The Call of the Wild

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I am beginning to dread the dulcet tones of the school secretaries as they seem to be harbingers, if not quite of doom then at least, of discomfort. Our presence has been requested at the school again. This time it was necessary to deal with a somewhat embarrassed member of teaching staff. It seems that other children in reception were not quite as ‘au fait’ with the mechanics of baby making as my darling daughter who, in the spirit of one moved to speak the truth, was discovered standing on a table proclaiming her new found knowledge to a rapt classroom of horrified 5 year olds. For this I entirely blame David Attenborough.

It has always been my principle to answer questions of a biological nature truthfully, but only when they come up, and I have never attempted to join the dots. None the less, the wonder that is natural history programming on the BBC did that job for me.

Whilst watching ‘en famille’ some mongooses (mongeese?) ‘getting it on’ our youngest daughter put forward a perfectly reasonable enquiry as to what was happening.  We all answered in unison but not unfortunately as one voice. The combined explanation of “mating”, “fighting” and “making a baby mongoose” must have been anything but reassuring. It was at this moment that the events all clicked into place and my rather too sharp youngest piped up with ” urrgh, did you really have to do that to get me?” To which the only sensible answer seemed to be “Not up a tree darling”. Attempts to leave it at that were foiled by the dratted BBC cameraman’s clear fascination with this particularly frolicsome pair of lovers. More questions were inevitable and sure enough they came –  ” the lady mongoose doesn’t seem to like it much. Did you like it Mummy?”

'Not up a tree, darling'

‘Not up a tree, darling’

A snort of quickly smothered laughter and a slight raising of The Times reminded me of the presence of an actual doctor in the house. With all the speed of a cornered mongoose I turned tail and headed for the sanctuary of the downstairs loo to recover my equilibrium leaving Doctor Daddy in charge of Sex Ed. This – it turns out – was a mistake. He was evidently much too clear on the mechanics and rather too positive about the benefits, as I discovered at bath time when required to explain why Ben and Harriet should not instigate their seemingly marvellous plan of hatching an egg right there and then. Some discussion of genetic abnormalities caused by consanguinity later a large G&T seemed to be called for:   I had survived the dread ‘chat’.

Had this been the end of our exploration of the world of birds and bees I would have been very grateful but our darling daughter had other ideas. With this new found and interesting knowledge burning a hole in her brain she needed to share – hence the table top declaration. Correct as her anatomical knowledge and language had been apparently other parents do not share our relaxed attitude to ‘errhm – mating’ and Harriet’s vivid description with attendant requirements for tree climbing had been enough to give nightmares to even the hardiest souls particularly as she had added as an extra titbit of news that ‘when you die my daddy comes and cuts you into slices and then you are ham’!

I am persona non grata in the playground again.  My children sure know how to sort the friends from the foes but I do wish they wouldn’t.

Let The Games Commence.

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From bitter experience I know that investigating noises coming from the boys’ room is only to be done by brave souls with strong stomachs. Accordingly, on hearing roars of death and destruction I responded with a certain sense of impending doom. Entering their den at top speed, with first aid kit in hand, I was rendered momentarily speechless for there, stretched out on the floor, were both boys either side of a chess board! They looked enquiringly at me for a moment then continued to demonstrate their skills. Apparently the Age Old Game of Wits is played by lining up one team of men then hurling them across the checkered space in the hope that they will knock down their opposing number – obviously battle cries and threats of deadly vengeance are a necessary element of the art. I suspect that in time the Daft Duo will be the only recorded chess injuries to have presented at A&E.two little boys

Both boys are deep in the thrall of the evil that is Lego at present and their collection is large but diminishes with every passing visit of the vacuum cleaner to the house. I give no quarter to the offending bricks and in fact wage a secret war of my own – as any person who on a nocturnal loo trip has stepped heavily on one of these brightly coloured, yet strangely invisible implements of torture will attest -they are the product of a demonic and vengeful mind.

Still – my small engineers feel differently and finding themselves short of the wear-withal to purchase yet more of these dreadful articles embarked on what seemed to them the only method of raising the ready. Eschewing the tried and tested bob-a-job system of earning cash they chose a less sustainable route. DIY dentistry. On the maths of £1 a tooth they reckoned that between them they could get upwards of a Mega Galactic Battle Destroyer or something.

