Leaf Well Alone… 


Our drive is directly adjacent to The Deputy’s drive, with no fence or wall between the two (it’s that sort of a neighbourhood) so on occasion, The Girl may have wandered on to The Deputy’s drive, but generally we accept the little line between the well kept and frequently resurfaced tarmac, and the cracking, mossy, in need of repair tarmac, as the perimeter marker of each other’s estates.

So, imagine my surprise when I come home from the preschool run this lunchtime, turn in to the close, and discover The Deputy standing in the middle of my drive dressed astoundingly like a cheap imitation ghostbuster, in his brown boiler suit with an industrial sized leaf blower slung across his body, blowing away on my drive. Now, being as I am I smiled nicely and waited on the road while he scuttled around, dragging the seemingly endless flex of his blower off my drive. When I do finally manage to park my car on my drive I get out and look to say hello to The Deputy and await his explanation as to his presence blowing leaves on my driveway. 

But The Deputy is nowhere to be seen. His bright orange flex is leading around to the far side of his house, and the deafening noise of the leaf blower still in action suggests he isn’t looking for conversation. Which is unusual. In fact this is the very first time in the 3 years we have lived here that we have both been outside and I have not been cornered for conversation. However, the relief of a clear run to my front door, at this point outweighs the suspicion. 

Actually, I already know the explanation he will offer, as he has several times before been caught on our property, once before picking up the leaves on our drive his reason being:

“due to the prevailing wind being in a westerly direction”

Which is the direction of his house from ours. Hence, when we don’t keep on top of our dandelions it plays havoc with his lawn (yes, this was explained when he was asking me to weed our lawn “or at least just remove the heads before they go to seed.”). 

But as it turns out the explanation wouldn’t work this time, as The Deputy was just blowing leaves, not sucking them up as he has done previously (and subsequently informed me with great pride of his actions). This time he was just blowing, blowing them away from HIS property and on to mine!! Hence him scampering off like a naughty school boy caught in the act when I arrived home. 

Now, especially bearing in mind that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by trees on our estate, having leaves on the front lawn really doesn’t bother me. In fact it probably wouldn’t have even dawned on me what he was doing if he hadn’t avoided eye contact, blushed and hidden around the corner, but it matters to The Deputy. It really matters. This evening his lawn is impeccably clean. 

Not a stray leaf in sight. 

Spotless.  

And all I can think about is quietly, under the cover of darkness, assisting the prevailing wind in its natural phenomenon of redistributing the leaves over that line on our drives. In fact I’m almost feeling childish enough to consider getting a rake out so that in the morning when The Deputy opens his curtains and surveys the street, he will find that not only has the pile of leaves he left on my drive been blown over on to his, but by some magical quirk of Mother Nature our lawn is leaf free. 

Spotless. 

Parenting is One Thing, Pets Are Another…. 


“Mummy we need to talk about Santa”

It’s November, The Girl is 3.5 years old and just like in the film Love Actually, Christmas is indeed all around us. So, unlike when this was suggested to me in October, I agree to engage in the discussion. 

“I would like a pet please mummy” my heart sinks. Don’t get me wrong I am a huge fan of other people having pets and completely understand why people do, but it’s just not for us. Phil and I just aren’t really animal people. 

We tried. We once had a house rabbit called Clive, he lived in the dining room of our pre-baby house. He was fab, he was toilet trained and would jump in to his cage when the bell was rung. 

He also chewed everything in sight, malted hair everywhere, grew viciously long claws that were impossible to cut (it was definitely easier to anaesthetise a person than to snip his talons) and would sprint into the back corner of his cage the instant you tried to show any affection toward him. 

We put in the effort, I read every book about caring for animals, I googled house rabbit questions like a new mum googles “how to make my baby sleep” but Clive just didn’t want to play. All in all, perhaps not the most rewarding of pets. 

When the Girl was about 8weeks old, I was upstairs trying to feed her in to a milk induced coma when Phil comes in and in a panicked whisper says “I think Clive is dead”. 

“What do you mean you ‘think’ Clive is dead?” 

“Well he isn’t moving, breathing,responding or opening his eyes” And there speaks a doctor, someone who can confirm human death with certainty but stands in front of me questioning the vitality of our 4 yr old rabbit despite all the signs suggesting, with absolute certainty that Clive is dead. 

