Saturday, 17 September 2011

And then he was 9

"Freshness, originality, treading a new path".

No, not comments from the X-Factor judges (which is where ma famille can be found at this precise moment, waiting on their every comment - sheesh!) but words which I feel are nice generally, especially when you're reading something. Personally, things I've read before leap right off the page at me and let's face it, it's a bit tiresome.

Well, unless it's your favourite favourite book of course, but that's another story.

It is for this reason of 'freshness' that I do my utmost to cover new ground as much as is humanly possible whilst rambling endlessly on these pages (please note, I said "new" ground, not "interesting"!)

There are, however, occasions when I need to 'flick back' through my own pages as a gentle reminder of anniversaries that occur throughout my year, re-read them, try not to copy what I said too closely so as not to annoy. But let's face it, just how different can one wish someone 'happy birthday' without repeating one's self, eh?

It's difficult to believe that this morning at 8.23am this morning, exactly nine years ago, our smashing son was born, albeit 7 weeks early. The builders actually laughed into their tea when I told them he'd arrived, thinking I was joking, even though I was practically purple with rage, screaming at them to get the hell on with it! We had no kitchen, no bathroom and we'd been living in one room which was covered with dust, eating microwave meals for 6 weeks - a really healthy way to live for a heavily pregnant woman!

Regardless of this rude and abrupt introduction to the world, the two weeks in Hotel Incubator and the extra couple of weeks in Chez Intensive Care seemed to do the trick; Joseph has grown into a happy and healthy (and bloody tall) boy, one whom his parents are very proud of.

He is very thoughtful too. Just in case we made a mistake in what present to buy him, he started telling us what box of Star Wars Lego he wanted from about the end of June - that's right, three flippin' months ago - I mean, how many children do you know that are so thoughtful? and not only that, but he very, very kindly did not choose the Death Star as it was "too expensive" at £350. He settled for the At-At Walker, a mere snip at £100. (One hundred pounds for a box of Lego?? Where did that come from???)

Yeah, we're proud of him alright.

Joseph - please stop saying "next year I'm gonna be 10!"

Just enjoy being 9 years old for now. 10 will come around quick enough, you'll see!

Happy birthday Poops - we're glad you enjoyed your day.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

“I'm a gabbler, me, you see Sir, "READYAIMFIRE!!”

As much as I love the holidays, there’s something special about the return to school for the new term and I have to say, I really enjoy our walks together. We have a few streets to walk along, before we join our local common, and then back to streets, all tree lined.

My clever daughter spotted the difference between this year and the last.

“There are lots of brown leaves on the ground Dada”, she said to me, while I was busy admiring the beautiful blue sky.

She was right. Autumn has come particularly early, I thought.

Our walk to school takes us past several enormous horse chestnut trees and Joseph, being that bit older, now enjoys rolling conkers out into the middle of a (quiet) road, before seeing if a car or van will splat it into the tarmac, each time more funnier than the last.

(I don’t care what you say, it is funny!!)

On the way home that afternoon, they both collected an armful of conkers, and I reminisced to them about my conker playing days at primary school. This was met with real excitement from Joseph and so I found myself drilling holes into several conkers within 10 minutes of arriving home.

I talked Joseph through the ‘rules’, how to hold it, how many times to wind the string up around your hand, how to flick it at just the right angle to obliterate your opponent’s conker.

Well, he seemed to take it all on board.

I would show you the picture which came next; one conker still attached to it’s string, scratched and bruised, but intact. The other, just a piece of string, the conker smashed to pieces.

I could, but I won’t.

The smashed one was mine.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Eid Mubarak

I’ve explained to Joseph and Annabel that Eid is kind of like our Christmas.

But different.

It’s when Muslims around the world celebrate the end of Ramadan, a time of fasting, of patience, of humility and of deeper spirituality, when they feel closer to God than, perhaps, at other times of the year.

Either way, to mark the celebration of Eid, I have always taken boxes of sweets across to our neighbours as a sign of friendship and respect. The matriarch of one of the households, and who speaks very poor English, always without fail questions me disapprovingly, “Is it Halal? Is it Halal?” Her son, or daughter – whoever it was that answered the door – always rolls their eyes, along with myself, in the private joke that we share each year.

And, as always, one of the two families repays our visit with a gift of food (they must discuss whose turn it is ‘cos they’ve never both given us food!), and this year, the food was most welcome. It might not look much, but the mutton biryani was delicious, as were (out of shot) the handmade samosas, which almost caused a fight in our household, they were that delicious.

Apologies for the naff picture but it was around 9.30pm and I’d only eaten a slice of toast earlier that morning.

Hmmm … thinking about it, I’d had my very own fast without even thinking about it!!

Hah, what a doddle!!!

Dunno if I could do it for a month though!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Good ol’ Lancelot Brown

Aah, the Georgians – don’cha just love ‘em? What a rip-roaringly marvellous time in British history that must have been. Well, if you were fairly loaded that is. Yes, all those polite dances. All that wonderful brandy sipped after dinner, those cigars smoked. All that curtsying and bowing to one another, and the wigs! Sweet Lord, don’t get me started on the wigs!!

And of course, the morning after the night before may very well have been greeted with a gentle stroll in the mansion’s extensive gardens, savouring the cool, damp air, heavy with mist, hanging over the distant fields, shrouding the tall, stone garden ornaments. Antlered deer making off, startled as you approached, rabbits darting here and there, a lone fox watching you from afar.

And all you can see is green grass, tipped with dew, rolling in every direction.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if, 300 years later, you could step into the shoes of those aristocrats and click your heels from one huge hall to the next adjoining hall, admiring all the art as you went?

Well, you can.

And thanks to the National Trust, this is exactly how we spent M’s birthday. She wanted to see Petworth House, with her Mum in tow. I offered only the minimal of grumbling at this and, seeing as one of the reasons we purchased a new car was to be able to squeeze my monster-in-law into one of the nooks or crannies now available, I didn’t really feel I could object.

(I’m kidding!)

Did I mention our new car? No? Ok, another time …..

The National Trust have long since cottoned on to the fact that they need to attract more than just retired couples through their doors if they want to stay afloat. They always have very interesting worksheets or books for kids to fill in, treasure maps to follow, clues to collect etc, to keep their overactive minds entertained just enough to allow Dad’s underactive mind to just about tick over.

National Trust may be your thing, it may not, but if it is your thing, go to Petworth House at your earliest convenience. It has the Trust’s largest painting and sculpture collection, a 700 acre deer park and the most impressive kitchen I have ever seen. My fave pieces were the copper saucepans and the largest fat catcher/basting dish I have ever seen. Check out those ladles!!!

Capability Brown overhauled the gardens around 1750 and the fact that it is still a pleasure to sit and have a picnic in the grounds that he designed all that time ago, is testament to just how damn good the guy was.

Ris’pec Lancelot!! My wife enjoyed spending her birthday in your garden very much.

So did I.

So did our kids.

So did the erm …… my erm ….. mother-in-law.