Luckily they had started with a very wobbly specimen that was long overdue its sojourn under a pillow and such was the pride in this achievement that they could not resist boasting of their success. I was able to redirect their energies in a less bloody direction – hoovering the stairs for cash. I do hate hoovering the stairs. As I have recently acquired a backpack industrial vacuum cleaner the Gruesome Twosome had much fun jet packing to outer space with the maximum of noise and the minimum of useful cleaning.

Given how cheerfully Silly Brother Number Two was prepared to give up his teeth for a cause I was perplexed to receive the dreaded call from the school to either collect him from the sports field or meet them at the hospital. Apparently they needed me to calm him down!

Having ascertained the this was not life or death but merely a possible breakage I chose the former. Screeching up the drive I arrived to discover a shifty looking collection of adults surrounding Ben who was glowering and muttering incomprehensibly whilst covering his face firmly with both hands from under which a goodly trickle of the red stuff was descending. A mummy GP was, bizarrely I thought, attempting to insert a somewhat unappetisingly bloodstained biscuit through these hands (which was later explained by the realisation that due to Ben’s need to be fed at very regular intervals -in order to stave off storm clouds of fury- the school gives him biscuits when he is grumpy. This having been recorded as a necessity on his school records led the mummy medic to think she was dealing with a diabetic rather than simply recalcitrant child. Hence the force feeding)

Hiving off the furious Ben into a corner to investigate the damage it turned out that his reason for non compliance was simple. He was fully aware that he looked ridiculous. His nose, on receiving a sharp tap from a hockey stick, was now some distance from where it had started. Calpol, reassurance and time were all the first aid needed in this case. The boys derived much enjoyment over the next week from watching the various stages of metamorphosis from bloodied boxer through green-skinned Klingon to black-eyed panda.
I am still on the lookout for non-contact games or sports – Any ideas?

It Wasn’t Exactly Rocket Science

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Very much regret having been carried away by the artistic urge which turns out to be particularly dangerous when combined with much too little lateral thought.

The Muse struck when Number One Son informed me – obviously leaving it until 10 minutes before bedtime (or wine o’clock as it is otherwise known) – that essential equipment for the following day included a space ship constructed from junk. I threw myself into this challenge with all the speed of a woman desperate to get to her restorative glass of elixir-promising-new-life at the end of her Quest. Egg boxes, loo rolls and silver foil made a pretty convincing frame (or ‘superstructure’ according to Sam) but it just needed that little bit extra.

An up-ended handbag provided some excellent flames (red sweet wrappers) and two very authentic looking booster rockets (or Tampax as they are more commonly known).
I made two very distinct school-girl errors here.

  1. It is unwise to underestimate the fascination that sanitary products hold over small boys. They are articles of mystery and wonder that have played many roles before the booster rockets. Previous guises have included: mice to tease the cat with, Cannons for firing at Granny, scientific experimentation in absorption devices and probably many and various other uses outside their original and intended remit.
  2. It is essential to question the use to which any construction or contraption is to be put.

It was not until the joy that is Parent’s Evening came around that the full extent Number One Son’s Show and Tell, and the full horror of just what use the Junk Rocket had been put to, became clear.

As I headed off ‘up the school’ to discover how many ‘chocolate biscuits’ versus how many ‘kicks in pants’ were required amongst my various offspring it did not occur to me to think that what may be necessary was not the accessory of an Irascible Husband or a Winning Smile but actually some sort of Large Hat and perhaps Wig or False-Nose in order to escape the scene unrecognised.

Having failed to dodge the Uber-Smug Mother of Perfection and then been unable to resist indulging in our usual form of self-torture (sneakypeaks at Girls Literacy Books) the now Thoroughly Depressed Husband and I headed for the Form Rooms at our allotted time to meet this year’s lucky teachers of our progeny.

Being met with a heavy and heartfelt sigh of ‘Ahh, Sam’s Mummy and Daddy’ is familiar, if less than ideal, but it turns out that barely contained mirth is also a bad sign.

It seems that the Rubbish Rocket was not in fact needed to demonstrate any sort of space exploration topic but rather to illustrate a discussion of the merits of the mantra “Repair, Reuse, and Recycle”.

To this end the class had been And then...required to present to a school assembly an article they had made from bits of recycling and describe its constituent parts. This, apparently, my delightful son did with great aplomb, but being of a scientific turn of mind, and expansive nature he was extremely difficult to stop once started.

This meant that the whole school was treated to his explanation of the ‘booster rockets’ and their uses – including the now immortal phrase – ‘mummy sticks them in her bottom when she is grumpy but she is much better now and can even sit down’.

I think we shall shortly be changing schools.

