Saturday, 23 August 2008

All right. That's enough rain. Stop now.

So. There we were in the last week of term. Slightly benign weather, sunny in a mildly promising sort of way. We were all looking forward to the holidays.

Six weeks of not having to rush out of bed in the mornings to go to school, but instead to fling back the curtains to the beams of a new summers day, throw on a couple of light things and dash off, clutching sandwiches, to one of Pembrokeshire's gorgeous beaches.

After all, what is the point in living in a popular holiday destination if you can't go and lord it down on the lovely sands of Saundersfoot, Tenby, Whitesands, Amroth, etc, while casting pitying glances on the poor holidaymakers who have go home again. I might as well be back in dear old Worcestershire with the nearest beach, well, where is the nearest beach to Worcestershire? We always used to go to Pembrokeshire...

But I haven't set foot on a single Pembrokeshire beach yet this summer holidays and with only one week left and the weather forecast not exactly promising I don't expect to have the chance.

And I'm cross about it. How dare the horrid weather spoil our plans? Rain, rain and more rain. I'm fed up! And I'm feeling like a totally rubbish mother. Leaving aside the fact that I ordered a kitchen to arrive on day one of the holidays (the first black mark for me) I seem to have completely failed to provide the wonderful sunny summer holiday experiences that memories are made of.

Take this week, for example, we have been shopping for new school clothes, shoes, trainers and Brownies uniform. Rosie went to a party, Hannah went to a friend's house, Hannah went to a party. We played with plastic ponies inside, in between showers we played with the real (slightly damp) ponies outside. I planted out the sprouts and the kales and a few pak chois and grumbled about the weather. Not really the stuff of an Enid Blyton novel.

We should have been on the beach with homemade lemonade and thick slices of pie, fish paste sandwiches and a super cake. We should have played beach cricket (or, more likely, boules with two identical sets - confusing, but funny) and paddled in the sea chasing waves and pretending that we know what to do with a body board. Instead with did that, once, way back in May, when we kidded ourselves that we would spend all summer on the beach.

Now I have one more week left to make this summer perfect for my two little girls. One more week of devoted maternal attention. We will go to the 'family attractions' that they so adore, so what if it is raining, we WILL go to the beach, and to a friend's house for lunch, and to the cinema (and to the hairdresser too, but I haven't told them about that one yet).

Perhaps, as last year, the last Monday before school claims them again will be warm and sunny and we can go to Carew and watch the swans on the Cleddau.

We will have a week of doing tom fool things so that memories, once back in school uniform, will be of a summer that was great, after all.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Summer holiday game No. 4: Tiling the Kitchen

This one is really only for Dads, although children can 'assist' for short periods if they absolutely insist (and if, like R4, they are exceedingly cute).

1. Buy kitchen tiles. Unlike bathroom tiles which take three months, three counties and countless rows to choose (and still haven't been laid), kitchen tile choice takes 30 seconds in Wickes in Haverfordwest.

2. Buy extra fast setting tile adhesive.

3. Measure kitchen, draw a chalk line down the middle.

4. Forbid wife and children to tread on, and therefore erase, vital chalk line.

5. Go to work on a late shift.

6. Return at midnight to discover that foul wife and even fouler children have all but erased vital chalk line.

7. Go even greyer and lose a few more hairs from the back for good measure.

8. In a fit of enthusiasm, lay nine tiles.

9. Figure out that you can fit exactly five tiles in a row across kitchen. Work this out all by self without female intervention.

10. Tap foot and count slowly up to 1,000,000 as firstly wife, then mother-in-law aka Granny in the Annexe, also point out this fact.

11. Tear out remaining hair.

12. Lift up the first nine tiles.

13. Lay other tiles, instructing foul wife and fouler children not to step on them until they are dry.

14. Lie to foul wife and fouler children that 'quick setting adhesive' takes 24 hours to dry.

15. Get caught walking on tiles that have only been down for two hours.

16. Admit real setting time is two hours.

17. Watch foul wife and fouler children perform 'Riverdance' on newly laid tiles.

18. Go even more grey-haired. Lose a few more from the back for good measure.

19. Allow youngest child to 'assist' with the laying of one tile.

20. Call for foul wife to remove said child from kitchen.

21. Continue as above until nearly all tiles are laid.

22. Ask foul wife: "What's for tea?"

25. Receive black eye with good grace.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Rocking the New Black

Freckles, I am reliably informed, are the New Black.

Usually, when something is deemed the New Black, I run a mile in the opposite direction, but now, this time, I’m embracing the latest New Black.

The reason, of course, is I have a vested interest here. Or rather several million vested interests. I have freckles. They began on my nose, spread to my arms and shoulders and now inhabit my legs too.

When I was little and my hair was orange, my skin was white and my freckles matched my hair. I started not to like my freckles. Then I was taken to a variety show at the Swan Theatre in Worcester. There was a comedian and, it is exceedingly un-politically correct to say this, but you’ll see later exactly why I need to make it clear, the comedian involved was black.

