Thursday, 31 December 2009

Resolutions not promises....


Everybody I know is NOT making any resolutions. But being an obtuse person I will. I won't make any promises that any of them will last a week let alone a year but I'll have a go.

For this year my motto will be:
Have A Go.
Say Yes to adventure.
Wave fear goodbye.
Try.


So with those bon motes ringing in my head as Big Ben pulls in the New Year - these are my resolutions:
  • 1) Learn to play The House of the Rising Sun on my Guitar
  • 2) Never wear grey saggy underwear ever again
  • 3) Stop picking my nose esp  when I am in the car and cannot reach my hankie
  • 4) Remember to carry a hankie with me everywhere
  • 5) Only eat chocolate on Fridays - preferably a crunchie. Just so I can say to myself: "Thank Crunchie it's Friday!"
Happy New Year

PS: I never said these were profound resolutions...

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A day to cross off one's calender...


I've been in the shit quite literally so for those of you of a more sensitive nature come back another day - it is not a pretty sight. In fact I doubt it was a pretty sight for my guests either particularly as D had to clear up two of them himself.
It all started last night, The Boy wasn't really up to much but with the excitment of having friends to stay and playing on the Wii and crisps and Orangina, I didn't take much notice. Then in the middle of grown-up dinner, there was a pad padding down the stairs and he was there looking pale and wan and clearly not very well at all.
That was the start of the night from hell.
And I could do nothing.
He had ear ache and it was excrutiating.
All I could do was dose him up to the eyeballs with Ibuprofren and Calpol and get him hot drinks and hot water bottles all night long. He would wake up crying in pain and whenever I went to hold him, he'd angrily push me away saying later Mummy or not now and it hurt like mad and I felt ever so silly. In fact I got quite cross too in my disappointment and frustration.
The Boy slept with me and suffice to say I did not sleep much at all. I watched him and tried to be of help, I fear I was more of a hindrance. And Oh Thank God for Calpol!
At quarter past three I resorted to the internet for inspiration but all the perceived wisdom stated there was nothing that could be done. Eventually we both fell into and exhasuted sleep. Only to be woken waht seemed moments later by a shriek from downstairs.
Our dear Guests had met with the first of three offerings from my dogs, not forgetting the dubious gift courtesy of the cats.
It was not something I needed.
Why oh why if your family is going to be ill must they do it when guests are staying? And why oth why if your dogs decide to do the same thing do thay have to do it right where someone is going to inevitably tread in it? In fact mine did more than that as well as depositing in the main throughfare they also depositied on my Indian Silk Carpet in the dining room - a place they are forbidden from entering. But that's the problem when things go shitty - it really hits the fan!
So bleary eyed I did my best at tidying up and felt that I went from one scream to another chasing after my guests in an attempt to coral them in one place so I could stop them treading in it and hence spreading it all over the house! It was not pleasant.
And just when everything was all back to normal, I noticed the chickens were out - the ones that are not supposed to be out and it dawned on me that today was just one of those days. A day to cross off one's calender...

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

House Hunting: The day we won and our troubles truly started...



"Where’re my socks, I’ve go no socks – why don’t you put anything away in the same place?!"
Oh, the joys of waking up to your loved one’s dulcet or not so dulcet tones as he stomps about in the dark trying to avoid the furniture, the piles of clothes and soft furnishings piled up on the landing; meanwhile Bog Boy starts to natter away to himself and you know it’s only a matter of time before you have to get up. It’s dark, it’s cold outside, it’s still only 5.30 am and the inevitable beckons.
I wait until HE gets out of the house and off to work; a confrontation about his laundry and my lack of organisation prior to 6am in the morning is not the top of my agenda. As soon as I get into the kitchen after carefully reconnoitring the Armageddon-like arena laughingly known as the upstairs landing, I am immediately pounced upon by a pair of wailing banshees; writhing and slithering around my ankles – someone has forgotten to feed them and is halfway to Stowmarket station to catch the six o’clock, glancing at the erratic timepiece still attached to the wall by a rather attractive thick grey cable I notice its seventeen minutes past nine, adjusting my vision by 90 degrees, I realise my Husband has missed his train and will therefore chunter all the way to Liverpool Street – do I leave a message in the office and warn them? Nope I feed the cats, let the dogs out, let the dogs in, pop the kettle on for tea and make my way up the stairs to take stock of my children, Bog Boy in particular.

I have a few too brief moments before The Boy awakes demanding breakfast, wanting to know if he’s going to school yet and - Can I take Roley? Where’s Pipin? Where’re my pants? Mummy? Where’re my socks….
Terrible case of deja vu!
Ever since we moved life has been chaotic, I try so hard to be organised! My carefully laid plans went awry when P asked that fateful question: “Do you want the house?”
His strategy worked in that the agents decided not to go to sealed bids but then there was the bidding war and the interminable wait between offers. Sometimes it would be a couple of days, then a few hours, once it caught us on the hop and it was just a few minutes but that was at the end.
Prior to putting any bids in we were sensible and we visited the house again and again with a variety of experts in a hopeless effort to work out just how far we could go. Like many in love we turned a blind eye to all but what we wanted to hear so we nodded sagely when we were told the roof would only cost us £20,000. We hawed and hummed when we were told that the render could be tricky to replace, we totally missed or conveniently forgot to listen when the quantity surveyor said in an undertone we’d have little change out of £200,000.
Warning lights should have been flashing. For heaven sakes even Mum and Dad were muttering. Luckily though P took over, correctly guessing that our enthusiasm would far outstrip our common sense.
P: “Well there’s eight of you but from what I can gather there are only four serious; as a plan of action I would suggest that we play it cool - we don’t want to land up paying too much. We’ll go up in increments of what? £2,000? We won’t rush back every time the price is raised but we’ll consider it. OK?”
We nod awed: “OK”
A plan of action? Good God! A strategy? All we were doing was buying a house. However, it’s at times like these that it’s very useful NOT to be doing it yourself. We were able to put a bit of distance in it….like heck! Sticking to P’s plan we’d squeezed everyone one out except one other, also up from London. A battle of nerves prevailed – incrementally.
Until..
P: “Right we blast them!”
Me: “Why?”
P: “The idiots are off on holiday, we raise significantly and then say take it or leave it NOW and we win!”
Oh so simple, why did I feel that to P this was just a game?
For us it was everything. Our home. Our Future. Our Life.

However, we did as he said.
The bid went in.
We waited.
They answered.
We said no way we are NOT waiting.
We waited and waited.
And we won. The house was ours – we had a home. Oh my GOD…

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

What happened in the waiting room at the Doctors in Yorkshire….

