Friday, July 28, 2006

What a whirl! In between the 19 hours' work in the last two days, little Dill turned 9 and had a sleepover last night, insisting on stayin up until her actual birthday, 11:30pm- 'tis but once a year... We will pass over my horror that my youngest (youngest!) is now 9 (9!) and instead concentrate on her unusual choice of present: a rose bush.

I have managed to source a variety which is a namesake of her real name, but it will only be available bare-rooted in the autumn, so she has to wait for it. And she is not upset about that, which I think must be unusual for a nine-year old, and is certainly unusual for her. Maybe she is growing up *weep*.

Talking of unusual birthday requests from my children, here is this year's list:
Sim: a tinker's kettle, which boils water using a few twigs in the fire well at its base. Will be (and has been very recently) invaluable on camping trips and during power cuts as it boils a full kettle in three minutes.
Hen: a cake icing set, including bag and different nozzles. Very useful for the weekly choclate cake that emerges from Hen's Kitchen (that sound familiar as expressions go, but I'm not sure why)
Dill: the rose bush. She also requested a miniature patio rose to ut in her room, but I haven't got around to that yet either- bad mummy.

Did you know... 

...that if you don't mind not sleeping, there are actually loads more hours available in the middle of the night?

Now before you all start muttering about robbing Peter to pay Paul, I'll just quickly say that I AM going back to sleep for a couple of hours, and that the last two nights have been really worthwhile financially. And I don't mean that in any (directly) whorish sense. Although it felt like it at times. (Women's mag, Paris-based, has wide UK readership.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Advice for a hot summer's day 

Remember your plaice. That is all.

Monday, July 24, 2006

In the car on the way back from the hospital after having her ankle checked out this morning*, Dill and I fall to talking about my (separated) parents.

"Why do Granny Cristine and Grandpa Peter hate each other so much?", she asks. I had never realised that this bothered her- my parents have never been in the same place together since before she was born, not even for their daughter's wedding.

"They don't really hate other," I answer. They just got used to being horrible to each other, because they were too different and couldn't agree on anything."

"Surely, says Dill, "it doesn't matter if you're different from someone?"

Dill is always worried about the alienation of difference. She feels different, has that slight edginess of not entirely fitting in that I understand only too well.

No, I think. It shouldn't matter. It's just that they could never make the effort of even taking one step towards each other. They both wanted everything on their own terms."

"No," I say out loud. "It wasn't the being different that was the problem, so much as the not wanting the same things out of life. They just weren't going in the same direction."

Dill seems moderately happy with this. The adult world must seem unfathomable to children at times.

* The ankle is sprained. Bad trampoline, bad, bad! Bad landing! She now has a new friend, Bandagey.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Today at the beach, while my beloved snoozed in the midday sun, I amused myself by piling small pebbles (hereineafter referred to as "factor 100 sunblock") in an amusingly random pattern upon his chest and stomach.

A few minutes ago, he showed me the strange white markings upon his otherwise rather pink front. I'm kicking myself now- I should have spelled out a rude word for maximum effect.

I acted surprised; it was the only solution. I think I got away with it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More self-absorbed claptrap, sorry 

Things that worry me at 1 o'clock in the morning, enough to get me out of the bed I sank into just a couple of hours before, in no particular order.

I hope to live long enough for my children not to need me any more.

I am wasting my education. It feels like all I do is tidy up and organise other people. I want and need to spend time organising myself.

This house is too big for me to keep in the way I'd like to without help.

We cannot realistically afford to employ a cleaner without me working.

I want to work, but in a way that does not mean that the children are passed around from one poor arrangement to another during their holidays and after school.

If worth is measured in salary, I am way underselling myself. Even I know that. Until recently, I could rationalise my choce to stay at home. Now I feel like an unpaid taxi driver.

Why is it so difficult for some people to hear that one is tired and needing a rest? Why do they automatically think they are part of the problem and duck out instead of offering help?

