Puddings and Panto

When shall we three meet again? Next week for wreath making of course!
When shall we three meet again? Next week for wreath making of course!

The Christmas Countdown is ON and I can already tick Christmas puddings off my festive to-do list. A lovely morning was spent with two pals, pooling our ingredients, weighing, measuring and blatantly guessing before chucking it all in a giant toy tub (sterilised) before taking turns at stirring. I stayed faithful to Delia as she’s never let me down before but we doubled the recipe as we were aiming for four puddings. Stirring help was drafted in from the Inlaws downstairs and auntie and uncle from across the way and everyone had a wish or two. It was very special and reminiscent of the times I used to make the puddings with my granny. We’d always have a stir, then a wish then a wee kiss and a hug.

They smell a lot nicer than they look
They smell a lot nicer than they look

We made four puds altogether which were cooked in two batches in the Aga and the kitchen smelled Christmassy for days. The cooked puds have now been parcelled up in foil and distributed accordingly. I’ve stashed our own one in a cool cupboard in the dining room where it will no doubt sit, forgotten all about for decades until my grandchildren unearth it in a clear out in 2045. A wee reminder nearer the time would be appreciated.

Nothing says Christmas like upcycled blankets and crochet balls.
Nothing says Christmas like upcycled blankets and crochet balls.

Homemade decorations have also been achieved along with several hand crafted presents for some unlucky recipients (I can almost hear the audible mutterings of “why can’t she just go to Lush?”). The reason for this crafty flurry is that our youngest now goes to nursery five mornings a week allowing me three whole hours of festive-fannying-around-time. It’s sheer bliss and I intend to enjoy every second until I am forced back in to work by my husband who keeps subtly hinting that whilst my woolly stars are very nice and everything, they won’t mend the leaking roof or load the boiler.

This. Sort of.
This. Sort of.

As if I didn’t have enough to do with unfinished, mediocre crafts, I only went and got myself involved with the local pantomime which is being directed by Martin Scorsese my mother-in-law. Due to my almost global (3-mile radius) reputation as a kid’s face painter, she asked very nicely if I’d do the make up for the production of Dick Whittington. Of course I jumped at the chance – chiefly because it gets me out of the kids’ gruelling bedtime routine (which is, in itself, a pantomime) for three nights.

Curtain up was last night and the smell of the grease paint and roar of the crowds* will stay with me forever (well, give it a couple of days). I am watching the matinee today with the kids and am hoping the littlest one won’t have an epic freak-out when she sees Grandpa prancing around the stage dressed as a giant rat. As a precaution, I have volunteers on hand to escort her off the premises because as we thespians say, the show must go on.

*this is a small village. It’s all relative.

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All Work and Some Play

No more galavanting for me for a while. It’s been a blast but lovely to be back at our little hideaway off the map, and, as the holiday season officially begins, time to stop reminiscing about nude male models and hot tubs and GET BACK TO WORK.

hooverThe big news is I have been rewarded with a promotion and have gone from being a mere laundry assistant to actual HEAD of Laundry. I can now fold fitted sheets and everything*. Even more exciting is my new role as Assistant Housekeeper which involves cleaning the holiday cottages on change-over days, under the watchful eyes of Head Housekeeper, Hayley. She is also a very good pal which makes the work most enjoyable and of course I get to dump the kids on their granny for a few hours. Everyone is a winner. Except poor granny perhaps. Who knew cleaning could be so satisfying? I might even try doing it at home, instead of merely spraying Pledge(tm) around and leaving the hoover in the middle of the hall so my husband trips over it and thinks, “Ah, Emma must have dusted and hoovered. What a lovely wife I have who takes such pride in our wonderful home.”

This is also the start of Visitor Season which began in earnest last week with my parents popping down for a few days. Mum arrived with, amongst other food items, her obligatory pineapple which I must confess was very welcome and completely delicious. I felt bad for not giving the Christmas one a chance. The girls immediately found a willing swing-pusher in my dad and he spent several hundred patient hours indulging them. The man is a saint.