A Slipped Halo

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Still ‘with builder! Think it may even be a personal best for us in the longest-building-works-ever competition. Just like having a baby I do always forget just how protracted and how uncomfortable the whole process really is. Managed during this whole chaotic period to out-do even my own impressive track record of daftness when I forgot the sink had been disconnected and emptied cold tea over the poor chap organising the plumbing in the room below. The unfortunate man rather gloomily told me, as I handed him a towel, that it could have been worse and in fact that it had been very much worse: only last week it was the lavatory that the lady of the house had forgotten was disconnected, until that is, she found that the flush was accompanied with horrified roars of quite reasonable complaint from some very wet and somewhat disgruntled builders on the scaffolding.

In an attempt to escape the building works we have been to visit various friends and relations. Children surprisingly civilised (probably the stupefying effects of new Christmas gadgets that have been resisted up to now but seemed a reasonable form of bribe/pacifier given the confines of our living conditions at present). It was the dastardly dog that let the side down.

On our final leg before heading back to the dust ball of horror we stopped off for lunch with an old friend and mother to a god child ( just one of the surprisingly large number that I have mystifyingly managed to accrue) Having only been allowed to accompany us on the grounds of his strictly neuter status (a no-nut rule was in force at our hosts due to the excitable hormonal state of the bitch of the house ) our irrepressible hound, despite missing the vital parts to participate fully in this interesting experience was clearly rather over stimulated by the proximity of such a luscious lady. She was less than keen. This being so our outrageous mutt had to cast around for ways to impress the object of his affections.

Love clearly giving strength to what is usually the most cowardly of creatures (our Sir Galahad is frightened of the rabbit and terrified of the cat) our hero sallied forth only to find the perfect gift right there in the back yard. He had come across The Beloved Henrietta , Tikka, and Vindaloo before, with no ill-feeling, but today, thanks to his new-found machismo, clearly these ladies of the feathered bloomers represented all that was most tantalising.

Alerted to the catastrophe by some distressed cackling followed by a short squawk we hurried outside too late to save Tikka but in time to witness the guilty party reverentially laying this ill-gotten gain at the feet of the surprised maiden. A brutally murdered corpse is not often the valentine of choice but rather than being utterly revolted this member of the fairer sex clearly entered into the spirit of the thing. Carrying their prize between them they scarpered off into the bushes to make the most of their Feast before anyone had time to blink.

This threw rather a pall over the proceedings and it took some time to comfort the distraught child owner of Tikka. The bags of chocolate buttons kept in my hand bag for just such emergencies played a useful part. It was not until we were finally sitting down to our Sunday lunch that we realised the full extent of the predicament into which the horrid animal had plunged us – as there, on the table, were a couple of perfectly stuffed and roasted chickens ready for carving.

I am afraid that at this point the grownups The Grim Godmotherrather let themselves down as we first choked, then spluttered then, with all the unstoppable power of suppressed and inappropriate laughter, guffawed and howled until our tears joined the children’s. It turns out that laughter is indeed the best medicine. Whilst no one had the heart to carve the fowl, at least publicly (I suspect a nameless pie made an appearance later), we had a happy lunch of sausages with all the trimmings.

Having arrived as the favourite godmother bearing gifts I think it may be a while before I am thought of as anything other than the Godmother of Doom and her sidekick the Grim Woofer.

A Costume Drama

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Notes from have come home from school – not nits: Worse!

It is that time of year again and Costumes for School Play are required.  This news was met with the deepest of deep sighs. We have only just got over the trauma of the Halloween Disco at which, after changing his mind 15 times: discussing, planning, refining, and laundering ad nauseam, Silly Brother No.2 point blank refused to wear his costume. The legitimacy of forcing a child into a daft outfit, in order for him to have fun, being deeply suspect I managed to restrain any more violent urges and confined my expression of irritated disapproval to some tersely worded phrases.

No.1 Son on the other hand takes such things very seriously as we discovered on world Book Day, when a full-blown temper tantrum was unleashed from my most placid child. Having been mucking out their room (involving the removal of all festering items of clothing – some of which could arguably have marched themselves into the laundry basket) – It became apparent that I had ruined everything.

Apparently method acting was Key to adding the necessary realism to this particular costume and Sam had been carefully layering aromas on his Survival Outfit for Weeks! If one’s character has been living in the wilds for several months surviving only on what he kills – Smelling of Ariel Ultra completely destroys all verisimilitude.