We had to go visit the Doctor while we were there in Yorkshire, not for me, but to get some Epilim Chrono for The Boy for his epilepsy, as in my delirium to get to Yorkshire in time to visit the Dentist (don’t ask why I have a dentist in Yorkshire while I live in Suffolk it’s really too long a tale) I forgot them.
Anyway we are waiting to see the doctor, Bog Boy, Granny, Me and the Boy. Both Boys are quietly stripping the leaves off the suspect pot plant in the waiting room as they don’t have any magazines or toys because they would aid the spread of disease, and all is calm.
An old boy is slumped in a corner chair, a mother is rocking her baby and a dark haired lady is looking flatly at her surroundings, we all avoid catching each others’ eye; maintaining a distance respectfully from each other.
A little voice starts to sing:
Bog Boy: “Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells!”
I start to stiffen in my seat. I glance nervously at my mother; she seems oblivious. Doesn’t she know how potentially dangerous the situation is?
The innocent little voice continues getting louder:
Bog Boy: “Batman Smells!”
Ha! that got her attention. Because of all the coughing I’ve been doing for the past two days I don’t have any voice left to tell him to stop. I wave at Mum frantically trying to get her to DO something…
Bog Boy: “Robin’s laid and egg…”
Now I know everything hangs on the next words out of his mouth and I am praying it is not the version I heard them practising in the car on the way up from Suffolk. It wasn’t appropriate then and it certainly won’t be appropriate in a doctor’s waiting room in North Yorkshire.
Bog Boy: “Uncle Billy…
I groan and sink further down in my seat hiding may face behind my scarf.
Bog Boy: “…has lost his willy on the motorway!”
There is a collective in drawing of breath and I flush from head to toe and just wish the world would swallow me up. I am NOT his mother, no I am not. He has nothing to do with me I don’t even know where he came from. I mean look at him he’s blonde! I am not ergo not mine.
The dark haired lady snorts with surprised mirth.
The old boy laughs: “By ‘eck lad tha’s got a grand voice: tha’ll b’snapped up by vicar for choir for yer know it!”
And suddenly the whole day brightens. Bog Boy grins in delight and just as he’s about to give another rendition this time accompanied by his elder brother, we are called away for our turn. We wave at our new friends and depart leaving them happy and wanting more.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Flutrek: voyager



You can manufacture incredible release when you are really ill, I know I’ve done it. In fact I did it every forty minutes or so for seventy two hours just by turning my head. Do you want to know how? Well, you know when you are really bunged up and the pain radiates from ear to ear and you can hardly breathe? Lie on one side until you don’t think you can stand it any more then flip over. As the never ending gunk that’s inside your sinuses slides from one side to another and before it settles there is the most amazing few seconds of relief. Absolute bliss for those few seconds before you have to start the whole cycle again.
Then of course there’s the coughing. You try to stifle it because sometimes it fades away without becoming a true cough. A true cough is one that makes you rise out of you slumber like a reanimated corpse for that is what I have been feeling like for the past five days – actually it’s what I have been looking like. It’s no wonder my children have abandoned me and no one wants to visit. Or it might be because I growled at them to all "Pugger Orf and leave me alone!" when they asked for the umpteenth time if I needed anything just, and I mean just, as I finally started to doze off into some proper sleep.
The solicitations of one’s family are hard to bear at times, especially when you are not in your own home. I have been in Yorkshire in my childhood home and the things I delight in and think of with great fondness when I am well and only staying a night or two, start to tarnish rather fast as my illness wears away my humour. The heating comes on and off rather than being on at an ambient temperature so the feeling of being very cold then suddenly coming over in a hot flush could actually have very little to do with the fluctuations in my body temperature and more to the erratic behaviour of the boiler in the outside shed.
Then there is the fact that just when you need a really hot bath, there is no hot water or worse it never quite gets hot enough to do the job properly and you know that when your Mum asks if you had a lovely one (bath that is) you have to say yes because you know that she has sacrificed her bath just so that you can have one so it would be churlish to say how awful it is. Mostly I would dip my foot in and pretend to be having a bath while secretly wrapping myself in a big warm towel while half sitting in the airing cupboard until such a time as I though would satisfy her; but that’s not so easy to accomplish when she says she’ll come into the bathroom and sit with you. I had to lie in a bath full of just above tepid water, and say how lovely and relaxing it was while she sat and chatted! It wasn’t until she commented on how blue I looked round the lips that it was deemed I had better get wrapped up and sent to bed.
Despite that, being at home rather than in my own house and being looked after, is rather special and not something that happens very often. There were no worries about what will there be to eat? Nor worries about where it will come from or who will make it. No worries about how will the boys be entertained or kept quiet or even who will let the dogs out all this was done by someone else. I could indulge myself by being really really ill.  And I was.

Picture: Flaming June by Frederick Lord Leighton 1895 it can be found in the Ponce Museum of Art in Puerto Rico

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Great Panto Review: Cinderella at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester

The tickets for Cinderella were kindly provided by The Mercury Theatre Colchester as part of Have A Lovely Time's 'Great Panto Review 2009,  in aid of The National Alliance of Children's Cancer Parent Organisations (NACCPO), a charity that helps provide respite and support for families with children with cancer. I donated to the charity  in lieu of paying for the tickets.


Speeding along the A12 at a break neck speed to Colchester in time to catch The Mercury Theatre Production of Cinderella on Monday I heard a quavering voice from eh darkest depths of the back seat:
Him: Mum mum where are we going?
Me: To the Pantomime darling.
Him: What’s a Patantonine?
Me: A play on stage sweetheart.
Him after a very long pause as he clearly digested this piece of information: Why are we going to play? Why can’t we stay at home? I want to go home!
This didn’t bode well and I was momentarily stumped in my explanations as we careered off into Colchester and the act of driving safely superseded any attempts by me to head off an almighty strop courtesy of my youngest.
My eldest took up the baton, clearly relishing in his superior knowledge of these things: You’re going to really like it Bog Boy
Bog Boy: On no I won’t
The Boy: Oh yes you will
Bog Boy even more defiantly: Oh no I won’t!
I could see that the evening ahead could be interesting and I had visions of having to view the whole pantomime from outside the auditorium as I tried to placate an errant three year old for the duration
I need not have worried from the moment the lights dimmed and a translucent Fairy Godmother descended the stairs my littlest was transfixed.
Clearly aimed at the younger members of the audience this Cinderella performance written and direct by Janice Dunn is a belter of show jam packed with songs, jokes and so many double entendres that my sides ached. I particularly liked Dame Spatula’s homage to Bjork’s infamous Swan Dress!
Oh I do love a good old fashioned panto me, been a principal boy in me time and then bizarrely landed up a Dame – not quite sure how that translated but is was seriously good fun and that’s exactly what makes a great panto – it’s got to be fun.
In fact I often wonder whether it is the cast or the audience that gets the most out of a show – clearly in Colchester there was a lot mutual appreciation going on not least from my two boys, who went from being shy retiring little angels to Button’s worst nightmare before you could say: “Fairy Godmother!”
Just as a taster this Cinderella is set in a mountain top ski resort with Baron Hardup trying to make a go of things with the ancestral home as a deluxe hotel but failing due burdensome taxes. Ella, his beautiful daughter gamely helps keep it running despite possibly the worst step sisters in the world and a dipsomaniac ex-show girl of a step mother in Dame Spatula.

The Ugly sisters, Ratula and Flatula revel in being truly awful encouraging all the boos and hisses they can, they are a pair of Hogarthian grotesques and you definitely wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night or in the daylight as a matter of fact. But the Boys loved it as only children can, it’s the thrill of witnessing something horrid and watching it being cut down to size that makes you feel safe for by the end Bog Boy crawled out of my lap and was shouting and a yelling and a booing and a hissing with the best of them. What a sense of empowerment!