Very wishful thinking
The next batch of guests arrived amidst great excitement and immense fatigue, from New Zealand. Niall’s sister and her three children are over for ‘untle Tenny’s’ wedding in May and are here for nearly five whole weeks. My littlies had never met their antipodean cousins and were beside themselves with anticipation. Their initial refusals to make eye-contact or speak lasted about 12 minutes and they’ve been inseparable ever since. Despite the age gaps and gender divides – they are two boys aged eleven and six and one girl aged nine, the bonding was instant and I’ve hardly seen my girls since they arrived. It’s lovely to witness these life-long friendships blossom and maybe one day there will be a New Zealand trip on the cards for us, when the girls are old enough not to be a total nightmare on a plane for 26 hours.
I live in hope that continental drift will one day shunt it a bit nearer or that some clever person will invent a T.A.R.D.I.S. type craft that can magically transport people to the other side of the world instantly. Failing that though, there’s plenty time to start stockpiling prescription sedatives.

*youTube it. It changed my life

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Hen Shenanigans

It’s not exploitation it’s art.

For a change I’m not referring to the feathered variety but more excitingly, the large group of women including one bride-to-be and several plastic penises, variety. The bride in question was my gorgeous sister-in-law to be and the weekend had been brilliantly organised by her fabulous four sisters at the stunningly beautiful Glenfarg house, not far from Perth.

I was almost as excited about the journey as the two nights away from the children. Four hours completely on my own with absolutely NO DISNEY music or irritating dvd noise from the back seat or petty squabbling or psychotic meltdowns. It was sheer bliss. For the first two hours but then I ran out of ‘Les Miserable’ and jelly babies and didn’t really have a clue where I was and had my own psychotic meltdown at the sat nav. “Tim” seems to have an aversion to main roads and much prefers a quiet amble down random country lanes which go on forever. I really lost the plot when he suddenly announced that my remaining journey time had gone from 25 minutes to 3 hours 40. I unplugged the smug, patronising bastard and decided to use the force instead, arriving not long after my ETA. In your FACE, Tim.

There was about 30 seconds of shy awkwardness as nobody knew everyone but this soon evaporated into a giant love-in of mutual appreciation for the fabulous bride-to-be and for the mothers amongst us, unbridled elation at the thought of two nights away from our little ones. It quickly descended into wine-fuelled hilarity culminating in penis hoopla. I failed miserably at not having a hangover so I could enjoy a lie in but with no children to bother about, it was manageable.

“I know him sooooooooooooo well”. But not the tune or the words unfortunately.

The following day was filled with craft activities and stovies* in the sun and afternoon naps and a hilarious life-drawing session with what must have been the most high-brow use of a male stripper, ever. The evening’s main event was a talent show at which I fulfilled a life-long ambition to be Elaine Paige. With my cohort, Barbara Dickson, we belted out “I know him so well”, compensating for lack of musical talent with comedy and terrible wigs.

Once again I broke my own rules of not drinking past 11pm and retiring to bed by 1am. With my musical comrade, Barbara, we were still glugging wine at 2am and eventually staggered up to bed a 3ish. Very insensible considering my epic journey but the world needed putting to rights and we even tackled Scottish Independence. Unfortunately I have no recollection of what we concluded.

The return journey was bearable thanks to a steady supply of sugar and carbs on the seat beside me and the thought of seeing those little faces again kept me going. I got the best welcome in the world ever and two days later, I have almost recovered.

Now it’s serious countdown time to the wedding which will now be less about the happy couple and much more about a reunion of all the fabulous hen ladies. Without the plastic penises.

Can’t wait!

*best hangover cure EVER. Google it non-scots.

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Hot Gossip

One of the loveliest things about living in a small, rural setting, is the strong sense of community that is prevalent. For such a small place, there is a lot going on, which has been a great help in making us feel settled. Two events of the past week have cemented this warm, fuzzy feeling of belonging and I almost feel like a local.

erin The first was an invitation to join the Village Hall Committee as a representative of the playgroup, which meets there twice a week. Never having been much of a ‘joiner’, I reluctantly accepted on the premise that I would be sharing the tedium with my friend, who already attends the bi-monthly meetings. Relations are slightly strained between the playgroup and the rest of the committee as there seems to be a mandatory section in the minutes for bollocking us for various petty misdemeanours. Recent gripes have included:

  • The toys encroaching on the next shelf along, belonging to the badminton group who haven’t met since Miss Dunwoody’s* hip replacement in 2004.
  • The store cupboard door being left open which allegedly lets the cold air out into the hall. Which is generally arctic as they conveniently keep forgetting to put the heating on for us.
  • The toilets being left in an unsatisfactory condition. We have photographic evidence that implicates the knitting group who utilise the smaller meeting room on Fridays.