So my name being Mud or more appropriately ‘Washing Powder’ I have rather continued in that vein this week -

The house has divided on gender lines as we have been left in charge of our neighbour’s Long Haired Chihuahua: a creature more akin to a guinea pig than a dog. Both Smallest and Nearly Teenage Daughters are thrilled and have been carting the animal about in a combination of dolls pram alternating with a special handbag dependant on whose turn it is. The Chaps are predictably less pleased at this new addition to the household – ‘Princess’ is not a macho dog!

Perhaps rather unkindly, on Sunday morning, I derived a great deal of entertainment from the lonely image of my More-than-usually Morose Husband on his way to the Rugby Club unwillingly attached to this pretty prancing puppy by the most delicate of pink leads. The Boys had abandoned their father to his (Dog) Walk of Shame and were marching ahead with the Outraged Hound who had taken against the visitor at first sight and – beyond eyeing it in an alarmed fashion –would have nothing further to do with it.

We may not been going back to the Rugby Club for a while – particularly after No.1 Son announced in a furious treble squeak that He wasn’t that keen on the game –declaring that the rules were ‘not very nice’ as every time he gets the ball someone takes it away! Oh and (giving the poor Coach a Paddington Bear-like Hard Stare) ‘That Man hurt my feelings’!

Not a startlingly successful foray into the world of touch-line Daddies.

I Am A Very Stylish Girl

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With regard to the world of celebrity culture I often find myself somewhat clueless in the face of others’ enthusiasm, just as when I was a child kindly adults would point out things of note – buzzards, badgers and so on – I was never quick enough to spot them, even if I had known what I was looking for which I usually didn’t: and so it is for me with famous faces.

My powers of recognition being poor I am very likely to have no idea who I am taking to and so have made many clanging social gaffs: most embarrassingly once asking an Ex Prime Minister (Ted Heath) what he did for a living!  It is, however, almost worse when I do recognise someone as the tendency is then to presume actual acquaintanceship. When living in London I was convinced that I must be as well-known to Trevor MacDonald and Andrew Marr as they were to me so would wave with cheerful exuberance only to be greeted with the politely blank smiles of men who think they may well about to be assaulted by a loony.

Living now in the wilds of rural-shire I have fewer such moments of shamed realisation but, nonetheless, recently managed to recapture some lost form. On going up to the Big City on a Little Expedition  – to listen to a Lecture by an eminent writer, Lunch with Working Husband and Dine with an old school friend –  I was a little over-excited by such an unusually mud and child free programme of loveliness.

Having planned my outfit carefully, so as to preclude the moth-eaten, muddy and biscuit-crumbed look that is the height of fashion in my neck of the woods and wrestled my feet into actual shoes rather than my beloved boots, I was ready to do battle with the Metropolis. Meeting various ladies of my acquaintance at the station produced a rather carnival atmosphere on the platform and led to our being eyed with acute dislike and suspicion by the commuting public. Toting a bag full to bursting with magazines and catalogues that I had saved especially for the journey I was selfishly eager to lose my chums once on board, so headed for the Carriage of Trappist Silence vaguely citing ‘letters to write’ as my excuse and sinking into my solitary seat with the ecstatic sigh of a woman utterly delighted to be alone.

By the time I arrived the Lecture hall was heaving with smart people all looking about expectantly. I, on the other hand, was slightly travel-worn and hobbled by my pretty, but by now excruciatingly painful and hated, shoes – all this rather colluded in my downfall. Clutching a glass of wine I attempted to find a seat but progress was slow and a bit tricky:  just as I had spotted an empty chair and was heading towards it disaster struck. Catching my high heel in the floor grating and then tripping forward over a large and elegant handbag I pitched directly into the lap of a very stylish and well-known Celebrity Psychologist (whom I have always rather admired). Landing prostrate at her feet was not the best of introductions and the only thing I could think of to say?  ‘A Handbag!’ – in the manner of a slightly drunk and dishevelled Lady Bracknell. It was not my finest Hour. I comfort myself with the knowledge that at least she is well used to Loons!

The Best laid Plans…

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My best intentions for a fabulously jolly and organised holiday were, predictably, scuppered within minutes.  I had, very wisely, stocked up on sticking plasters in preparation for Half term ( a week containing pumpkin carving, making toffee apples and constructing bonfires was bound to require First Aid at some point) but found, on entering the kitchen that first blissfully lazy morning, that they had all been used to decorate the smallest daughter and the cat! One of whom was looking very pleased with herself – the other less so.

