Monday, 23 January 2012

The trouble with January...

The trouble with January is that it goes on much too long. This is my least favourite time of year - the days are way too short and the nights (which start at 4.30pm and end at 8.00am thus requiring me to take and collect my children from the school bus in the semi-dark) go on forever. Also, and I realise this may be personal to me, usually we are in that post-Christmas hangover - not literally - phase, and my beloved tends to be in the USA for a goodly chunk of the month, and, I am facing yet another birthday. None of this is good and there is seemingly nothing we can do about it. Or so I thought...

Here's the plan: without wishing to claim that this is an original idea - obviously someone in the Northern Hemisphere will have come up with this before - what we need to do is make January shorter. How would it be if we made January twenty eight days long like February (which is nearly as bad in my book but mercifully short) and then made three of the best months in the year which have only thirty days in them another day longer. Who doesn't love April, June and September? April, with all the anticipation of summer, long June evenings and September when the days are still fairly long and the weather tends to be better than August. Why not give them a day each and make January twenty eight days?

I've given this some thought and I realise that for a few people losing three days out of January may be a problem. Obviously for a start, people with birthdays on the last three days in January - but just think, you could have your birthday in April, June or September which is clearly a much better time for a party. And people doing their tax returns like my beloved who thinks he has got another eight days to do his, and mine, and to help child 1 with hers. He might be a bit stressed. But otherwise I can't see a problem, here at least.

The real difficulty, I suppose, will be the people in the Southern Hemisphere and I haven't come up with a solution to that. But then, global solutions are really beyond my mental capacity. It just works for me. So, all in favour - say "aye"!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Counting down the days...

For the last week or so I have been trying my hand at single parenthood and I am now totally in awe of anyone who has to do this everyday. In fact, I was feeling quite sorry for myself until a friend came for coffee yesterday - her husband works in Kosovo and only comes home once every six weeks! And here am I chuntering about a week and a half!

However, this is the longest time we have been apart in the last twenty eight years and aside from missing my beloved (apart from the snoring, obviously) there would appear to a massive black hole of things that I rely on him for in a practical sense. This would include anything to do with cars - I have no idea what goes on under the bonnet and frankly, as long as he comes back, I don't intend to find out. Then there is the computer. At the back end of last year, my lovely mac crashed and in the words of Craig Revel Horwood 'disaster daaarling!' This may or may not be the result of people other than me using my super hi-spec laptop and I am therefore now very edgy about anyone else getting their paws on my keyboard! Mental note to self: must back-up, especially TFN which, had it been lost, would have been 30,000 words down the swanny! The mac made a full recovery but I am now very territorial about my office equipment.

Added to this, I know nothing about how the heating or indeed how anything electrical works. In fact - and I suspect this is true for plenty of people who perhaps wouldn't admit to it - anything that comes with a manual. Whenever a new piece of kit arrives in this house with a leaflet translated into half a dozen or more languages, I go into ignoring-it mode. My beautiful cooker which landed here in early December came with an epic tome. So I waited till my beloved (who is a much better cook than me) and child 3 (probably ditto but not such a wide range of skills and recipes yet) had used it and I could surreptitiously watch them at work before tentatively trying my hand when there was no-one to watch. Of course, I am now fully competent but I do suffer from techno-fear. Do people really read instruction manuals from cover to cover? Or do they wait till disaster (more from Craig) strikes and then try to find out why in a panic?

The one area where, if things go wrong I really want to cry, is laundry. Because we've been married for eons and have far too many children, we are on to probably our fourth washing machine and probably tumble dryer. If one of these breaks, I want to lie on the floor and wail. The new tumble dryer (yes, a lot of things had to be replaced in the autumn but luckily not me!) has a water reservoir which has to emptied after each load. This is something that child 2 couldn't get her head round and she has been bringing her laundry home from her flat since early December - because, strangely, her washing machine broke! Between Christmas and New Year, this ended in disaster (I am now saying this like CRH in my head - how sad!) and we had to get the man round. He kindly replaced something like a thermostat - well, I think that's what he meant - because if you don't empty the water reservoir every wash the machine heats up like a kettle. Then last week, whilst we are watching something gripping on television, children 2, 3 and 4 and me, I hear the tumble dryer going and say "Did you empty the water?" and just the look on child 2's face was enough to have me running to the dryer. Just in time if the temperature of the outside casing is anything to go by - you could have cooked an egg on the top. Crisis averted but obviously child 2 has inherited my manual-averse, non-techy gene.

The other thing is more related to the children than the practicalities of life. I have never been one of those mothers who says 'wait till your father gets home', not least because when we play good-cop, bad-cop, I always end up playing the latter. But presenting a united front on all matters child-related is important and paddling my own canoe with children 3 and 4 is much more tricky. At one point, child 3 (yes you know who you are!) told me this week I was a 'rubbish parent'. But at least I am here and I guess that's what lots of single parents say - it's too tempting not to.