Buttons was possibly the best, the kids adored him bouncing up and down in their seats with glee every time he got one over on the Uglies and they felt for him too when he realised Ella would never be his. His sheer energy and sense of fun shone through and made the two and a half hour show wiz by.
It is a great show and if this is the standard set then I am booking for next years’ show right now!
Tickets for Cinderella, priced from £9.75 to £19 (£8.00 for children at “A” performances), are available from the Box Office by phoning 01206 573948 or can be booked on-line at www.mercurytheatre.co.uk
Sign Language Interpreted: Tue 5 Jan 8:00pm
Audio Description: Sat 9 Jan 2:30pm
Mercury Theatre, Balkerne Gate, Colchester CO1 1PT
Tel: 01206 573948 Fax: 01206 769607Box Office opening hours Mon – Sat 10.00am – 8.00pm (Sun from 90 mins before a performance)

If you enjoyed this and would like to support NACCPO click here to donate!  www.justgiving.com/havealovelytime

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

House Hunting: When you have to play tough


It’s pitch black at past 9.30pm and there’s a farmer sitting in his cab on the tractor doing God knows what to the field outside merely by the light afforded from his headlamps.
Where once these 200-odd acres supported eight families now there is just one: a father and son set up (plus grandsons under 18) and this is not their only land holding. In fact they farm ten times as much – it’s no wonder none of Roger’s sons wanted to take on the tenancy from the family.
However, that did allow us to get our dream – although sometimes it can feel like a nightmare. In fact it chops and changes between the two with alarming regularity. After I made my dreadful gaffe and basically told the estate agent what we could afford, it was definitely nightmare time. Not least, because it was decided that the whole sale would be done by sealed bid.
There was only one word for it: “SH*T”
We’d been here before and lost.
It is very difficult to find a home when you have so many restrictions: Dear Charlie can be a little unrealistic at times. He wanted land; an attractive preferably old house with water, woods, out buildings, within a 10 minute drive of a station on the mainline to London and definitely not timber framed.
Now I don’t know if many of you know Suffolk but this is the land of timbered houses. Every house we looked at was timber framed. A point I laboured frequently in the nine months we searched.
Me: “So just tell me why you don’t like them??!!”
Him: “I just don’t.”
Me: “Then why pick this godforsaken county then – everything is timber framed.”
Him: “They’re scary.”
Oh god! It turned out as a child he had been sent to stay with a family who lived in a heavily timbered house full of spiders – something that clearly had affected him deeply. And, however much I tried, I could find no sympathy, as I was the one who had to keep looking and vetting and I was so desperate to stop. I was willing to compromise, buy any old house, just unpack and have my life back again.
We’d been married nearly two years and I still hadn’t opened all our wedding presents. In fact I hadn’t seen the majority of my things since before we were married as I had moved in to his house and there had been no room for my pictures, knick-knacks and furniture.
And of course there was one other thing, a little niggle which P kept reminding me about – babies. How could I possibly let myself get pregnant when we didn’t have a home?
So finding out that we had to go to sealed bids was bad, very, very bad.
So there we were in the kitchen just days after P had told me the good news – pissed off and pitiful.
P: “What do you want to do?”
Us: “Sod it say we won’t play.”
P: “That’s helpful… no in fact that IS helpful!”
Dear Charlie and I looked blank. Now I love P but I do find him just a little difficult to keep up with. Never have I known a person who has had so many businesses from Kites to the estate agencies, property development to hypnotherapy. So perhaps you can forgive us if we were a little bewildered.
The next thing we knew P had got on the blower and informed the agent that his clients would not be participating in the sealed bid and that the agent would be doing his client a huge disservice as P’s clients were quite obviously the ones who had the most cash.
Me: “But I thought you said we weren’t meant to tell them that on pain of death!”
Him: “Do you want the house?”
We nodded dumbly.
And I wish it had been that simple. We won battle but the war was far from over.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Review: Changing Sheets

Changing the sheets the other day I realised I had no idea where time had gone – not changing the sheets mind, that doesn’t take very long, unless of course, I am joined by the Boys or event the dogs.
No, I was looking at Dear Charlie’s sheets and duvet cover, well actually his duvet cover, and it dawned on me that he had had this self same cover for as long as I have known him – now we’ve been married ten years and I knew him a long time before that.
I know some may be shocked by the knowledge that I knew what his duvet cover looked like before we were married but I did help him move house long before I actually got engaged to him. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it – you never know who might be reading do you!)
Anyway his Duvet cover must be an antique by now. In fact it is so old, its blue and orange and red geometric design is bound to be fashionable again. It’s a very student boy duvet cover; really dark and well you just know it’s the type that his Mum sent him to University with, and then washed in the holidays, and between that day and they day she washed it, it is extremely unlikely to have been removed from his bed.
I came across a lot of duvet covers like it when I was still a gallivanting. I think it is the reason why I got my own accommodation as quickly as possible so I never had to go through the disappointment that you get when fuelled up by the moment you are swept in his arms and anticipation is at its peak and then you see his duvet cover. Well you know that moment? It’s gone, gone for good and suddenly you just don’t feel like it anymore. A lot of young men were crossed off my list for poor aesthetic taste in the bedroom department.
Perhaps boys should take note here, the duvet cover you choose and they way you tend it, or not, as the case may be can have a direct correlation as to how successful you are on the, let’s call it, romantic front.
Suffice to say, Dear Charlie’s duvet cover has got to go but trying to find him a new one that’s the problem. (Some at this point might be wondering why Dear Charlie seems to have separate linen to me, well we take a pragmatic view in our household in that we both like to function in the morning and what with his snoring and my insomnia we have separate rooms thus we require separate linen. It also heightens that need for him to have linen that I like but that’s not too girly ‘cos face it both people have to be comfortable with the choice.)
Anyway I have been looking, and looking and looking. I’ve tried Next, The White Company, John Lewis, M&S and now I’ve found Dorma…I think I could have the answer to our dreams.
I am extremely fussy about my bed linen. Dear Charlie says it borders on paranoia. I cannot bear synthetic fibres and have an abhorrence of flannelette – however cosy and warm some may feel it to be. I prefer cotton and if pushed I will opt for silk as long as it is white ‘cos I still have ghastly associations of a water bed with black silk bed clothes. Suffice to say that was not a good night and the poor man I was with must have been so disappointed - I suffer terribly from motion sickness…
That aside, I am obsessed with thread count and where the cotton is sourced to make my bed linen – up until now it has had to be from Egypt and at least a 300 thread count making it nice and soft.
I’ve lost you on thread count haven’t I? Briefly thread count is the number of threads per square inch in both directions in the weave. The higher the thread count, the more luxurious the feel of a fabric and softer it is. But beware, as a higher thread count usually means that the threads are thinner and may not wear as well. Also the higher the thread count the more expensive it is and there’s the rub. I think I have expensive tastes. I love the White Company and it’s wonderfully grown up designs but unfortunately the items I like are usually just too expensive for me, John Lewis does some great Egyptian Cotton but here I personally have a problem with the designs – at present there are none I particularly like – unless of course they are very expensive. Now I have found Dorma – and it seems I may have hit the jackpot. A whole host of designs and seriously good prices. I am willing to take a closer look.
Some are just too fussy and I wonder at the embroidered ones, just how long will they last in my household with boys and dogs and well just the rough handling they’ll be expected to undergo?
But I’ve been given a sneak preview Dorma are launching a new co-ordinated range called Capri, available exclusively in Dunelm Mill, with blue and cream stripes and spots (a soft blue that appeals to the girl in me and is not so girly as to send Dear Charlie running for the hills). It meets my exacting criteria of 100 per cent cotton and it has a 300 thread count. Problem is I’m going to have to wait until the end of January 2010.
I suppose I’ll just have to be abstemious this holiday season – or perhaps I shall just send him an invite to come up and see me sometime…corridor creeping does add that extra frisson don’t you think?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Competition ( or why I'm going to have to take the long term view when he retires...)