A rare lack of foresight on the part of Rather-Noise-Sensitive Husband meant that he was working from home for half term: An error that will not be repeated. Accordingly –  the many and various requests from the children were now augmented by the querulous tones of a Distracted Husband needing to know anything and everything NOW. The days became peppered with demands – Could I just…? Where is the…? Why won’t this work…? And the greatest irritation of all – What’s for Lunch?

In a well-thought-through attempt to escape the constant barrage of ridiculous questions I locked myself in the Loo with a novel. Peace and tranquillity reigned – briefly. Unfortunately my cover was blown by a combination of my resourceful smallest daughter and the Dog. I had taken the Hound into the Bathroom with me to ensure that he did not give the game away by standing guard outside the door on self-imposed sentry duty.

Knowing that wherever I was the Dog would also be found – Harriet appealed to his stomach and set off around the house rattling a box of Bonio’s encouragingly. The Greedy Animal, who would be no good in siege conditions, let out a howl so we were quickly discovered – I did manage to persuade the children that we were playing Hide and Seek and that this was my spot but things rapidly became much less relaxing after that – not least because, my whereabouts having been made known, the Importunate Husband insisted on communing with me through the Lavatory door.

The piece de resistance of half term was undoubtedly Halloween and we overreached ourselves splendidly. Many happy hours were spent strewing the playroom with black paper chains and cobwebs (a large number of which were extraordinarily realistic!) The neighbours, all invited by spooky missive, came bearing gifts of hammer horror for the Gruesome tea. Pumpkins were carved, apples bobbed and tricks treated.  The best costume prize was unanimously awarded to the game Granny next door who had been forcibly dressed in black bin bags by her grandchildren and fitted with a painted egg box nose strapped to her face. By the time the nose had been apple bobbing and then pushed up onto her forehead, out-of-the-way, the sludgy green and brown paint mingled; running down her face and hair to produce a spectacularly good impression of a mad medieval villager dressed up as a witch for the burning. A good look for a children’s party!

Maniacs have taken over the Asylum

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This week finds me sitting with Wine in one hand and Nit Lotion in the other (trying not to get so drunk that I drink the wrong one). Recent triumphs include having had a bit of a ding with the car (cost £500) – whoops, and having booked a clown for Harriet’s Birthday Party whom I strongly suspect of being a rather mad, drunk, embittered old bat. She appears to specialise in wearing, along with her rainbow coloured dungarees, the contents of a psychedelic knitting bag on her head whilst performing the world’s most peculiar puppet show. ‘It will be fine’ – I am telling myself reassuringly at regular intervals.

Tick Mania (the insect kind) is still rife at school so, following the latest additions, the extensive uniform list now includes full protective overalls (think Milking Parlour Chic here) and a wide-brimmed hat as apparently the Ticks have been known to make Mission Impossible style leaps from high branches onto their unsuspecting victims. I await the news that we are to provide beekeeper veils to complete the ensemble.

I have also been compiling a list of Things Husbands don’t understand:

  • That Leaving the children’s shoes in Dorset is entirely reasonable given difficulty of loading the right 4 children and dog into the car whilst the wrong 4 children are clambering all over the roof and the wrong dog is attempting to stow away having taken a fancy to the extraordinarily plentiful bits of leftover party cake, crisp packets and apple cores that make up the heady aroma of the back of our car.
  • That Beer is not an appropriate Harvest Festival item. Having clearly not been concentrating when the request for seasonal donations came in via that most reliable of delivery services – Boy Post – I had been caught on the hop, again, and so asked a bleary-eyed and dressing-gowned husband for help to source items whilst I located the eleventy-one shoes that had run and hidden themselves in their usual happy 8.30 game of hunt the slipper/trainer/welly/rugby boot/ballet shoe or whatever.

Successfully packed off the children to their  School Thanksgiving Service but unfortunately was not quick enough to make it out of the school gate before being spotted, by the smilingly determined (and quite quick on her pins!) School Secretary, I was corralled into the chapel in time to witness the procession of children proudly bearing tins of Baked Beans and dusty Bamboo Shoots up the aisle before depositing them with all necessary pomp on the altar of plenty as the priest looked on with solemn approval. Approval, that is, until the Silly Brothers hove into view carrying a 4 Pack of Best Bitter between them. They looked very pleased with themselves – no one else had thought to bring such a splendid gift.

  • That Subtitled movies do not count as a treat! Once collapsed on the sofa with restorative glass of something in hand my brain has disengaged and any attempt to reconnect it with complex thought or sentence structure is doomed to failure. Grumpy failure at that.