My children are foul. I think I may have missed some major part of their education out. Maybe I haven't oppressed them enough. Maybe I've oppressed them too much. It feels like a battle all the time.

I miss my mind. Really. I cannot debate the way I used to be able to for hours, because I cannot retain the necessary facts and ideas for long enough in my mind. Yet another way in which I have wasted my education.

I cannot help but feel very jealous of those 19th and early 20th century ladies, or those 21st century ones of my acquaintance, who could actually afford to employ extensive help in the house (we're talking full-time housekeepers), and indeed were/ are expected to, so that they could legitimately pursue their own interests.

I know how clean and tidy I want the house to be, and it falls very far short of that all the time. The alternative is for me to spend every waking hour cleaning. Sod that for a game of ninepins. How can I read improving literature and clean the loo at the same time?

I hope Sim will be ok and come back in one piece next week.

Fuck the house. I want to live in a cabin in the woods, or a tent. Simple, like. No things.

Why can I no longer even help him with his homework? My brain is shot to pieces.

Sometimes I can understand why Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven. She didn't do it to escape her children. She did it because there is no other escape from motherhood but death. Once you step on that treadmill, there's no going back. I don't mean this in any morbid sense.

I feel ill and tired a lot of the time. That can't be right. My doctor just thinks I'm hysterical and wants to put me on drugs to treat being hysterical with.

Sometimes I think the gods conspire against me, employment-wise.

I am fat. I hate carrying this extra stone (and a half now) around with me. It's just not me, not the body I want to have. It goes with my current state of mind: overfed and sluggish.

I have aged thirteen years since 1993, and have only a chequered employment history and three morose children to show for it. I am 38 years old and at 1 o'clock in the morning, I feel every one of them weighing down on me.

I should feel better for unpacking this lot, but this list actually creates more conumdrums than answers.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ok, 30C /86F (nearly 31C here now) is just about where I stop chirruping about how marvellous the weather is. Can we have some breeze now please?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Oooh, I'm in a foul temper.

Call me retentive, but I really just do not like children helping themselves to stuff from the fridge at odd times of day. My children generally don't, and I tend to expect other people's children to pick up on the vibes and general behaviour around them (although hopefully not all of it).

Nothing makes me madder than to have them just organising their own diet and then poo-pooing mealtimes. I just wonder why on earth their parents choose to do it this way.

July is usually a blur, whaat with the end of term looming, day and evening outings occurring with dizzying frequency, the start of the Boff's seasonal allergy (which we're NOT to call "hay fever" like normal people, because, well, it's not because of hay, and there's no fever- just irritability, grumpiness, tiredeness, streaming and sore nose and eyes and wheeziness), two birthdays, and holidays to plan (yeah, well, we think that people who book months ahead a just a wee bit odd).

This year, everything's been compounded by having three extra children, one of whom has a birthday as well, planning for Sim's holiday on a Greek island with his friend Thumb and family, Purple Sister 2's worrying bout of salmonella followed suspicious testing for the something nastier they expected to find (they didn't, thankfully, and she's now back to normal), and trying to fit in with everybody else's timetables has just about done for me. I'm pooped. What I wouldn't give for waking up feeling rested I don't know, because I can't think at the moment.

Ordinarily, something would give, and I'm ashamed to say it would normally be the children's parties. This year, unlike last when I was up to the eyeballs in MA dissertation, I have no excuse.

Which is why we celebrated Sim's passage to official adulthood in some cultures, although mercifully not ours, on Friday, and at the last minute. On Saturday morning, after the last of the party sleepover children had been removed, we set off for Wiltshire, where we had arranged to go to MA-in-law's new abode, in order to show the Spanish boys Stonehenge (crowded) and Salisbury (hot but pretty).

Now I need to start thinking about Dill's 9th at the end of the month (never was mother more glad to see a due date recede into the distance as I was on July 14th 1997- I was thinking ahead to this time, you see), begin worrying about what my baby boy will be up to and whether he'll be safe on his Greek island for a week without me, and hope that my new passport comes from the Passport Office in time for us to go on holiday, even though said holiday is still heavily dependent on finding chicken and guinea pig sitters.