The Lucky B*****d – or at least that’s the phrase I’ve  heard most over the last six months - because my husband has had a year that many only ever dream of – and no it has very little to do with the abundant and obvious charms of his wife.
He has for this one glorious summer, been paid to do nothing. He strolled into work in May and told them he had a new job. They thought about it and said: “How’s about staying here?” He thought about it and said he had really enjoyed working for them but the time was ripe to move on. They said: “OK.” He then said that he’d like to start at the new job ASAP. To with they replied: “Shucks, sorry, but you can clear your desk and have a great summer!”
I thought that was really cool until it dawned on me he wouldn’t be going away, he would be with me – all summer long. Do you know how long the summer lasts? However, ever resourceful I set about drawing up a list of things that needed to be done. Half an hour and five reams of paper later I had Charlie’s summer sorted.
It has been interesting having Charlie at home and one which The Boy and Bog Boy have taken to with whole hearted abandon. I mean cooked breakfasts each and every day, builders, paint, puppies, diggers, dumpers...Well,  a boys paradise really!

I just seemed to do a lot of clearing up.
And making coffee.
In fact when I think about it this has been the summer of men and as the sole girl I really feel that perhaps I should have been feted somewhat more than I was – maybe I would have been once, but now I had competition. From my husband.
Not in that way. But in the: “Who’s the Top Dog?” sort of way. Where once I would have stopped to chat and crack jokes with the boys on the building site that was once my garden, he was in that position. Where once I would have been the first port of call for the boys after school, he was the one doing the pick up. Where once those that dropped by would have been lumped with me now there was a choice, one that had no other deadlines than his own. Charlie took to being a man of means with little responsibility like a duck to water and I hope enjoyed every bit of it.

I on the other hand, don’t take kindly to being relegated to the side lines but when faced with the inevitable, it is wise to take a long term view of things. Now some six months later with all back to normal, I am the proud possessor of a stunning new driveway, an immaculate set of painted barns, a landscaped vegetable plot and a husband with an extremely pert behind – I mean who could ask for more?







Tuesday, 8 December 2009

House Hunting: Down right Puck like impudence!


Have you ever met someone who is innocently mischevious other than a child of course? Someone the embodiment of Puck from a Midsummer Night's Dream? Well I did just over eight years ago and since then he has gleefully overseen my countryside education.  However, I fear that the temptation to get me to say things, which will make me seem foolish, is just too strong to resist. A bit like teaching a foreigner a few phrases to help them out. They think you are teaching them to say: “I would like two tickets please.” When in fact you teach them to say: “I would like you to call me Dilly and would you plant me in the ground.” Or something equally daft. Hilarious!!!!
As you might of guessed that at 65, Roger really hasn’t got enough to do. Not that A, his wife, isn’t trying to have some control over him but after 40 odd years – odd being the operative word – Roger has perfected the art of seemingly doing as he’s told but in reality pleasing himself. It’s only when A gets really cross, which I might say is a very rare occurrence, that Roger behaves for a few moments.
When Dear Charlie first met Roger to look over the house, Roger was at his most mischievous. I can hardly blame him.
The family farm was being sold following the death of Granny. It was she who had rented her farm to her son while keeping a firm hold over the family purse strings. Her death triggered the division of the spoils between Roger and his siblings. And as none of Roger’s children had been interested in taking on the farm he had decided to retire giving up his tenancy and at the same time as his home.
The farm, too small to be viable, was sold in lots land, farm buildings and house. And it was at this stage that we met him. On this particular day Roger must just have felt he’d test out the prospective buyers of his family home – not maliciously or anything maybe just sorting the wheat form the chaff.
He’d already dragged me through the undergrowth on my previous visit this time I was wised up and so was Dear Charles – I think Roger noticed and may have been a little disappointed but luck was to favour him again in the shape of McVitie, a Golden Guernsey Billy kid.
When Roger’s father  had given up farming, he agreed to share the house with Roger and his family. In order that the two wives could continue to rule their own respective roosts the family home was physically divided into two. Now, some 30 years later, Roger was showing the two halves to potential future owners and on this glorious Saturday morning was where McVitie comes in – literally.
You guessed it, McVitie decided to follow us about the garden and as we seemed friendly and happy to pet him he followed us into Granny's part of the house. Roger must have been quite delighted and I remember he actively encouraged the kid to come upstairs as he gleefully watched the expressions of deep worry and consternation that sped across our faces!
It was about this time when you could see Roger was encouraging McVitie to caper along the upstairs corridor that a sharp sounding voice that brooked no nonsense echoed up the stairs.

“ROGER!!!!!****”
The culprit raised his eyebrows and grinned as the goat was hastily shooed down the stairs and out into the garden. But any hint of contrition from Roger was never aired in our hearing despite being caught red-handed.
Over the years there is very little that surprises me about Roger – his reputation goes before him and he’s fully aware of it!
Despite that it is a privilege to know him and his wonderful family and and I think we get on, actually we have to, as he converted one of the barns and lives next door!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

So near and yet so far...(when opening your mouth without engaging your brain can lose you what you really want)


As a year comes rapidly to an end I start to reminisce, tonight I thought about the first time I saw this place; the first time I met Roger.
I love Roger – I think I did from the very beginning. When I picked up Charlie that evening, that golden summer evening you know the type; heavy and hazy and just full. Everything golden from grass to leaves to crops in the fields – OK so it was June but the fields were golden - full of OSR and my husband full of hay fever!
Welcome to the country! I picked him up from the train station and just drove him to the house; I couldn’t contain my excitement and we cruised past backwards and forwards.
We couldn’t wait to get a better look. P brought the details and there she was - pink. Very, very pink. With a red roof. Lots and lots of Georgian windows and large pottery Gloucester pig placed jauntily in front of an elegant wrought iron garden bench. All this framed by verdant foliage and an emerald green lawn – freshly cut.
But that’s where it stopped – where were the best bits? Where were the internal shots of the beautiful drawing rooms and large farmhouse kitchen; the dining room? In fact any room?