Now I can't remember much about his act, apart from a really unsavoury joke about three nuns in the desert. I can’t recall the details, I was very young at the time, but for some reason in the joke the nuns all needed to wee on some flour – don’t ask – but the third nun (called - toe-curlingly embarrassingly – Margaret) farted and blew the flour away. That was the punch line. How we laughed.

Anyway, for want of resuscitation, for surely he was dying up there, he spied me and said something along the lines of: “Hello freckle-face, you’re going to look like me when you grow up and those all join up.”

How the audience roared.


The rest of the evening passed in a blur. So I was going to grow up into a black man? With brown skin? And fuzzy hair?

I examined my face in the mirror and searched fearfully for tell-tale signs of joining up freckles. Every time we went out I scoured the faces of old people searching, searching for an old person with freckles.

Then I found her.

She was standing in Greaves Butchers in Studley.

She was tall.

She had long-red hair down beyond her waist.

She was covered – head to toe – in freckles.

She was old – at least 25.

She was beautiful.

Quite the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. An old woman with freckles. I was saved! It wasn’t true.

I gazed at this beauty in wonderment while Mum bought half a pound of mince and four pork chops.

As Mum dragged me away I cast my gaze back to the freckly beauty as she laughed and smiled at the butcher.

What a relief!

Now, thanks to Lindsay Lohan (above) on the front of Vanity Fair and Karen Elson on Vogue’s September cover, freckles are being hailed as the New Black.

For once, and possibly only for the briefest moment, I’m in fashion and I am (as Gok would say) rocking the New Black.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Oh woe

Oh woe. Why is it, when you start something small, that it turns into something big, problems arise and everybody gets upset?

All we want is a nice, clean new kitchen. Free of rotten wood, mini beetles and stinking carpet. It is taking ages to replace. Every time we move something, there’s a problem. We fill a hole; the concrete takes weeks to go off, and when we surmount one barrier, another pops up.

This week (Monday) was Mum’s 70th. My sister was due to visit on Thursday to continue the celebrations, but now she can’t because the old kitchen is in the barn, the new kitchen is in the dining room, tiles for kitchen, utility room and bathroom are mounded everywhere and four metres of new worktop occupy a space I used to call the living room.

How we laughed at the thrill of having the flat packs delivered. Oh false joy. Now most of us have been in tears at one point or another. This morning it was Mum, when we admitted we couldn’t accommodate visitors, then it was my sister on being told the same thing. I have just broken the news to H6 and R4 that their cousins T7 and E4 will not be visiting, so they’re sad too.

Again I’m in the bad corner. I’m the Wicked Witch of the West; the spoiler of 70th birthdays, the murderer of holiday plans, the pooper of parties.

I only wanted a new kitchen. I didn’t realise it would cause this much heartache.

Summer holiday game No. 3: Butter.

Back to the kids for this one. This is perfect for a rainy day and is something I used to do with my mum when I was a little girl. It's a game with something to eat at the end. Perfect.

1. Get some lovely double cream. We use Bethesda cream from a local farm which has Ayrshire cattle.

2. Make sure the cream isn't too cold; it needs to have been out of the fridge for at least half an hour. Put it into a jar - an old honey jar is ideal - then shake...

3. After a while - anything from ten minutes to half an hour - the noise in the jar will change from a sort of fluffy noise (sorry, difficult to describe) to a sloshing noise.

4. Open the jar and look inside: butter! The liquid is buttermilk. Pour that off into a jug and use to make pancakes, scones or (our favourite) soda bread.

5. Put cold water straight from the tap into the jar, drain and repeat until the water runs clear. This is to wash out any remaining buttermilk.

6. Put the butter onto a board and pat with a suitable implement - plastic or wooden spatulas are ideal - to squeeze out excess water and buttermilk.

7. Finished! You have a nice little pot of fresh butter. Add salt to taste and spread on some lovely crusty bread. Yum!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Embrace randomness

ChrisH has tagged me to post six random things about myself. So here they are:

1. This morning I ran 6.12 miles (just under 10K) in one hour and 17 minutes.

2. My NaNoWriMo novel currently weighs 2lb 9 and 3/4 oz.

3. I broke the toes on my right foot when I was 19 when they were stepped on by a (big) baby racehorse. My feet are now happiest in flip-flops, shoes with a toe thong, boots or trainers.

4. My hair is 17 inches long.

5. I'd like to drive a Porsche, Ferrari, Lambourghini, or similar - just to see what it's like. (I think I've been watching too much Top Gear!)

6. I am addicited to Google Earth.

Now, I think I'm supposed to tag others to do this, so I hereby tag Fennie, Silver Pebble, Frances, Today, Pipany and Kittyb (unless you've already been tagged!)