Saturday, 31 December 2011


This year the pantomime in Hereford was of Sleeping Beauty. It was excellent. Even our Russian guests, Sergey and Regina, enjoyed it, though I'm not sure how much of it they understood. What's to understand anyway? The highlight of the show (excepting the farting cat, of course) was the villainess - a purple-clad fairy mastermind called Eartha. Oh yes. We love it!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Holly King Defeated

The Cotswold Order of Druids had their winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge. We went down, dressed up and got stared at by tourists. I love the feeling of owning the stones, being the people who can go inside the circle, by dint of it being our place of worship. What I hate is having a bunch of tourists photographing me while I do it. If I wondered into a random church and took photos of the congregation I would get chucked out, and yet it seems to be OK to video the weirdos in cloaks. Hmm.
The Oak King gave the Holly King a good thrashing and my kids handed out the food and drink. Nick called a quarter and it was about 20C warmer than last year, which, let's face it, wasn't difficult.

Beautiful Place and Time

We were invited to my brother's house for Xmas. Mike and Ang live a few miles outside Nottingham in a lovely cottage, that they have been doing up for a while. They wanted to have a proper family Xmas there, with the kids and Mum. Nick was a little skeptical, wondering how they would fit us all in, but it turned out to be very comfortable. It looks spectacular. I was dead jealous. Why can't my house be so neat and tidy and beautifully decorated?
We drove up Xmas eve. It was a little challenging to fit seven people, a dog, presents and overnight bags into the car. Donny and Mel were effectively buried in the back, unable to move their arms underneath the packages and bags. I had the dog wedged between my knees and the rest of the family had sleeping bags piled on top of them.I know some kids got to sleep early on Xmas Eve to make the morning come faster. My kids don't. They were just hyper excited and didn't crash until about midnight. Mike and Ang, who had an air-bed in the living-room, were woken at around 5.30am when Eartha persuaded Saskia to force-feed Angela smarties.
Meanwhile, Nick's cold had developed into galloping asthma. While the goose was cooking Mike took Nick off to the emergency clinic. I took the dog for a lovely walk down The Dumbles, which (Mike tells me) date from the end of the last ice-age, 10000 years ago. When they got back we had a delicious lunch. Mike and Ang are both very foody and great at cooking.

The kids went to play with their new MP3 players and I had a post-prandial snooze for a couple of hours (it must be my age). When I surfaced, it seemed Nick's asthma had gotten worse, not better, and that I was the only sober one fit to drive. Off we went to the clinic again, with Ang this time to give me directions. The nurse dosed Nick with nebulisers, which probably should have been done that morning, and then we went off on a scenic tour of Nottingham, l
ooking for a dispensing surgery. It was gone nine when we got back, but Nick was a lot happier.

Boxing Day dawned at a more reasonable hour. We took the kids on a longer walk through the Dumbles and back before watching Dr Who and finally making in-roads into the massive overly creamy trifle I'd been creating all weekend. The final straw had been the wedges of chocolate orange balanced on the top. You could put on two pounds just looking at it.
We had a lovely time, though I don't know if we'll get invited again. The kids managed to break a bauble, dent the sofa and knock the end off the bedstead. Kids are just destructive. This is why my house is a disaster zone compared to theirs!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Restoring the Balance

The Bikeability season is over. I have taught my last, very chilly, session for this year. Indeed, it looks likely that there will be no more bookings until about March next year, by which time I will be tromping happily all over the Karakorum, no doubt sporting a high-altitude headache.

As irony would have it, the council provided fluorescent yellow jackets last week. They say CYCLE INSTRUCTOR on the back. They are racing-fit, which means slimline and not really designed to have any warm clothes underneath them. They are also summer weight, which means not really suitable for standing around in the wind and light flurries of snow that we enjoyed last week. On the plus point, they are bright enough to be seen from outer space.

I was working with Mike, who was actually easier to get on with than I had been led to believe he would be. We managed to get some of the kids through the course. The school was in a deprived area, and so a lot of the kids had never ridden a bike before, didn't own a bike, and had the road-sense of the average hedgehog. Amazingly we managed to get a few to pass.

At the end of the first day with our new jackets, I noticed the lettering on Mike's was coming off on the back. Oh, how professional we look, shivering in our neon coats with the obscure message
on the back.

In between odd days doing cycle training, I've been decorating the living room. I have painted the walls (badly) and the skirting boards (slightly better). We've had furniture in odd places all over the house, displaced from its usual spot. Yesterday, the day finally arrived. The fitters came and helped me move the sofa outside. I snuggled it under a tarp while the men did their funky thang in the living room. They asked me if I wanted the old carpet, and I said 'no' so they cut it into four. It was only when they were leaving that I noticed they weren't actually going to take it away for me. I guess I mis-interpreted their question.

The sofa came back in, just before a flurry of snow started and I spent the afternoon moving furniture back in to the lounge. I have to say, it looks fabulous. The kids keep rolling on it. Maybe they need to have that tactile thing before they can fully own it.

Anyway, I needed to get rid of the four rolls of old carpet left behind. One can go to a friend, who has no bathroom carpet. The other three? Well, I advertised them on Freecycle and within a few minutes I had three people fighting over them. In the end two rolls are going to a man who wants to carpet his 'cold house' and the third roll went to a woman who wants to keep her chickens warm with it. She took some off-cuts too. Maybe she's making them little carpetty jackets and hats? I'll ask her. She said she's going to give me her spare fire-guard. There's irony for you.

This morning Saskia and Eartha did their school nativity. It was not a cute affair with dressing-gown clad kids wearing tea-towels on their heads. It was more like High School Musical meets Britain's Got Talent. Eartha got a starring role and played it to perfection. She really is a performer. Saskia also performed her part well, making everybody laugh in the right places and singing with a smile. They were brilliant.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of them, as photos are no longer allowed in school. It is a sad state of affairs, when we are all so worried about 'bad' people that we can't photograph our own kids.

Oh yes, I titled this post "Restoring the Balance" because I was going to talk about work and the lack of it over the winter. Dave, who so often fails to return my calls and e-mails and generally hides when I come to call, has actually come up with some work for me to do. Maybe I won't be quite so destitute in January, after all.