So our ‘dwarf’ rabbit who was nearly 2ft long when stretched out, with his feet behind him and his ‘hands’ in front (his favourite position to be in) had died. In said position. Meaning he was twice the size of a shoe box and the small animal carrier, and bigger than any other box we happened to have in the house. We didn’t know what to do, we had never before been in this position, we didn’t know what to do with a dead animal. 

So we called Clegg. Our friend who lived about 200 yards away and is some sort of animal whisperer (although not once they are dead it turns out). With her history of having had several rabbits who have lived and died she was the woman we needed. Phil explained the predicament of an appropriate vessel to take the recently deceased Clive to the vets in (and the fact phil was freaked out by dead Clive and didn’t want to touch him) and Clegg came to the rescue. With a large box. A box to transport our enormous, dead and fully stretched out rabbit, to the waiting room of the vets. The waiting room which would be filled with passionate animal lovers and their very much alive pets. So Clive’s final journey was in a Kenwood food processor box complete with pictures of raw meat on the side.

I don’t think Clive would have minded- sure he was a vegetarian and sure, any contact with a food processor in his living days would have been some sort of terrifying torture situation and clearly not the path he was meant to take, but I like to think he was fairly open minded and ultimately a box is a box. Or that’s what we told Clegg as she heroically volunteered to take him to the vets, as I was only just capable of leaving the house with The Girl, never mind The Girl and an oversized food processor box containing dead Clive. 

So with this experience in mind I know The Girl is going to be disappointed as Santa will not be bringing her a pet, but I entertain the discussion for a little longer asking what sort of pet she would like…

“A crocodile mummy, and if I can’t have a crocodile then 3 caterpillars please” 

Well, unexpected options but perhaps possible, and she did say please….

Domestic Bliss

It’s Sunday morning. Phil is on call and hasn’t been seen since Friday at 7am (although the evidence suggests that he did make it home to reheat his dinner on Friday night at some point) and it is November. And, being the domestic goddess that I am, I know that we should make the Christmas cake.

During the week I bought some ingredients I could remember we needed but it’s going to be a bit hit or miss. The problem is that I have said to The Girl that we will make our Christmas cake, therefore it needs to happen. And it needs to happen now. Right now. 

So we get out the Delia Smith complete cookbook. This is the only recipe I have ever made from this book and I have done it 3 times before. It seems to have worked in previous years so I persevere with the same one. 

This year however, The Boy introduces a new dynamic, he is “dairy free” – not because it’s trendy, but because if he eats dairy (including through my breastmilk) then he poops blood, which even as a trained medic I find somewhat alarming. So, I’ve introduced a “baking block” – a generic non-milk based butter alternative – something I am 100% sure Delia would not approve of…Much like my lack of fresh nutmeg would no doubt not go down well, nor would the lack of orange rind (which I have rather cunningly substituted with slightly ‘past it’ satsuma skin  who knew it’s not that easy to grate the skin of a satsuma? It just sort of peels itself). It also turns out my candied peel’s use by date was last year and my eggs are not large. 

I could, and perhaps should, nip to the shop but it’s 10am, I was up 3 times in the night, none of us are dressed and I can’t be bothered to take the gang to the supermarket (this would also mean my trip to the butcher’s yesterday to buy the most expensive chicken in the world “it is grain fed and free range” was entirely avoidable as I could have bought one at the supermarket for half the price). So I don’t, I crack on with the cake baking, with all of us in our PJs. Well, I’m in my bra and dressing gown as The Boy did some sort of epic projectile vomit down my PJs before we got out of bed this morning, and I’m yet to locate some spew free clothing. 

But it all goes rather well, The Girl sneezes, narrowly missing the mixing bowl and The Boy requires 2 nappy changes mid-bake. At one point The Girl describes my slightly curdled butter, sugar, and egg mix as “looking like a nappy- but smelling nicer” which I accept as a charming compliment.  

She does however temporarily bamboozle me when she informs me that the treacle “looks like Mike”. The only Mike we know is Caucasian with mousy brown hair and a fairly solid rugby player type, so I’m unable to see how she is making this association. But with further discussion “it’s Mike that daddy spreads on toast”. Marmite. She means Marmite. 

Anyway after an hour and a half of prep (with a very much preheated oven, as at Delia’s request we turned it on at the start of this venture) the cake goes in, and half a day later comes out resembling a fruitcake. 

