I've made mince pies, iced and decorated the Christmas cake, made a yule log, a trifle, homemade stuffing and cranberry sauce, stuffed a turkey, prepared the Christmas veg, cooked the lunch, assisted Father Christmas in all duties needed prior to midnight on Christmas Eve, cleaned the house, and entertained. Went to bed sufficiently long after last child in order to be able to assist said Father Christmas, got up at the crack of dawn with first child who woke up, cooked the lunch, cleared up and took dog for a walk........
And then I sat down.
And now I can't move.
I try to remember what it is that makes us put ourselves through this each year, and at this moment it is, it has to be said, a hazy memory. Fortunately by next December 1st, when the whole event starts again it will be, like childbirth, such a dim and distant memory that I will only remember all the good bits of Christmas.
I won't remember for instance that the family watched the recorded Nigella program on how to make Christmas, while I, in a different room, got on with doing Christmas. They enjoyed it anyway. And they have saved it for me to watch. So that I can get it right next year. They were generous with their tips from the programme too.
Nor will I remember that hubby appealed, begged, implored all children to give us all washing prior to Christmas Eve, so that we could go away on Boxing Day without having to wash on Christmas Day, but STILL the latter part of Christmas Day was spent with hubby doing THE WASHING, as well as all the remaining bits of the clearing up because my limbs went completely on strike. Thank you hubby. I am grateful really, and I do love you really, and please do carry on. Especially when you are not watching Nigella.
And I won't remember any of the bickering caused by overtired children and overtired parents.
I also won't remember that I did NOT want to go visiting relatives on the other side of England on Boxing Day, and will gaily plan for another visit. On Boxing Day. Or maybe I'll invite the entire extended family here. To sleep of course, as we live nowhere near anyone who is remotely related to us. Because, when I get there I will have a great time, because I will remember that I do actually love socialising at Christmas. Once I am socialising that is.
Nor will I remember that no-one wanted to come with me to the Christingle Service, until after the event, when having given up on the idea, because going to a Christingle Service when you have five children without any of them does just seem a little sad. And that later, both Eldest Daughter and Youngest child then expressed regret at not having attended.....
So, next year at Christmas, we will invite in all neighbours again, either on Christmas Eve, or the day before, or on Christmas Day itself. I will insist on making all the homemade fayre again. Because I like it. It tastes better and I never actually worry that a small feast will be left to eat long after Christmas day.
Probably so that we can put off all talk of diets for just a little bit longer.
Big advantage of Christmas.
In the meantime I shall have a quiet giggle to myself, as, on phoning around friends and relatives this year to wish them a Happy Christmas, we discovered that the most exciting presents to be had amongst them were a paper shredder and a blood pressure monitor. Thank goodness money was tight this year. Had it not been I too might have been endowed with an exciting present, or even been tempted to give an exciting present. Like a new lavatory brush or something.
Personally, my books, jumpers and earrings from the children were just perfect. As was the book and the very lovely card from hubby. I now have plenty of reading material from ex bloggers and blogger type journalists to inspire me for another year and maybe to start writing my book.
I am also content because our children, who had had roughly half of the amount spent on them compared to last year were very happy indeed with all that was given. What's more, we gained probably an hour of what would have been present opening time, meaning that we ate lunch at a reasonably sensible time and were able to watch Doctor Who, having cleared up, walked the dog etc etc...
Of course there was one casualty of the day when one child, who shall remain nameless, but is the one who is six, managed to return the entire contents of her selection box with little or no remorse for having overindulged on its contents. She then asked if we were having dinner this evening, having just realised that her last "meal" was lunch!
So I shall leave you all, quite probably until much later in the week now, with the enclosed photo and wishes for a very very Happy Christmas. Just remember though, if anyone did give you a paper shredder this Christmas this year, do remember to shred their address soon, so that next year you only have left the people on your list who will give you something really useful for Christmas, like a bottle of wine. Or even a case.
Daughter number three needed to have a minor op today, to remove some back teeth that had grown through in the wrong way. Minor as in seriousness of subject matter, but serious enough nevertheless to warrant a visit to hospital and a general anaesthetic.
Being aged 8, she was most unimpressed to be told that she couldn't eat after 8 this morning. So, she got up, ate early and then took on a very hungry look for the rest of the morning.
Got to the hospital at the allotted time, 1.30 p.m. She had been told that she could drink non milk based drinks before 12, but she forgot and I was a negligent mother, so she got to the hospital thirsty. Asked if too late, and were told that two clear hours needed to pass between drink and op, so no.
To distract, I found a film in the waiting room of Chitty Chitty Ban Bang. Nice and long I thought. She should be there and back before the film is done.
They put Emla cream on her hand to avoid any pain when giving the anaesthetic, gave her some Calpol to alleviate after op pain, and indicated that she was at the top of the list. Great I thought. We'll be back home with the kettle on by 4 p.m.