Just a bald statement:

The productive Residential and Arable Farm known as … with substantial 16th Century Farmhouse (Listed Grade II); Modern and Traditional Farm Buildings and 248 acres of Fertile Arable Land being of the Hanslope (411d), Ashley (572q) and Ragdale 1 (712g) Associations (MAFF Grades 2 AND 3).
For sale by private treaty as a whole or in 4 lots

Lot 1 was the farmhouse and 3.93 acres … “in need of some updating and modernisation”.
Dear Charlie wished me luck the next morning as he left to catch the train to London – I had a viewing and would tell him all about it when he got home that evening and say whether I thought it was worth him coming along the next time.
I don’t remember much about that viewing except meeting Roger. Before we knew it the agent and I were taken down the garden going through a seriously overgrown rose arch with more brambles than rose and down to the moat through the tallest nettles on the planet.
I trotted doggedly after Roger as he strode forth in shorts and open toed sandals, totally oblivious of the chin high nettles and brambles that made up the back paddock, through the encroaching trees to the moat where he bade us turn round to look at the house. All the time he chattered, smiling thorough his grisly grey beard, his bushy eyebrows dancing with ill concealed delight every time I flinched, jumped, and stumbled after being stung, scratched or being tripped up. The agent fared no better – I swear that Roger did it deliberately and, knowing him as I do now, I’m sure he did. He took us through the dirtiest, smelliest and most tangled way round that garden that he possibly could. I was in three quarter lengths and backless sandals, while the poor agent was in his very best suit and brand new loafers. Needless to say we were wrecked and we hadn’t even set foot indoors.
The next memory I have is of being in the spare room upstairs looking out over the moat and into the wood on the opposite side. The sun shining on the water and casting dimples of light all around the room I was in and I go and open my big mouth and do exactly what P had begged me not to – I asked how much and the agent replied and I so naively said that’s great we can go to X - a good £30,000 more than was being suggested. As soon as I did this I knew I was in trouble. I tried to backtrack but I could see the gleam in the agent’s eye – he knew it and I knew it; I was hooked and I was the very first person he had taken round – how many others would do the same?
Foolish girl.
I can’t explain how wonderful it felt to know this was the one and how terrible to know that we could lose it just because I couldn’t keep my trap shut. I couldn’t keep my enthusiasm under control. I couldn’t be cool.
It would not be long before Dear Charlie and I were told that the property would be sold via sealed bids…

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Review: Falling For A Fly Called Mooch



There are children’s movies and then there are children’s movies, not all of them any good. But there again I’m an adult and what do I know? However, I have the opportunity to review DVD releases on a sporadic basis courtesy of Disney. Some releases that I have had the privilege to review have been great such as Bolt – a modern classic.
Others I’d rather not have to suffer a repeat performance; there again I’m not into Fairies and I’m afraid they aren’t my Boys thing either - though at one stage it was  touch and go with The Boy who announced proudly he wanted to grow up to be a Princess. He’s moved on from there and is taking inspiration from the likes of Spiderman, Merlin and Harry Potter.
And now, dare I say it, G-Force. G-Force isn’t anything to do with Action Man or some other Marvel comic book hero it’s the latest Disney Blue Ray/DVD and it’s all about Guinea Pigs. Oh was I relieved that we’d moved on from Fairies but Guinea Pigs just before Christmas – come on guys. Why do you do it to us parents?!!!
I was all set for something out of Alvin and the Chipmunks all cutesy and fluffy and enough to set my teeth on edge when we got to the opening sequence and I fell for a fly called Mooch.
I couldn’t say that I would ever think of flies as quite cool but this fly was and as for the cockroaches – inspired. Though I’m afraid if I saw them in my Kitchen or indeed anywhere else in the house I’d still kill them and ask questions later.
Back to the movie: it’s a kid’s movie with a bit of edge, some amazing if somewhat manic action sequences and of course cute flies. It’s live action along the lines of Babe – but boy has have special effects moved on since then - and is basically about the latest evolution of a covert government program to train animals to work in espionage – this time it’s an elite team of highly trained guinea pigs.
Armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment, these kick ass rodents discover that the fate of the world is in their paws but before they can do anything about it their programme is shut down. However, with the help of their human compatriots they escape determined to regroup and save the planet but first they need to escape from the local pet store.
It crossed my mind that I’d seen the movie before and I had, but not done with small rodents. But that’s cool, it’s comfortable and surprisingly entertaining on a wet Saturday afternoon you know what’s coming and you can knowingly smile at the nods to film classics that have gone before. It’s a tried and tested formula – a safe bet. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The Boys loved every minute and have now watched it three times. Luckily however, they don’t seem to be begging me for a Guinea Pig for Christmas and I won’t be prompting them either.

My rating for the film: 6 out of 10
Previous ratings, so you know where I’m coming from: Bolt 8 out of 10, Toy Story I and II: 9.5 out of 10, Shrek I and II: 9.5 out of 10

Friday, 4 December 2009

Stars in their Eyes



God bless the Little Children, each and every one but let’s face it not all of them are born for the stage.
It was the school Nativity Play this afternoon and King No 1 was outstanding, but then again I would say that wouldn’t I? The Boy was there in all his splendour balanced precariously on a gym bench belting out Christmas songs until he forgot the words, got bored and started to pick his nose. I promise he wasn’t the only one.
There was the little echo in the wings who repeated the whole play word for word just a line behind; the Captain of the Guards whose delivery was so fast and staccato, that he had the whole audience in stunned silence as we tried to work out what it was he had just said; the bashful narrators who held up their books so high no one could see their faces, the star who refused to dance and had to be cajoled off the stage so she wouldn’t be in the way of the rest of them, the exasperated Angel Gabriel whose younger brother refused to stand in the right place and say the right words causing said Arch Angel to bash him one to get him to concentrate.
Some you could see loathed the whole rigmarole and clearly felt they were far too old and sophisticated to deign to join in, yawning and fidgeting and then suddenly realising it was their line and having to be prompted.
Others were busy waving and making faces at their parents and younger siblings; although it must be said the parents and siblings were equally bad waving and blowing kisses to their little darlings at the moment jus.
Some voices were loud and strong, others barely above a whisper. Lines were delivered by rote and the relief on little faces as they were said without mishap was palatable.
And then there were the ones clearly born to perform. King Herod stomping in all his majestic fury demanding to know who this upstart baby Jesus was as he was King round here. Thrusting aside other bit players perhaps a tad to strongly as he swept off the stage. There was tiny little Joseph being equally imperious when Mary on her Donkey had the temerity to walk ahead of him, and of course Dear Little Mary herself imploring incredulously the immortal line: “How can I have a baby? I’m not even married yet?”
I swear these Nativity Plays get funnier and funnier every year but I wouldn’t miss them for the entire world!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The case of the Missing Prawns (or the wickedest whippet in the world strikes again...)