A fruitcake which is now going to be heavily laced with booze for the next 6 weeks to disguise its short comings, a fruitcake which is definitely not chocolate flavoured (despite what The Girl is insisting) and a fruitcake which is not to be eaten for the next 6 weeks. A concept that The Girl is having significant trouble understanding. 

Next year I’m just going to brave the supermarket, buy a reasonably priced free range chicken and a ready made Christmas cake. In hindsight, the better option. 

Fat Club: Weigh In Day

I’ve been to the bathroom, I’m thirsty, I’ve fed the baby, I’m wearing the same thing as last week, my pockets are empty (so is my wallet having paid for the pleasure) the baby is off my hip and I get on the scales. 

5 lbs. I’m 5lbs lighter. I experience the sort of satisfaction previously achieved by reaching the required 50% in an anatomy test. That’s right I followed instructions, I got a sneak peak of the question and it’s true, the answers were all in the book. 

I stay “to group” and in turn people’s weight change was announced. Those that “under achieved” had chance to discuss what went wrong. The culprits were many and varied; A Chinese take-away, an all inclusive holiday, a drunkenly consumed McDonald’s, an accidentally consumed large chocolate bar, and the covering all bases reply of “I just keep putting the wrong things in my mouth” at which point The Boy blows a massive raspberry and laughs hysterically. Obviously, I then lose it and sit shaking in silent laughter with tears rolling down my face. Fortunately a likeminded slimmer also finds this amusing and like the naughty kids on the back row we chuckle through the next few mins until suddenly it’s my turn. And then “Helen, 5lbs! Congratulations, tell us, what did you do?” 

Well, having been off work for 6 months and previously being a “career woman” I treated it like a new assignment at work. Like any good Junior Doctor, I had sat through an induction, been given instructions by a “consultant” (albeit a slimming “consultant”…) and had dutifully followed them. I was provided with a protocol, I didn’t have to think for myself, I was given multiple choice scenarios and selected the one closest to what I thought would give me the desired outcome. And, I had meal planned. I had meal planned like a boss. I had meal planned like someone who used to work 60 hour weeks and was currently unemployed. I had meal planned like someone who should really go back to work – although I won’t admit this to myself and certainly won’t mention this to my better half.
But what actually came out of my deeply blushing face while the quiet round of applause continued was a mumble under my breath of “I just followed the plan the really…” and rapidly the focus of attention moved on to the next slimmer…. 
So I survived, and did so feeling pretty smug on the inside and being 5lb lighter on the outside. So with a spring in my step I strode home to get planning next weeks meals, but not before rewarding myself with a sweet treat… 

Speeding and Spider-Man 

Phil and I are good law abiding citizens. In fact our criminal dealings extend to once having to report my parents number plates being pinched from their car (parked outside our house),and occasionally patching up individuals involved in a fracas – obviously in our line of work, not freelancing out of the garden shed or anything.  In fact we are such law abiding citizens when our retired neighbour John knocked on our door within 24 hrs of us moving in to our house, asking if we wanted to join the neighbourhood watch scheme, we jumped at the chance to hand over an email address and send him on his way. 

Until today. Today we got a letter stating criminal proceedings were being commenced against the driver of my car. My car was photographed speeding in a 30mph area. 

Clearly being the type of person I am, my palms are sweaty and I need an urgent loo break, but I continue to read and realise with great relief that it’s not me! No, it’s not me. It’s Phil, Super -cautious-occasionally-critical-of -my-driving-and-frequently-reminds-me-that-he-has -4-years-more-driving-experience-than-me, Phil. 

Immediately I get on the GMC website to see if Phil will be struck off (meaning I will have to give up my maternity leave and resume normal life) and upon realising that this is not the case, I breathe a sigh of relief and proceed in my role of “supportive wife”, sharing the news with Phil, without even a hint of smugness. It’s starts along the lines “Phil! Your in trouble with the police…” 

The Girl is watching me like a hawk but says nothing while I chat to Phil. However, later on in the bath, the conversation goes like this;

“Mummy, is Spider-Man a goodie?”

“Yes he is”

“So does he help people?”

“Yes that’s right”

“How mummy?” 

“Well, if someone is in trouble he will try and help them”

“So will Spider-Man help Daddy to get out of trouble with the police?” 

“Erm…”

Where is Phil to help me explain this one? Oh yes, driving at the speed of a golf cart on his 30 mile commute.

“Yes. Yes, Spider-Man will sort it all out”…. if only Spider-Man could write us a cheque….

Trick or Treat – Please!