The Ballet Class

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Angelina Ballerina has much to answer for.  I have succumbed to the inevitable and kitted out smallest daughter in the classic girls’ dream/feminists’ nightmare of the pinkest of pink ballet outfits.

Attempting to contain an excitedly bouncing Harriet, who was wreathed in smiles, we set off for the Church Hall bristling with Kirby grips and hair nets, ribbons, elastic and generally all manner of controlling devices. Perforce we were reluctantly accompanied by two small, badly behaved boys who had been bribed and threatened within an inch of their lives to confine their attentions to their books for the duration.

On entering the inner sanctum of the Dance class I found I had gone back in time to the 1950’s – there, with her perfectly turned out feet and multitude of cardigans getting entangled in the glasses chain around her neck was a tiny parody of Joyce Grenfell: complete with cut glass accent and gimlet eyed smile.

Acknowledging each new arrival with a precise nod this paragon of deportment brightly herded her ‘chickadees’  into their fairy ring but there was one recalcitrant ‘chick’ that remained stuck-fast to my leg with no plans in the foreseeable future of being removed. Starting with soft encouragement; followed by gentle peeling; followed by energetic leg shaking accompanied with determinedly cheerful discussion of just how long she had been campaigning for this moment and how lovely it all was – which obviously gave way to threats and bribes carried out sotto voce with slight hissing: I tried everything  in the mother’s armoury –  All Failed.

Seeing me helplessly pinioned and rooted to the spot ‘Madam’ (it is, and has been, since the dawn of time – The Rule – that all ballet teachers must be addressed in French however distinct their home counties twang) came to my rescue in such a way that left me reeling with horror – ‘If Mummy wants to stay Harriet, we must let go of her leg – otherwise how will Mummy Dance?’

It worked – instantly! So now here I was – the Heffalump at the back of the ballet class AGAIN. Ignoring the unmistakable rumble-thump-bellow of a low-level punch up, with mild garrotting, which was taking place in the balcony above, I was swept along with the good toes and the naughty toes, the fairy skipping and the horses galloping. We were interrupted at odd intervals by a sudden cessation in the musical accompaniment which indicated that the pianist had abruptly fallen asleep.

This was the cue for dramatic and imperative squawking of ‘Miss B’ WE ARE SKIPPING!’ as ‘Madam’ brandishing her stick – kept presumably for the purpose – gave a hearty whack to the top of the instrument causing the unfortunate ‘Miss B’ to awake with a start and manically start thumping away in the manner of fairies or horses – whichever leapt first to mind.

The benefits of a somewhat deaf and narcoleptic accompanist are hard to describe but it certainly added an element of interest and surprise.

It will be Lucky Husband’s turn next week I think.

Not a Faerie Queene

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Having accidentally taken the Dog’s hay fever medicine I feel I may have been slightly more disorganised and a bit less suave than usual – managed to lose my bra at the swimming pool. In rather a rush, as I was already a bit late for the school pick up, I was left with a choice: going braless or wearing the still-soggy bikini top. Chose the latter but very much wished I hadn’t as I was then stuck with a wet T-shirt look of the breastfeeding kind.  Absolutely certain that I looked entirely mad and very fierce racing along with arms tightly folded in an attempt to obscure the two dark circles that were slowly spreading across my chest.

In a fit of organisational zeal I have now wormed the children and de-flea’d the dog – rather hoping that was the right way round but I may, for peace of mind, have to worm the dog and de-louse the children – just in case.

Along with other signs of less than perfect domestic management it has been noted that the Tooth Fairy gets ever more slatternly with each subsequent child. She was quite good to begin with – usually coming on the right day with only occasional delays due to unexpected peaks in the tooth harvest – after Halloween for instance. By child number 4 however her performance review paints a rather different picture: persistently late, chaotic placement of coins, failure to collect or careless dropping of the toothy merchandise, days lost to strike action, work to rule – no Sunday or bank Holiday service.  All in all – very poor. One suspects that she has, far too often, been out on the toot with Santa’s Elves.

And yet again there appears to be a marked difference between the amount of Tax Owed and the amount of Tax Saved For. It turns out that I really should have concentrated harder on those tricky percentage calculation thingies when at school. Bother.  So I am off, cap in hand to see the bank manager, this is not without precedent – but he is always very charming! Whilst I am fully aware that tax evasion is BAD I am nonetheless secretly envious of those who manage it.

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