We might actually have a semblance of time off at some point during August. Maybe.

Oh, and I could really do with some slaves affordable domestic help. The house looks positively Stygian.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Purple small animal offensive continues 

Outcome of Sim's birthday party trip:

number present, including sundry grown-ups: 16

Our party: 27
Mackerel: nil

children arranged over two tents: 10

number of inflatable mattresses discovered at around 10:30 this evening to have been tasted (and spat out) by our resident dormouse: 4 I would forsee a vendetta if dormice weren't so cute. And protected.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rural thought for the day 

One bird's poor choice is another person's supper.

RIP Fezzy Pheasant. Perhaps you should have kept on running towards that verge.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Time and mind bending 

"When do you have time just to sit and think?", someone asked me recently.

When I'd stopped laughing hysterically, wiped my tears away, and blown my nose, it occurred to me that this is another unspoken aspect of parenthood. It might be an aspect of adulthood as well- I don't really know, since the children have been around pretty much all my adult life.

This thing that nobody warns you about, or else they do but you do not heed them, is that time speeds up. The space formerly occupied by one long glorious day now takes up only a couple of hours.

A week that used to seem endless, especially in a boring maths lesson at 4:30 on a Tuesday, is now over before you even realise it's begun.

Months, being only collections of weeks, themselves over in an eyeblink, may be planned around the two or three significant events one has lined up for them.

A year, when one gardens, no longer seems like a proportion of a lifetime, but more of a milk round- what happens today will happen again in 12 months, and I may or may not remember it all (that's another thing- whatever happened to my short-term memory?), and the change of seasons become mere intrusions to the routines one has just about elaborated by the time they are over.

An ideal season length for me nowadays would be about six months- long enough to become nearly tiresome and require change, but not so long that it becomes a calvary. (although some might argue that the winter seems to be 6 months long already, especially on a small island with changeable but invariably dull hibernal weather patterns)

I don't feel any older than my early twenties most of the time, but I am finding feeling refreshed and rested more elusive these days. Waking up feeling tired is no longer a good enough reason to stay in bed, I guess, so one puts up with feeling tired. (Which might explain the memory loss.) That is another one of the things they don't warn you about before you have a baby, because you know that when your baby is born, you will not spend so much time faffing around as they do, and your baby will sleep well from the start. *ahem, but I digress*

All this to say that Sim, whom we brought home from the hospital a few months ago as a squalling, healthy infant, turned 13 today. My baby is a teenager. *sob*

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Overcoming natural indolence, I ran the Race for Life with sister Persephone today. It is lucky that she held me to it, because nothing in the world would have made me get up this morning thinking "Good-ee, I'm running 5km today!".

It wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, and we did run most of the way. I had to pause momentarily about 500m from the finishing line to shed my sister who was doing her classic cross-country runner thing of speeding up at the end (no thanks) across the unforgiving last stretch, zigzagging depressingly back and forth across an uphill car park.

Once she'd run on ahead, I was fine, and finished only about 30 seconds behind her. The positive mental attitude, y'see, it was flagging. There were 8 year olds there, who finished in the same time and at the same speed as us (about 10 km/h), which impressed us mightily. I'm not sure even our active brood could manage three miles without stopping.

The sponsors gave out pretzels and cranberry juice at the end, plus a shiny medal on a pink ribbon- my daughters have already requisitioned mine. Plus some other stuff, alll strangely related to personal hygiene- just what were they trying to tell us sweaty ladies?

Still, mighty glad that's done.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Confessions of a antisocial crock 

I sometimes pretend I haven't heard someone talking to me, just so that I don't have to be available to yet another person making demands on my time.

I take far longer on the loo or in the bath than I need to, simply because it is the only lockable door in the house. When I hear them coming up the stairs, I turn the water on so I can pretend I can't hear them knocking on the door and shouting through it.