Perhaps with two of us in attendance we can kick some serious ass and show them who they’re messing with. The Vicar of Dibley meets Erin Brockovitch, if you will. Watch this space.

My second initiation test was similarly bitter-sweet. Whilst enjoying a Saturday morning in town with the girls, I received a text from my husband informing me that I was the subject of some intriguing village gossip. Initially I was beside myself with excitement and the feeling that I must truly belong if people are bothering to spread rumours about me. This was short-lived as I digested the content of the rumour which was this: someone in the village asked Gladys* who checked with Agnes* who in turn asked for confirmation from Morwenna*, if I was PREGNANT! I’m not proud of the string of expletives that erupted from my mouth in front of the children, in the busy play park, but I was incensed. I haven’t touched carbohydrate since January 2nd** and have actually managed to shift about 4lb. I’m really hoping it was my unflattering puffy winter jacket that fuelled this idle speculation. Apart from anything else, there is no WAY I would jeopardise the opportunity to drown my sorrows in Sauvignon Blanc on my fortieth birthday in May.

Still, it could have been a lot worse. Helen* from up the glen was the victim of mistaken identity and was wrongly outed as passing away on Christmas Day. Peggy* in the shop got a dreadful shock when Helen innocently popped in for a pint of milk a few days later.

I do love rural living.

*all names have been changed to prevent my 10 readers identifying any individuals.
**notwithstanding wine, baileys, left-over crimbo chocolates and the odd fish finger.

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In the Bleak Midwinter

Normality has finally been restored after the festive period and it was almost a relief to get back to the daily grind of nursery drop-offs and pick-ups which shape my days. I do love a routine, even if it is a routine that involves bribing, cajoling and more often than not, screaming like a banshee. And that’s just to get them dressed. It always amazes me that, despite the fact my day usually begins at 6am (on a good day), I can achieve a good three hours of pissing about doing not very much, leaving myself 15 minutes to get the girls fed, dressed and into the car. I keep meaning to turn all ‘Captain Von Trapp’ and introduce a militant morning regime which must be adhered to or severe punishment will ensue. But I can’t really be arsed.

Four years at art college well spent

The First Week Back provided us with a birthday as Zoe turned four on the 8th of January. As I was recovering in hospital after her premature birth, I remember feeling devastated that she would be cursed with a winter birthday, so close to Christmas and almost always in the middle of the first week back at school. This was a few days in, when we knew that whilst she was very tiny, she was also strong and healthy and all would be fine. I was also irrationally upset that she missed out on being born into the Year of Tiger which she would have shared with me, sadly arriving, six weeks early, at the arse end of the Year of the Ox. This crushing disappointment was slightly tempered when I realised she shared a birthday with Elvis.

It’s been a mixed bag, weather-wise this year, but nothing too extreme yet. We’ve been treated to some dramatic storms and freakishly high tides but so far our wee enclave has escaped the numerous power cuts that have affected the nearby village. I don’t feel very well prepared for that eventuality and my repeated requests for a power-cut drill are laughed at by my husband who insists we have enough torches and candles to illuminate the whole castle. It’s not so much the lack of heat and light that worries me though, rather the epic tantrum which will erupt after informing our volatile two year old that she can’t watch Peppa Pig.

It was in March last year that the weather went all apocalyptic, resulting in a five day power cut in the area. This was before we moved but I’ve heard the stories from my new friends and other locals. They range from the positive – “It was the spirit of the blitz!”, to the tear-jerking – “I couldn’t boil water for the baby’s bottles”, to the downright horrific – “We played Scrabble every night”. Perish the thought. As the first occupants of the castle to experience central heating, we have all gone soft and I don’t know how long we’d last without heat, let alone wifi. Hopefully it was rare phenomenon and we will be spared the trauma but as a precautionary measure I am stockpiling tins of food, woolly jumpers and two-letter words.

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Fraudulent holiday

I am almost embarrassed to admit that I’m on actual holiday after three weeks of mucking about on a beach in scorching sunshine. We booked it before we were cruelly thrown out of our house and forced to move into a castle though.

