Sunday, 15 September 2013

After the fun of summer has gone

Hello hello and good morrow to one and all. It has been an exceedingly long time has it not, and it feels like an exceedingly lot of stuff has happened in that time. So let's get on with the show.

Firstly and foremostly, we are back in London and back at school. Sigh. The children were thrilled that they were finally allowed to wear their new school shoes (even I find that a trifle sad - they are dull and black - where is the excitement in that?) but I had grown quite attached to them over the long break and was sad to see them go and once again be back at the mercy of the school timetable and pounding the pavement on the blessed school run. I am back to making my usual morning cries of 'mind the poo' and 'hurry up' and 'how the hell did you forget your book bag, you had it at the door as we walked out?'  What a difference a week and fifty geographical miles makes. We noticed as soon as we got off the M11. If not a bit before actually. You can tell you are nearing London before any signs might warn you of the fact. People drive way more angrily in the big smoke. The anger seeps out through their windshields. It's all fast and angry and quick. You get the odd idiot like that in Suffolk but it seems everyone else in London hates you, just for daring to be in your car and on the road. Especially if you dare to overtake in the fast lane but fail to speed or pull quickly back in to the middle lane. In essence it was, as always, a sure sign that we were back in the land of the angry. Then, near home, we opened the windows of the car and smelt the dirty air. London stinks, literally and metaphorically. We have only been back a few weeks and I already miss the fresh air, open spaces and mainly clean pavements - sorry to sound like a cliche. (Although medically speaking it is interesting that after a week at mum's the inhaler began to gather dust pretty quickly and I think we only got it out once for the entire summer holidays. He has already had to use it since we got back. Sad face.)

So, we arrived back after THE MOST glorious week's holiday in England I think it is possible to have. It was the stuff my dreams are made of. Hard work and petty arguments aside (adults and children) the sun shone every single day. And properly shone, not just sunny with clouds and occasions when you had to huddle in your beach tent and wait for a bit of bad weather to pass, I mean actual hot, sun. Necessitating frequent ice creams and sun cream application (or in my case frequent asking K whether he thought we needed to put any on before doing nothing because they were all sandy and or wet) and swims in the sea. It all began a bit soggily - we arrived in Southwold to a bit of drizzle late in the afternoon, but a new house to explore and a park at the end of the road was exciting enough to make the children ridiculously over excited. The day after we arrived the sun began to shine and we went to check out a local castle (I have decided this is now our new tradition and wherever we holiday we MUST visit a castle) and then we got back, had a quick dip in the sea, stopped at the park at the end of the road and found the delightful replacement there with K and the non beach attending children.  It was then that the holiday truly began in earnest. The replacement was staying for a while and the whole family were ridiculously over excited by her arrival. It had been many moons since we had seen her. We spent the next two days accepting visitors from far and wide to our daily camp on the beach. The children played, swam, jumped waves, built sandcastles and dug holes, played with visiting friends and we ate, drank and were merry. The rest of the holiday involved more beach days, crabbing fun and even meals out! I went out twice in a row, once with Em and once with K, which was our first 'date night' in over a year, well over a year actually, and both nights involved fizz and took place at my favourite place in the world - The Crown in Southwold. We all turned brown, got fed up with sand in every nook and cranny and the big two became fish like with the amount of time they spent in the sea. It was absolute bliss and what holidays are all about. Sadly we had to bid a mournful goodbye to The Replacement a few days before we left but luckily for her she missed the final day which had been chosen as our day to visit Pleasurewood Hills. For those not in the know, it is a low rent theme park near Lowestoft. Legoland it ain't. However, as it was our first family visit to a theme park the children were thrilled and the plus side is that it isn't too big (in fact as theme parks go it is tiny). It did exactly what we wanted though - K took the big three on the water flume, we saw sea lions clapping, jumping and diving, we ate chips off a napkin (plates were clearly an expense the 'restaurant' we chose to eat in could well do without), we went on merry go rounds, boat and train rides and spent many hours trying to persuade the boys that even if we spent £50 trying to win a Mario and a Luigi from the rip off fairground game, we would still come away empty handed. (They refused to listen so I ended up having to find the equivalents on ebay and persuading them to use their pocket money to buy them. Such is the mad whims of children.)'  By 4pm the insistence to spend time in the very 'special' arcade became too much to bear and the final part of our day trip was spent inside a dark and noisy enclave for K, whilst I waited outside with Cybs who was busy eating a cold bag of chips whilst sitting on rides I refused to put money in. By the time we were finally permitted to depart K and I were giddy with relief and happiness. Although we were most thrilled to have escaped without anyone insisting on riding any rollercoasters and the scariest thing K had to do all day was take Ted down an extremely high water slide (the pic of ted's face was priceless though - although the powers that be believed it was worth £5, naturally). The following day we packed up, shipped out and with an extremely heavy heart we bid farewell to our beloved Southwold and headed back to mum's.

Once there I discovered that she had packed up all the stuff we had left behind in to four excessively large bags (she calls them Indian airport bags amusingly although i hope that is not offensive - it is indeed the only time I have seen the bags in use so I think it's ok....). The day we left for our holiday she went out and bought them to clear away any sign of our visit or existence - clean clothes, toys, DVDs and various gifts for Ted's bday were all bundled together in these huge, smelly plastic bags. I have to say that on the morning we packed up and prepared to leave, she spent a lot of time walking around the house and garden loudly 'whooping' with happiness, which was very disconcerting if you weren't expecting it. I think the children were a tad confused as they expected her to be devastated at the loss of their presence but after five weeks of washing, cooking and cleaning after the five of us she was slightly unsurprisingly looking forward to a rest and clearing all her surfaces of anything that belonged to us. She could have kept her celebrations to a minimum or even waited for us to leave first before she began punching the air in delight, but luckily my children aren't that sensitive and Ted still believed as we pulled out of the drive that, 'She will be sad because she misses me'. Accompanied by a sad face at what he imagined she would be feeling. Little did he know that around the corner of the house she was doing a happy dance.