Anyway, hopefully we will survive the last few days before my beloved comes home. I will not be presented with any more dilemmas relating to what the children want to do which may or may not be appropriate, no equipment - cars or domestic - will develop glitches and I will enjoy a couple more nights of uninterrupted sleep. And most importantly, I will have racked up a very serious number of brownie points to be reclaimed later in the year.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Giving it the old Razzle Dazzle

I have just finished de-festivising (is that a word?) our house and am sitting finally amid a degree of order and serenity which I had thought a distant memory earlier this week. Now that it's all over for another year there is always a sense of relief (that we have survived, of which more later...) and sadness and a creeping sense of dread about January and February which are my least favourite months. All in all, the festive season has definitely had its highlights (and low points but I am not going there at all). Anyway I thought I would share my highlights and remind myself of some top moments so that I can re-read this when I am wondering how to dig myself out during the snow which inevitably arrives here as soon as my beloved has driven off to the airport in our only 4x4 on his way to Las Vegas. (Meteorologists amongst you, please note that the snow will arrive probably on Saturday or Sunday and magically disappear approximately ten days later on his return so that my beloved can say helpful things like: "I can't see what all the fuss was about." "You could easily get the mini up the hill." and best of all, "What black ice?")

Without dredging up every detail of Christmas and New Year, or being overly sentimental about how absolutely fabulous it is to have all four of my children home at once and nobody arguing (surely a record year this year!), it never feels like Christmas for me until we have had my oldest friend in Yorkshire and his wife (who are also godparents to number 2) over for supper. This year, they came without their children, one of whom is so grown up that he has got married (!) and we had a lovely supper with other godparents and friends. I met my friend on my very first day working for an advertising agency in Leeds 34 years ago today actually. He spoke English which was a huge advantage as everyone else I met that day spoke either Yorkshire (thraped, throng, snapboxes, early doors, growlers etc) or some sort of mid-Atlantic (the managing director rather fancied himself as Madison Avenue meets Merrion Centre.) Anyway we have been great chums over the years and he and his wife were instrumental in introducing me to my beloved - a rather complicated story and way too long to go into here - so they must take some of the credit or otherwise for our 27 years of marriage.

Christmas Day always follows a similar pattern - very lengthy stocking-opening which we now all do together rather than the younger generation doing theirs without us and then revealing to us what they have had later in the morning at which point I must look surprised/impressed by the ingenuity Santa puts into the job. Then, after a large breakfast (ballast to get us through the next bit) we head off up the hill to our lovely Irish friends who host a drinks party for half the village. Actually this year our delightful (in every sense of the word) recently-retired pub landlord was able to attend and commented that he had wondered why trade was always slow on Christmas Day lunchtime and now he knows where all the drinkers are! Everyone comes with whichever relatives they have in tow and this year there were folks in their eighties and tiny people who were even more unsteady on their feet having only just learnt to walk. I don't drink champagne because I like it but it doesn't like me so my dear friends have a bottle of red ready just for me and after a couple of glasses I was happily performing The Old Razzle Dazzle from Chicago with my doctor's mother - perfectly, or at least it felt like it at the time.

New Year's Eve has been a home fixture for the last couple of years so with tables and chairs borrowed from the village hall and wonderful contributions (nibbles, puddings, cheese, wine) from our friends, sixteen of us sat down to a magnificent curry cooked by my beloved and child number 3. We had a musical interlude from three fine upstanding men of the community who combined singing (with varying degrees of tunefulness) with cross-dressing. I am reliably informed that there is a video so no doubt that will come to light in due course. I was laughing too much to be organised with camera or phone. One of our neighbours produced fantastic fireworks which he let off just after the New Year began and then my husband decided to set himself on fire in a celebratory manner. Actually he lent back on a candle and ignited his shirt (new) and then his back. I was jiving with the doctor and only noticed the flames when there were shouts of "clingfilm" which is apparently what is required on burns. So clingfilmed in the manner of Mark Addy in The Full Monty, my beloved continued to celebrate the New Year.

Yesterday morning, our house resembled the Somme and my dear Irish friend arrived at 9.15am to help us wash up and clear away - above and beyond, in my book and she deserves a medal. It took most of the day to restore to our home to festive order and now today we are back to normal and ready for the fray ahead.

Finally, New Year's Resolutions: to be absolutely there for a dear friend who is having a big op soon, to get children 3 and 4 through 20 GCSEs this summer and to finish TFN (one of those initials stands for novel and you can work out the rest...) Happy New Year to you!