We’re on Tiree for a whole week of justified mucking about on a beach and generally doing hee followed by haw which is fabulous. Grandparents are conveniently here also for some handy child off-loading.

I need my annual fix of this island. It gets under your skin. Quite literally sometimes – I’ve found sand in crevices I wasn’t even aware of…

I think it’s the expansive sky and the machair and the white sand and the turquoise water and the empty beaches. I hate reading features about Tiree in magazines as I selfishly want it to stay secret. Totally ridiculous, I know. But still…

I’ve started a new crochet project at last.* It’s going to be a round cushion cover for India’s new bedroom,  made with cheapy wool but in lovely colours. I’d forgotten how therapeutic crochething is. If I relax any more though I won’t have a pulse. Just as well the kids keep trying to wreck our lovely holiday cottage every 5 minutes which keeps the blood pressure nice and high**.

*because weirdly, the children seem to be able to amuse themselves here and there is less limpeting going on.

**see *

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Things I have learned this week

#1 I CAN pick up dog poo (with a spade!!) In the past, before I liked dogs*, I was utterly repulsed by the thought of dealing with their ‘business’ and secretly revolted by responsible owners who had no qualms with picking up warm doodoo with a thin plastic bag. I even refused to pick up after my granny’s fat King Charles and felt no shame as granny wobbled precariously on her walking stick, bag in hand, struggling to bend far enough to reach her steaming target. Maybe it’s the sea air or I’ve just gone all country but I love my daily turd-spot and clean-up of the lawn. The kids enjoy the spotting bit too. Family fun!

#2 I am nicer person after a swim in the sea. I am getting in to a wonderful routine down here of going for a dip a around 6pm. On a scale of one to batshit mental, I’m usually up there by this time of day but after a plunge in the icy water and a few strokes round the bay, I feel like the Dalai Lama.

20130607-073512.jpg#3 I am not a dry husk! I cried like a baby when I came across a gorgeous picture of me and my three oldest and dearest friends whilst unpacking to the version of Auld Lang Syne from Sex and the City when Miranda is alone at New Year and Carrie goes out in the snow and catches a subway and walks and walks to get to her. I would so do that for each and every one of them. Except it would be a ferry. And it doesn’t run in winter…..

#4 Home is where the box of random items that have no place and you’ve forgotten their original function or where they came from or how long they’ve been hanging around but you can’t face throwing any of them out because they might hold the key to survival one day, is.

*total 360. Love doggies now! Want a puppy NOW. I am auntie to a chocolate lab in NY and very keen to give him cousins. It seems rude not to have one here.

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So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Adieu #2

ER 425This was a biggie. We said farewell to our fabulous granny yesterday, who passed away last Friday aged 100.

She was stoical, formidable,  inappropriately loud, occasionally tactless, very loving, sometimes terrifying, usually hilarious, beautifully coiffed and manicured always, a fashionista, a world traveller, a true blue Aussie girl. She was granny, great granny, mega G, Granny Bling,  whiskey and pearls, knitting and cards, bready butts* in bed and christmas pud, straight backs and best foot forward, “never a borrower or a lender be” , “I’m as old as my tongue and a little bit older than my teeth”. She was a legend.

*bready butts was granny’s name for fairy bread, a delicacy comprised of white sliced bread spread thickly with butter and topped with a generous sprinkling of sugar.  I think that’s what’s been missing from my life lately. Pass the mother’s pride…

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So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Adieu #1

wpid-Work.jpgLast day in gainful employment – DONE.

I feel very strange. I was fighting back the tears walking through the revolving door this morning (getting in stuck in it one last special time. FFS)  but pulled myself together for the obligatory presentation. It was very sweet. Not least because of my fabulous leaving pressie of Orla Kiely cake tins. I don’t think the men in the room shared my excitement. I was also given a very special present by a dear colleague with whom I’ve had some ups and downs*. She gave me some beautiful birchwood crochet hooks. I was SO touched. She also had a more than a hand in chosing the tins which makes them extra special. She knows me so well.

So the new adventure is getting closer and I feel that’s one big change dealt with. A million more to go.

*I admit it, I can be a grumpy, intolerant cow. I’m trying to change. (No I’m not).

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