Arrghhh!
I thought I was being so clever this evening but she’s gone and done it again. My pesky whippet puppy has eaten all my prawns – and I hope she gets a very poorly tummy. Though saying that, if she does she will probably land up regurgitating the whole lot on my bed knowing my luck!
Oohhh!
I had been very indulgent and had bought - dare I say it? - a ready-made Chinese meal the other day. Beef and Black bean sauce, egg fried rice and crispy prawns with sweet chilli sauce courtesy of those goodly people at Waitrose. I was so looking forward to it, wrong we were both SO looking forward to it.
This evening I had it all sorted. Dear Charlie was soaking in a bath trying to warm up – poor chap is feeling a bit crook and awful cold. I was going to surprise him with a real treat, which we could eat in front of X Factor.
Everything was done for once and I was ahead of myself. The children were fed and in bed, chickens were all shut up for the night, laundry was done, table already laid for breakfast, washing up done. All I had to do was slam the dinner into the oven for 25 minutes and Bob’s your proverbial Uncle.
However, the prawns did not take as long as the sauce to cook. The idea being that you place the sauce in first then half way through place the prawns on a baking tray separately so they don’t go soggy.
So what to do with the prawns for the seven minutes before you place them in the oven? Of course, put them on a separate baking tray and leave them on the kitchen counter high enough, you think, to be out of reach of the dogs.
I hadn’t counted on EBJ’s tenacity had I? Nor on her ability to problem solve. In fact I keep forgetting she has a brain. I must admit it is not one of her most attractive qualities. The other whippets are blissfully brainless – that or they have better manners and/or are not quite so greedy.
However, I leave the kitchen for a few moments to check on Dear Charlie and tell him supper will only be ten minutes, and when I return everything seems fine. Nothing has moved, there are no tell tale marks to indicate anything is wrong. The baking tray is where I have left it but because I don’t go right up to it I fail to notice that there is nothing there until it is time to place the prawns in the oven and they are gone, not a crumb has been left. For a few moments I am bewildered. I question my actions and run through exactly what I did and come up with the conclusion that I must have put the prawns in the fridge. But they are not there. I am genuinely puzzled because there seems to be no way the dog could possibly have half inched those prawns without making an awful lot of fuss or else flying and I had heard nada, nothing, not a dicky bird. I only left the kitchen for two minutes - if that.
But as the Great Sherlock Holmes stated “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.
All I can say is, I have no idea how she could have done it. She is not a cat and to have leapt up 90cms to land on top of the counter which is only 30cms in depth without breaking anything or pushing anything off is incredible.
By a process of elimination I can hazard a guess as to how she might have achieved it but the complexity of the solution seems a bit beyond a ten-month-old whippet.
However this is what I think she did: she walked away from the counter top to the other side of the table where there was a chair slightly pushed out. She climbed on the chair and jumped onto the tabletop. She then walked along the table and jumped about half a metre onto the counter the other side of the oven from where the prawns were sitting. She then walked back along the counter, jumped over the hob without knocking over any of the pans upon it and ate the prawns on the baking tray. Then she retraced her steps. And quietly curled up in her basket.
If it wasn’t for the fact that she happened to have a few tell tale crumbs round her muzzle and for once looked particularly guilty when I glared at her, I swear I would never have known.
I am afraid I reprimanded her for all of two seconds. She seemed so abjectly sorry and it is so out of character for her to show any remorse at all that she was swiftly forgiven.
Dear Charlie mutters that the dog is a serious weasel and is not to be trusted ever and that this is just another ruse to add to her repertoire. Needless to say I suspect he is right. But she’s so cute…

Friday, 27 November 2009

One almighty strop....


 
I love my boys very much and like most parents I would do anything for them but sometimes there is nothing I can do; they just have to work it out for themselves.
Downstairs now, Bog Boy is lying on the floor in one almighty strop punishing me for some transgression I have yet to work out that I did or said or in his case not did or not said – I don’t know which.
Being a parent can be very confusing…nay exhausting, emotionally as well as physically. And it feels like I blunder about it in all the wrong ways.
I mean where do you stand on discipline? How far do you take a threat? What about treats? And do you think you can ever praise enough? Can you priase too much or does it devalue your intent? The same goes for punishment - if you do it too much does it just become tsoemthing that Mum does?
And why oh why is it always me?
I shall potter downstairs now and give Bog Boy a cuddle and our tiff will be forgotten and forgiven just like that - would that the nagging doubts could be cleared aways so easily...



Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dark doings down on the Farm...


Tonight is the night. Tonight my husband is away. Tonight I will pluck up my courage and do the thing I have been meaning to do for ages – I will kill my surplus cockerels.
It seems pathetic that I cannot kill my own chickens. I will go to great lengths to avoid it – my usual excuse being that we never meant to have any chickens in the first place. However, they came with the house.
I remember first seeing this place. Dear Charlie’s best mate P had returned to Suffolk a year earlier and was looking for a suitable home for us while we were in London and then in June just after we had moved into rented accommodation he loomed large at the door while I was de-fleaing one of the cats at the kitchen table.
Him: “You pregnant yet?” (back then P was very keen that we had children as quickly as possible perhaps because he needed Dear Charlie to join him as a new dad to bemoan the sleepless night that he was clearly suffering).
Me: “You found me a house yet?”
He had just heard that this place was coming onto the market begged me not to get excited and: “For god’s sake don’t say how much money you can spend!”
Both bits of advice went in one ear and out the other and I dived headlong for the car leaving P to handle an extremely explosive cat still in its towel vice.
Although I couldn’t actually look at the house; I could drive past it, which I did several times – we’d been looking for so long it seemed and nothing we had viewed was ever quite right. Could this be it?
Then I saw the most extraordinary sight. Just after the turning for the house and before the 90 degree bend in the road, a massive great lorry had ground to a halt; it sat there a-huffing and a-puffing and not doing very much. I stopped the car – what was going on?
Then I noticed that just in front of the juggernaught a chick was quite unconcernedly was pecking away in the middle of the road at some fallen grain; then I looked again, there was whole group of them plus a very harassed motherhen,who had quite literally taken on the lorry. Her wings were aggressively spread, her neck all ruffled up. The HGV didn’t stand a chance. Minutes later all the chicks were across the road and into the corn field then the hen swivelling on short bright yellow legs, dark chestnut and black feathers immaculately in place, strutted after them. My first encounter with the Rookyard brood; how I would grow to love them and to curse them over the next eight years!
As far as looking at the house was concerned I could hardly see a thing just a glimpse of Suffolk Pink up a dirty concrete drive massively overgrown with jungle like vegetation – I just knew it would be ours and drove off in a hurry to tell Dear Charlie that I had found our "Forever" house.
I don’t know why I feel I need to tell you about how we got this place and what it meant but if I don’t, then it will all be forgotten. I need to bring you up to speed so you’ll know what I’m going on about – it’s not really a blog. But if you don’t know the story of the hens, the house, the children, the dogs etc you won’t know me…
That hen with her chicks was what I wanted to be – a mum.
Now as a responsible chicken owner I need to protect my brood and too many cockerels is not a good thing. I will grab next-door neighbour Roger and we will do the deed tonight!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Swimming like fish...(or the impossible joy of being there when they finally do something amazing!)