I occasionally shut the dog in the (voluminous, complete with dog bed) cloakroom just so that he won't follow me around looking hopeful.

I am secretly glad when I have a good reason (ie work) to shut myself in my study; it's peace and quiet, and I get paid to do it.

I love pottering around the garden with my Baygen, and would happily do it undisturbed all day when the children are at school if only I didn't have to do boring things like hang out washing and clean the kitchen.

I love my children, but I sometimes wish they didn't expect me to be available so much of the time.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Episode 1 in the (very) occasional series "So you think nothing ever happens in the countryside..."

I crept into bed near enough 2am, and lay trying to get to sleep for a half hour or so. As I drifted off to sleep, I heard the rain start to fall.

Moments later, or so it seemed, I came to as my beloved clambered back into bed and whispered my name. It was 4:13 am, and his feet were cold.

"You should see what's happening outside", he went on.

He, insomniac, had awoken at three (the words "unbroken nights sleep" have nary crossed our lips in the last thirteen years), and been surfing the interweb ( I did ask, but forgot in the subsequent excitement what he was researching- something nerdy sciency), and was dismayed when the power, and hence the computer, went off in the middle of some scholarly article.

Obvserving that the entire village was filled with smoke, and that the sky was unnaturally lit up for 3:30am (in the morning) even at this time of year, he pottered off down the road in his pyjamas to be greeted by this sight:

Minutes later, this happened:

A ceramic isolator in this mini-substation thing had cracked, and the 11,000 volts it was meant to isolate began coursing down the pole instead of onwards to the next villages. The pole, being copiously dipped in creosote, was crackling merrily near the bottom where the electricity earthed, and the village was filled with an eery vibrating hum. A delicate smoke filled the air, not at all unpleasant- almost sweet.

What is meant to happen in these cases is that the power supply trips and stops the 11,000 volts escaping into the ground. What happened in this case is that the trippy thing thought "oh dear, a power cut, never mind, I'll just helpfully turn the power supply back on again, shall I?".

The Boff had called the power company, who had called the fire brigade. They turned up at 4:30am, closely followed by Mr Power Company, who had established from three miles away that he would not be tucked back in bed any time soon. We watched as the firemen watched the pole burn and crackle, unable to do anything because of the 11,000 volts coursing through the ground.

After two hours of conflagration, the ground was baked hard in a three metre radius around the pole, the grass burnt to a crisp, and the 18 inch diameter pole carbonised through near the base. Apparently the firemen eventually put it out at around 4:45, after the electricity company had shut down the power.

This morning, there was an entire crew of men there, and we had no power. Luckily, Sim had asked for a storm kettle for his birthday, which we thoughtfully gave him back in February some six months ahead of his birthday next week. He obligingly made his parents' hot drinks this morning, since we both felt like death warmed up after only 5 hours sleep each.

At breakfast time, I went and asked the crew for the old pole, or such bits of it as were usable. This afternoon, they very kindly chopped it up into short sections and brought it up to our house. They'd put up a nice new pole and a nice new substation thingy, very sleek and neat. And here's what the pole looks like now. It is quite scary to think that this was carrying 11,000 volts until 4 o'clock this morning.

Western Power guy looked at these pictures (except the charred pole one obviously, which is just banal, and would have been rather surreal since he still had the soot on his hands from carrying them onto our drive for us, and I hadn't yet taken it) and said: "God, that's quite scary, isn't it?". And he should know.

Anyway, we got power back at 1pm, whiuch given the scale of the problem is pretty good going, I think.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Aah, just like the old days- work all night, sleep for three hours, get up to face the world at 8:30 am. I've slept *counts on fingers* 7 hours since Saturday morning, including the 3 this morning. I have worked for pretty much 45 hours in a row, barring snatched meals. Just like an essay crisis.

*£££££* It was boring. The money aspect helped. Does that make me materialistic? Probably. Do I care? Would you translate demerger documents for fun?

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