with it and enjoyed writing it, once I started, one I had the framework in mind it just flowed so I hope it isn’t too terrible!

So, where do you start with this kind of tale, what are the opening words? It could be ‘It was cold winters morning’ or maybe ‘The day seemed ordinary enough’ both would be true but neither really seem to sum up the reality somehow, they don’t seem to capture that fact that is was way below freezing, the heating had failed overnight resulting in indoor icicles and the school uniform hung out to dry before bed the previous evening was now stiff as a board with frost. This crisis of modern life and others like it do not seem out of the ordinary to me, bad luck and disaster seem to follow me around like the angry goat at city farm, yet I know for others that this wouldn’t be a day that seemed ordinary, I think I am just resigned to my fate now, the living proof of the hypothesis that what can go wrong will go wrong. I could easily be misjudged at this point and taken for a wet lettuce in the middle of a pity festival but thats not me. At least I really hope it isn’t, the outlook I am really going for is to be the kind of person who laughs, shrugs and gets on with the day with a smile. I have got the shrugging and carrying on bits down, the laugh and smile missed the bus so will be in late this morning. They do that allot and should probably learn to drive.

So, it was one of ‘those mornings’ the Monday morning from hell when it’s all gone wrong before 8am and then you eye up the book bags in the hall, they both have the tell tale look of containing homework books, the ones that are due in today, the homework books that have been sitting in the book bags untouched all weekend.

The children re-enact several world wars (hot and cold) as they eat breakfast while you desperately try and thaw out the last remaining school jumpers that have escaped the crack in time and space that seems to exist in the school cloakroom and sustain itself entirely on the most expensive parts of the school uniform and try to think of what excuse for missing homework you haven’t already used this term. It is at this point that the oldest, the girl, pipes up that she doesn’t need her recorder today as the school photos are being taken and her class are first because they have swimming this morning.

There it is, that moment in all it’s rotten glory, that moment when Monday morning jumps the shark and becomes one of ‘those’ mornings that the children will remember and retell to their own Grandchildren, that morning when Mummy’s face went completely white before she was sick in the sink and then did a fine impression of an old fashioned kettle hitting the boil.

I don’t remember much detail of the moments that followed the girls revelation. Unfortunately I can remember all too well how long it took afterwards for me to pick up the clothes that that decorated the whole house like an indoor, fabric, toilet roll bombing. Why is it that when you don’t need an item of clothing you find it seemingly everywhere while looking for something else yet when you do need to find the blasted swimming costume in a time frame that would make even the most hardy of Dale Winton’s Supermarket sweep contestant blanch you simply can’t remember that sensible place you put it?

I did find it eventually, it had clearly been playing mind games with me as after I had searched the whole house I pulled open the girls underwear draw contemplating on the likelihood of social services involvement if I sent her in with a vest and knickers and called it a tankini when there it was, in among the vests and pants, in the very place I had looked for it first. This chain of events was repeated for both her swim cap and goggles. By this point I had abandoned the idea of thawing the school jumpers and had barked instructions to them both to raid the lost property bin for a couple of jumpers while no one was looking and they could put them back after the pictures where done. I have no idea if they had actually taken in this instruction given they had entered the trance state of their morning meditation in front of CBBC but by that point I was past caring on the jumper issue and was more occupied by the fact I would need to write a note giving permission for the wearing of goggles and to do this I would need to locate both pen and paper.

My house isn’t large, in fact it is little more than a postage stamp, not even a large letter one, a bog standard postage stamp and given it is just me, the girl, the boy and the cat who thinks he is a squirrel who reside here you would think losing things shouldn’t be a problem. It is, it’s a big problem. I can find anything I am not looking for, thats fine, but the minute I need something and need it quickly the situation rapidly goes down hill. At that moment all I needed was pen and paper, I am a Brownie leader, the girl is a budding artist, pens and paper should be one shortage we should never encounter and yet all I could find was half a purple crayon and the envelope from a bit of junk mail (not one of the ones with a free pen in, no, that would be too useful) so after an unfruitful attempt at trying to convince the girl that her eyes didn’t really sting and go red with chlorine and that goggles are overrated I scrawled ‘Girl can wear goggle because of eyes’ in purple crayon on the torn envelope, just in time I remembered the homework situation and added ‘P.S Girl and Boy will bring homework in tomorrow due to life, sorry’.

The boy had been back and forth to the hallway three times and like a squash ball he just kept coming back having achieved nothing but break another chunk of what passed for sanity away from me. Once his shoes finally did find their way to his feet we repeated the same for his coat. The ‘helpful’ alarm on my phone that let me know when we needed to leave for school had been blasting out for a good five minutes but it was lost somewhere under the enormous pile of ‘stuff’ strewn around after the swimming kit search so I grabbed up all the bags, hustled the children out the door and was halfway down the front path before I realised I had only managed to pull on a pair of jeans, was still wearing the baggy t=shirt I had slept in, had no coat on and worse, no shoes.

The next attempt at leaving the house saw us getting halfway down the road before the fact that neither child had brushed their teeth hit me like a shetland pony who had just caught sight of a packet of polos.

Third time lucky, we marched down the road, the children eating toothpaste and me trying not to look at the girls hair that looked something like a birds nest the day after the chicks had moved out and the parent birds had thrown the party of their lives.

I put the lack of other people heading towards school as a bad sign, we were late, I was going to have to do the walk of shame across the playground and take the children in through the office and then try to escape before anybody saw the purple crayon monstrosity or looked too closely at my non jumpered, non groomed and homework light offspring.

We rounded the corner and I walked straight into the hard metal of the school gate.

The closed school gate.

I looked up at the empty playground beyond, the agonising lack of cars in the staff carpark and then finally my eyes found the note taped on the gate, the one that informed me that a burst pipe due to the cold weather meant that school was closed and at the bottom, somewhat smugly was added that a text had been sent out to all phones registered on the Parentmail system. My phone was registered with the system, it was also under several upended laundry baskets and their contents.

With my laugh and smile still somewhere on the bus in the morning traffic I shrugged, took the hands of the boy and the girl and headed home. We would have another bash at it tomorrow after all and maybe tomorrow would be the day we escaped the Groundhog.