I'm writing this sat on a bench overlooking to pools in the local swimming baths keeping an eye on each. To the left of me Bog Boy is sitting expectantly on the tiled bench like windowsill in front of the gigantic picture windows overlooking the car park. He's intently watching the children in the class before him bobbing up and down in the water doing "Ring-a-ring-o-rosies". It looks like he's using all his will power not to jump in with them. He knows he has to wait his turn. I can see he's quivering with anticipation.
To the right of me, my eldest, The Boy, lounges against the wall, arms and legs crossed. Totally unfazed by the steamy atmosphere, seemingly unaware of the cacophony that billows and buffets around him.
One session ends and with a squeal of joy Bog Boy is in the pool, doing big jumps across it. "Look at me! Look at me Mumma!" he grins at me and then jumps faster to catch up: "Boing! Boing! Boing!"
The Boy on the other hand gracefully slides into the pool and that's where it ends. All that loose-limbed gracefulness fades and well let's say he's the opposite of a swan. On land he's beautiful, streamlined (for a boy of 6) and dreamy - in the water well, it's just painful.
He pushes off from the wall and all seems fine for about a metre and then there is a frantic flailing of arms, and I presume legs, and I watch him slowly start to sink. It is agonising. His shoulders disappear beneath the water then his head until all that is left is his face screwed up with concentration as he desperately tries not to touch the floor with his feet; he sinks beneath the water, then briefly remerges before sinking down again, then up and spluttering as his teacher’s voice like a fog horn utters: “Oh No! You’ve put your feet down AGAIN!”
To be honest, I am quite glad, as for a minute there I really thought he would drown and was about to draw the attention of the gaggle of teenage life guards standing in a group chatting to each other over in the far corner.
Panic over, I glance over at the other pool to watch Bog Boy’s progress. I’m afraid to say Bog Boy is the loudest in his class. He does a running commentary and with blithe disregard chatters to all and sundry especially his brother:
Bog boy: Boy! Boy! Look at me! Over 'ere Boy! Look!
The Boy looks over and grins giving Bog Boy a thumbs up sign before being brought to brook by his swimming teacher and told to concentrate.
Bog Boy’s swim teacher knows not to bother doing that to him for he’ll just ignore it and do what he wants. As if on cue he calls to me.
Bog Boy: Mummy Mum, Mummy MUUUMMMEEE!
Me (trying to act as if chatting to a 3 year old across a 15m distance is a normal thing to do): Yes darling?
Bog Boy, as he gets out of the pool in the middle of being asked to do something: Mumma?
Me, smiling apologetically at his teacher: “Yes love?” Expecting him to say that he needs to go to the loo and very aware of everyone else listening in.
Bog Boy: “Can I have some crisps?”
Me: slightly non plussed: “What Now?”
He nods.
Me: When your lesson’s over love.
I am acutely aware that I have gone a deep shade of red and I can hear people trying not to laugh. I watch Bog Boy rejoin his class supremely unaware of the embarrassment he has caused and I turn to watch my eldest in an effort to compose myself.
His teacher is making him swim without support again – a whole width!
He’s starting off well, good strong push from the wall that gives him 1m.
Now kick those legs.
Keep those arms moving.
Doesn’t matter about the water in your eye, just shut them!
Try to keep going forwards.
Legs! Boy legs! Keep kicking.
Over half way now. I know your sinking but really you’re almost there!
Come on Boy! Come on!
Kick! Kick, kick, kick.
Keep going! Keep going!
Go on MY BOY!
Ohmygodhe’smadeit!
The Boy has swum 5m all on his own – OK, not stylishly and to be honest I thought he was drowning most of the time, but he went from side-to-side without putting his feet down!!!!!
I suddenly realise that everything has gone quiet, I clap my hand to my mouth and I flush again. In my excitement I have leapt out of my seat and punched the air obviously yelling at the top of my voice in excitement.
The deafening silence is broken by a cherubic little voice:
Bog Boy: Are we going home now?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Taking down things that were once yours...an agricultural perspective.

Thud, thud, thud… Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Whee! Whee! Thud! Bang! I would at this point like to say that the builders are in - but it is only Roger.
He is in the process of dismantling his old round corrugated iron grain store and as I write the evening is being punctuated by clashes and clatters then the frantic wheeing of the angle grinder followed by vicious thuds, a couple of bangs then silence. Then just as the rest of us, and the wildlife, recover from the assault; it starts again.
I have witnessed the beginning of this project some three months ago not asking why Roger was doing it as you never ask Roger anything ‘cos the result is you are never any the wiser with the answer.
The grain store hasn’t belonged to Roger for six years but like everything round here that doesn’t count for much. Roger does, as the Boy so succinctly put it, “Roger things”. So on a saturday morning in the cold of November Bog Boy and I watched along with J, who hires one of our barns, as Roger tackled the job of dismembering what was once his.
Roger: “Well I put it up so I suppose I’m the best one to take it down again problem is I can’t remember exactly how I did it, I will once I take it down though.”
We watched as Roger swung precariously on a rope yanking it backwards and forwards.
Roger: “It wholly keeps you warm this!”
And he began to climb to the top. For a man closer to 70 than I would care to think; Roger is exceedingly fit and strong but how he has survived for so long without killing or severely injuring himself I have no idea. Health & Safety are not his watchwords – in fact I don’t think he even knows they exist.
The grain store stands roughly 30ft high, is cylindrical and rocks a bit in the wind. Roger says it’s always been like that and he built it so deliberately otherwise he informed me it would have been blown down long since.
Me: “Right Roger, I’ll believe you…”
With that he looked at me and grinned and carried on climbing.
Roger: “Oh I can see how I did it now!”
J and I looked at each other then chorused: “How then, Roger?”
Roger: “I did it with scaffolding poles - then winched the roof up and added the walls a level at the time!”
Right then - ingenious - but not exactly safe! And to think he used to do all the building work on the house! Shudder At the Thought! But then we’ve seen most of his handiwork at some stage or another.
J and I then took bets.
J: “He’s fair going at it – two months!”
Me: “Yeah, right more like a year! More bloody bits of metal round the farm.”
J laughed, took another drag of his cigarette and headed back in to the barn where he works. I continued to watch Roger, half out of curiosity and half because it is something I always do when Roger is working around the farm. Roger has diabetes and we all keep an eye on him. He’s so enthusiastic that he forgets to eat properly and then forgets to test with the result that he either gets too high or too low and becomes quite uncontrollable, very loquacious and garrulous and sometimes argumentative - pretty much like he is always - then he falls over. To avoid this we all remind him when we get suspicious. Dear Charlie says he reckons he sometimes puts it on just to see us rise. Teasing us is one of Roger’s favourite past times.
Eventually I left him to it and after a few days it all stopped. I did ask why he was doing it and he said it was because Mr W was going to build a clamp for sugar beet and had wanted to remove the grain store before the winter so Roger said he would do it so long as he could have the metal. Mr W agreed – happiness all round.
Roger will take the metal to the scrap merchant and that will be his pay – but I suspect that it will keep him busy and entertained for a few more months. I’ll just put up with the syncopated orchestra for a few more evenings….

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Why I am giving a goat for Christmas this year...