Phil bought a pumpkin for “us” to carve (because it’s not like I have already carved one this year and have a to-do list as long as my arm or anything). 

The Girl demanded a witch then lost interest so I have dutifully carved said witch and put it in our porch – to tempt trick or treaters to visit (in the hope they will clear out the sweet treat supply in our house and save me from myself). 

Needless to say, living on a cul-de-sac of retirees it’s not really attracting a big crowd. 

N is for Nose….

In my attempt to be a model Mother on the nursery run this morning I attempt to engage The Girl in some educational chat. 
“What letters can you see?” 

“N mummy…” she has correctly identified the letter and it’s not one in her name so I’m actually rather impressed at this point.

“….N is for nose” 

“Yes, that’s right- great stuff!” 

“N is for knees mummy” 

“Erm, no, not knees actually” 

“Yes mummy, nnnnnnnn- knees” 

“Yes it sounds like a ‘N’ but it’s not” 

“Why not mummy?”

……And I’m done. 

The first question from my 3.5 year old and I’m way out of my depth. Tomorrow we will not attempt such a foray in to the world of education. Tomorrow we will go back to pulling funny faces at each other in the rear view mirror and leave the serious stuff to the experts. I was beaten, beaten by a 3 yr olds question and a silent K.

Let’s hope I remember to complete the school application, or my kids are in a whole world of trouble….

Good Morning…

It’s 5am and after listening to the 7month olds “singing” for 20 mins I give in and enter his room, knowing my exit attempts will be more challenging than an automatic lock in on the crystal maze. The offer of a dummy is met with grinning and laughing in my face so I succumb and give him an early first breakfast of boob milk, in the dark, being entirely silent in the hope of inducing sleep again. It works for one of us, despite the thumping of my chest with his tiny fists I doze in fits and starts until finally I’m released by The Boy doing an excellent impression of a sleeping baby. I attempt the transfer of said tiny person to the cot and sneak back to bed. Immediately I hear the baby chat starting again, but then, just briefly, there is silence.

So of course, the alarm goes off. It’s 6am, so it’s Phil’s “first alarm”, the alarm that says “you don’t actually have to get up yet, just letting you know that in 20 mins you do. So I’m just going to trade some of your restful deep sleep for lighter broken sleep accompanied by sighing and tutting from your wife because she is pretty hacked off that you insist on setting the alarm unnecessarily early and really wishes you would just set one alarm and get the hell out of bed”

But before I can begin to vocalise my already well known (but ignored) feelings, I hear through the walls, the dulcet Brummie tones of our angelic 3 year old – “I need a wee!!!! Why is my clock not yellow?!! Mummy!!!! Daddy!!!…. I need a wee NOW!!!”

So, with the alarm already having gone off and bearing in mind I’ve only just got back into bed I think it would be reasonable to assume that Phil will spring out of bed to attend to our little darling, but instead he waits for me to huff and sigh and roll over (in a manner suggesting I’m about to get up – but actually have no intention of leaving the bed as this one is definitely all his) before he finally takes the hint, gives in, and heads out the door.

I hear the negotiations taking place to convince The Girl to get back in to bed – trying to get those extra 5mins out of her. It’s futile, we all know who’s winning this one. Of course this process also ensures that The Boy is wide awake and ready to play. So within moments my attempted slumber is well and truly destroyed as The Boy is delivered to the bed and makes an immediate attempted to crawl off the side (again), The Girl marches in (complete with blanket, metallic and fluffy unicorn, clucky ducky and a pasta necklace) and just to really guarantee we are all wide awake Phil’s sodding alarm goes off again.

Phil, realising his presence in my company is entirely unwelcome, busies himself getting ready for work, delivering me a guilt cuppa and heading out of the door. Once at a safe distance he reminds me he has clinic this afternoon which reliably doesn’t finish until 7pm and there is, for the 4th time in as many days, zero chance he will be home to see the kids or assist with bath time.

So I am abandoned, with the 3yr old screeching for my phone (to play the CBeebies game on) and the 7m old practising crawling by humping the metallic and fluffy unicorn with such vigour he proceeds to vomit on the freshly changed bed linen.

Good morning everyone it’s 7am, and in the most grateful way possible, I’m counting down to bedtime, or to my return to work, or to gin.

Mainly the gin.

Definitely the gin.

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A metallic and fluffy unicorn; A welcome addition to any bed I’m sure you will agree…