Anyway, as we did last year as well, we arrived back at our house the evening before Ted's birthday which meant that from the moment we got back from our rural idyll all my beautiful rest and recuperation was almost immediately obliterated. I spent Saturday night wrapping up, Sunday was spent trying to unpack, prepare for a party and to try and give Ted a suitable 4th birthday experience (I'm not sure we succeeded really - he was clearly expecting twice the number of gifts he received and far more Spiderman things than I had thought was decent). On Monday morning K left for work and I had to ready four children and prepare the party food (with a lot of help from Bea) before leaving to pick up the balloons and getting to the venue nice and early in order to prepare. It was all achieved in time but it wasn't one of my best if I'm honest, but for the cost and effort involved it went as well as it could have done. The bouncy castle was, as per usual, very popular and sadly so was the ball pool which I wouldn't recommend to anyone considering it for a future party - the sides of the pool were held together by velcro which did not sustain the weight of small children jumping on them, which meant that a lot of time was spent repairing them (easier said than done) before painstakingly picking up 1000 plastic balls and chucking them back in. Luckily a number of parents stayed on site and helped enormously. K popped in from work and 'helped' by chatting to other dads for half an hour before leaving again. Sadly because I had arrived so early to set up, Ted had spent an extra hour partying before the official party had started so he was all partied out half an hour before the official end, but he loved his gifts, loved seeing his friends again and he especially loved his fantastic two tier spiderman cake and cupcakes made by the very talented former extra child's mother (that is a mouthful of a name - she has a company on FB called Eats, Knits and Weaves if you fancy a fancy cake). Tuesday was the last day of the school holidays and totally bittersweet. I was looking after two extra children (Bea's friends) so it was particularly nice for her to be reunited with them after such a long break. We spent our final day of freedom splashing around at a local water park which was new to us and a lovely way to make the most of one of the final days of the glorious sun which made this year's summer one of the best I can remember. I was extremely sad to see the back of it. And the children. Although obviously it was bittersweet as I must admit to being a tad excited at the prospect of offloading a few children for six hours a day. All four all day is quite a bit of work. I do just hate the morning rush and the tired children you pick up at the end of the day.

Although these days I am now picking up a number of children after school who aren't mine as well as the ones that are. I have more than replaced the extra child and the missing income he bought in. I am hoping this will mean that I can get my hair done slightly more often and not feel any guilt over the expense of having a cleaner.  So far it is all working out quite well although we are only ten days in to the new regime. Who knows how I will feel a few months down the line. I actually quite like the madness of having a house full of children though. It is all I have ever wanted, and now I have to stop having my own, this is the next best thing. Especially as they are only here for a short time.  Plus it means I have virtually no time to sit on my big fat arse during the day which can only help my weight situation. I hope.

And that is about that. Yet another year has begun (I went around wishing everyone a New Year on the first day of term because I have always, and probably always will, worked on the academic year not the calendar year - a bit like accountants and April) and will no doubt whizz past before I know where we are but for now, so far so good. Bea and G are happy to be back at school and love their new teachers which is a huge relief. Ted feels pretty much as I do about his teacher but is happy to associate with his TAs instead and is going in happily - although he does think they need a few more toy spiders as he can only find two.  K and I have begun our New Year's resolutions and started a major house sort out to help me try and love it again. When I returned home K had already started by painting our bedroom and creating a feature wall on the chimney breast with some very snazzy wallpaper. It is amazing what that and a few other changes can make. I actually like my room now and when the new bed and carpet are fitted it will be a total sanctuary. I may even put a lock on the door. For my part I have taken throwing out to a whole new level. I have already over filled the four big bags mum sent me home with, full of stuff to be donated to mum's village jumble sale.  I should have my own stall at a car boot sale but for some reason I can't be bothered. It is ridiculously lazy of me as I could quite easily make a hundred quid but the idea of mobilising it all and setting it out and then dealing with the general public who haggle over 10p, fills me with enough dread that I would rather go without the money.

Oh, and finally I must leave you with a small amusement. During our holiday I had a bath with Ted who, like the others before him, is naturally inquisitive about the difference in anatomy between men and women. He, as he does quite often, pointed out that I was without a willy,  which led on to a conversation about where the wee came out. Caught on the hoof a bit I likened it to having a small bucket inside women (K wet himself that I chose a bucket of all things) with a hole in and therefore we didn't need a willy for weeing purposes. After some thought on the matter he said, "it's just like an ice cream without a flake. Boys have ice creams with flakes because they have a willy but girls don't have a flake because they don't have a willy." I love the ice cream analogy. A cone is so much better than an inverted bucket.

And so I shall leave you with buckets and ice creams on holiday. If only we were still there and the sun was still shining.  It actually hurts a bit to think back on it. It seems impossible that it was only a few weeks ago as we sit here contemplating putting the heating on and it seems to have rained nearly every day for a week. Still I mustn't grumble. There are birthdays afoot, harvest festivals and house renovations to keep me going through the long wet winter until we can roam free in the sun once again.

Happy Autumn everyone.  xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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