Picture this, a town in an arid dry region on Northern Africa, water is scarce and the area poorer than you can imagine. Everyone who can has already fled to the richer towns and cities looking for work leaving behind young children, women and old people. There seems to be little hope. Food is scarce hope seems scarcer still.
Then comes along a group of travellers who bring gifts from the children of their countries and start giving them out to the poor children in the town. It is like manna from heaven and the children are excited and happy.
The older folk get to hear and come along to see. The Elders talk they are not happy that their children should get things for free but it is difficult to say no. Times are hard and they are poor.
The travellers talk to the elders and say they are only there to help. The Elders nod, uncomfortable but in the light of such simple pleasures it seems churlish to send the travellers away.
The travellers say they would like to stay and help educate the children to become doctors and teachers and skilled workers who will help the impoverished community. The elders nod and say this would be a good idea because it is good. But what the elders do not realise is that their children, their future and their culture will be pushed aside and in return for providing this bounty the travellers will demand that the children become good Muslims. All because of a gift some children in a Muslim country thought they would like to share with others less fortunate themselves.
It’s only a story but it seems pretty scary to take advantage like that.
But what if I said that a Christian Charity looks to be doing the same thing in that it offers relief to peoples all round the world and then peddles its beliefs to the very people it has just helped whether they are Christian or not? Isn’t that taking advantage? Doesn’t it make you worry? What if I said it is happening now and that last year I participated in this unknowingly. What do you say then? Is it shocking still?
The web site for Operation Christmas Child with it’s shoebox appeal says quite rightly that “religious items are not on our suggested list of gifts to put into a shoebox, as we want to be sensitive to the indigenous culture where shoeboxes are distributed and we also want to place an emphasis on education and fun. However, we welcome appropriate items such as Christmas cards or Christmas colouring books”
It adds that: “Christian literature is sometimes distributed with the shoebox.”
However, on the web site for Samaritan’s Purse the charity behind Operation Christmas Child things start to get me concerned. Samaritans Purse says it is inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), which it says gives a clear picture of God's desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, "Go and do likewise."
Samaritan’s Purse has done so in it’s own way for over 35 years, it says it has “done our utmost to follow Christ's command by going to the aid of the world's poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.”
OK I can just about cope with that but it starts to make me uncomfortable. I explore the web site further and I read about Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, who heads up the charity. He has recently visited Asia and wrote in a Newsletter about his trip.
“In the Philippines, where typhoons brought floodwaters so high that people were forced to their roofs for safety, we worked hand-in-hand with the country’s Operation Christmas Child leadership team to bring emergency aid to over 70,000 people. More than 350 local believers were mobilized to distribute supplies alongside our staff. In some areas, flooding left thick, knee-deep mud in many houses. With our support, church volunteers did the back-breaking work of removing the muck and debris, so families could move back home.
“Our motivation is not just to help people,” said a volunteer. “We want them to see the Savior.”
By now I am very concerned. I continued to read.
“When the Indonesian city of Padang was rocked by two powerful earthquakes, Christians traveled from towns several hours away to work with our team to provide relief. They loaded trucks with food and other supplies and drove through the night to reach the affected communities.
Padang has a long tradition of hostility to the Gospel. In fact, many of the residents are proud that there is no church in the area. Our partners, however, are committed to bringing the light of Christ to this dark place.”
I am not saying that Samaritan’s Purse is not helping an awful lot of people. I know it is but I just wish they had made it perfectly clear that the shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child were used as a conduit to further their evangelical aims.
I am sorry I do not like to feel used. I do not want my children to be used to further an evangelical organisation whose aims are to bring the gospel to the indigenous locals even if they do not want it. It’s not just evangelical Christians it’s any religious groups Muslims, Hindus and jews.
I have an awful feeling I am going to be slammed for this post and I have no wish to unduly upset people. I prefer to have a clear view about the charities I support.
I am not doing a shoebox this year instead my family is giving a goat through Oxfam Unwrapped one that will last far longer than just one day.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The most evil dog on the planet...


...and it is sitting right next to me.
I could quite cheerfully strangle the awful toad. She is SO naughty. Nothing is sacred, I mean nothing.
Tonight in a fit of boredom she chewed my antique eiderdown and there are feathers everywhere, everywhere all over the spare room, all over the dog and all over the upstairs landing.
I should never, never have got her.
But I did.
I wuz conned. Right royally.
In case you don't know, the Evil Black Job or EBJ for short is a ten month old black whippet acquired foolishly by me after we realised that Gemma our four year old whippet really didn't like dogs and would never ever allow herself to be mated thank you very much. So having promised Bog Boy a puppy from Gemma's litter (Note to self don't count your puppies before they are born/female dog is mated), I had to find an alternative - preferably a whippet.
So I casually asked Paul, who bred Tattie, Gemma's Mum - is this getting complicated? Come on keep up it's really not that hard - if he happened to know of anyone who had or was having puppies. He equally casually said: "Funny that I just happen to have three in the garden shed." - as you do.
Ok you are a bit lost as to where Paul came from; well I had got reacquainted with Paul after spending an afternoon in his Garden during the previous Summer while his Dog was tied to my Tattie for an hour. That mating did not work and we decided we'd try Gemma and well that didn't work despite three attempts and it was at this point, when we basically felt that it was unfair to subject Gemma to the indignity again, that I asked about puppies.
Now as everyone knows puppies are adorable and whippet puppies are probably the most gorgeous of all and that was it, I was smit.
I was also privileged to be able to choose our new puppy's pedigree name and I oh so stupidly called her Nemesis. At home she's normally known as Sassy because she is but more often than not we call her EBJ. She will always be someone or something's nemesis.
Her kill count to date is: 15 loo rolls shredded and gleefully strewn round the house; four teddies causing many tears from the Boys; one toothbrush; one chilli; one sack of potatoes; four wire scrubbers; one porcelain bowl; a whistle; three DVDs; a toy Story " video; three pairs of knickers; two pairs of tights and eight socks (always one of a pair); one antique eiderdown...

She shows no shame and has no remorse. She jumps on tables and wanders down the sideboard. She is a pest and I really should hate her but I don't. I really do love her...

Friday, 13 November 2009

A star is born



Pushy mothers know no bounds especially when it comes to the Christmas Nativity play. Up until now The Boy has in effect been a bit player, an extra, but now at the tender age of 6, and in Year Two to boot, stardom beckons. This is HIS year to shine.
There has been great expectation in the playground; one hopes that not too many will be disappointed, however, there is an inevitability about it all. I mean, let’s face it the Christmas Story doesn’t give that many lead characters – well not enough for the whole class anyway.
Ever since half term there has been an air of anticipation, suppressed excitement and in some cases hysteria in the car park. The Yummy Mummies have been ever so attentive to our class teacher; little bequests are brought in; a case of freshly pressed apple juice here, a Cath Kidston car rug now the days are getting colder there. Suddenly Miss M is feted in the playground her opinion now more eagerly sought out than ever before. Some Mummies opt to bring in the big Guns and there is a marked increase in the number of Dashing Dad’s appearing at drop off. It’s a major charm offensive.
Will the class princess land the role of Mary? Will the richest kid on the block, whose parents are rumoured to have pledged thousands for a new music room, secure more than the one line he really deserves? Will the weedy nerdy one be relegated to herding sheep and being upstaged by a ringletted dancing snowflake? And what of The Boy?
Of course he should have a leading part, I mean he’s perfect, he’s beautiful, he’s already a damn fine actor – especially when it comes to making up excuses not to go to bed. But, I’m nothing if not realistic, The Boy has a hard time reading as yet and with his Absence Seizures, dramatic pauses might go on for a tad too long and be in the most inappropriate of places or he might just totally forget what he is doing and just wander off or even ad lib something from Merlin or heaven forbid Power Rangers which might not go down to well in the annunciation to the Virgin Mary.
I wait with the rest of the parents in the playground and look expectantly at the children as they file out trying to read in their expressions whether any of this is as important to them as it seems to be to us.
I do not quiz him there and then – I wait until we are in the car and then subtly I think, casually drop into conversation questions appertaining to what part he has been allocated.
Him, suffused with pride: I’m a King and Mummy I’ve got lines to learn! And Mummy we’ve got to get my costume right and I need a sword and a crown and Mummy don’t you think you ought to buy me a costume and not do it yourself and will you listen to my lines…
He’s taking it very seriously indeed and in fact we’ve even got a back story so that he’ll have the right motivation for his pronouncements – all three of them!

Go on you know you want to...

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