A nurse, that we hadn't previously seen, popped by and asked us to turn down the T.V. due to disturbing other recovering patients. She was one of the matronesque variety of nurse. The sort that makes you quiver at the knees for fear of offending. The sort that I remember when I was in hospital having given birth to Eldest Daughter. Being a newborn baby of a completely inept new born mother, she had screamed very loudly at 3 a.m. After half an hour or so of trying to placate, I had gathered her up and started to walk towards the day room. I was then marched back by the Matronesque and told in no uncertain terms that mothers are NOT allowed to walk around the hospital with their babies. It took me until I had my next baby two years later to realise that I could have gone down to the day room, but with babe in cot on wheels. That's why the cots in matarnity wings have wheels. So that you can walk the babies around. Trouble is that pre natal classes are all geared to the physical process of giving birth. No-one gives you a run down on how to deal with matronesques, or cots on wheels.
But I digress. Back to today's Matronesque.
I weakly said to her that I wasn't sure how to work the t.v., and that I had just used the settings that were already in place. She looked at me slightly disbelievingly. One of the other mothers waiting for her child's op managed to find a remote control, and turned the set down. We all looked relieved and grateful to the more resourceful mother present.
We then proceeded to watch Chitty, virtually soundless.
It's a very long film.
Especially when you are trying to guess what is being said. Quite hard work really.
Film finished and we were still sitting there.
4 p.m. Just as the effect of the Emla cream had completely worn off, we went through to the ward. As resident parent, I too was allowed to go into to where the anaesthetist does his magic. And it is magic. A person goes from laughing one second to asleep a second later.
As a mother though it is terrifying to watch. You feel as if your child has been taken away from you, and that you are never going to see them again. You then spend the next half an hour, forty minutes, whatever it takes, willing the staff to call you into recovery.
Immediately after the op, the dental surgeon came by to tell me that he had completed all successfully and that she was in recovery. Is she awake I asked? She will be soon came the reply. Then another mother and I shared a second terrifying moment when we heard Doctors being called to the recovery room over the tannoy. No-one came to tell us all was well, and for those few minutes which seemed like hours my mind was going through hell.
Eventually though we were summoned into recovery, and thank you God, surgeon, and great anaesthetist, because all was in fact well.
The teeth were tucked into a little bag, ready for the tooth fairy, and attached to her bed. Youngest daughter who had had a jolly (?) afternoon in hospital waiting with me, was delighted to see that she too could take a ride down to the ward on the side bar of the bed. Only it wasn't a side bar, but a brake. The nurse was quite relieved to find that she hadn't lost all strength in a samsonite moment, and that the bed did after all wheel along quite well without a six year old standing on the brake.
Got back to the ward, and heard hissing sound coming from underneath the bed. Went to get member of staff. Found the only non English speaking person in Gloucestershire. Demonstrated problem in demonstrative fashion with Italianish accent, as staff member appeared to be Italian. She went to find someone who could deal with the matter. Fortunately it was only the Oxygen bottle that youngest daughter had stood on this time. So we didn't all fall asleep.
Got home. Went to handbag to find teeth to show hubby the nice bag that the hospital had put them in ready for the tooth fairy. They had gone. Emptied bag of all relevant stuff. Then emptied if of the last year's supermarket receipts, hair bobbles, letters from the school, tissues, and a lollipop. Still no teeth. I think the tooth fairy's already taken them I said to hubby. At that, as if by magic, I found them in a pocket of the bag that I don't think I have ever seen before.
Not daughter number two - much to her disgust and disappointment, as has been hoping for a flame of romance for a little while now.
But daughter number three. Aged 8.
She came home the other day from school, announcing quite proudly that she now had a boyfriend. Second name of daughter number three happens to be Rose, so it is slightly ironic that new young "man" in her life is called Jack. Needless to say, there were plenty of Titanic jokes flying round the dinner table.
Now, being a mother of two teenagers, and one nearly teenager, it is quite common to hear secrets about the opposite gender, to be sworn to secrecy about the opposite gender, and possibly more commonly, to be left out all together about conversations involving the opposite gender.
So it was very amusing and quite refreshing to see Aged 8 announce her news, unabashed and quite proudly. Her only slight concern was that ESOS might tease her. When however it became apparent that ESOS had received the news and wasn't in fact particularly interested or concerned with it, she relaxed about that too, and went on to tell us how the match was made: at school, in a lesson, by sending a note. This had then caused a flurry of notes around all the girls in the class and had resulted in Aged 8, for whom butter would never normally melt in mouth, being sent to the Head along with some friends.
As she had achieved the job in hand - to catch Jack - she was completely unperturbed about being sent to the Head, and seemed to think that it was quite funny.
I asked her if she would like to ask Jack round. You know, to meet the parents. She is still thinking about that one, but she did ask if she could have some money to buy a box of chocolates for him, for a Christmas present.
DNT, who had now recovered from the indignity of her younger sister having a boyfriend before her, offered to go to the shop with her. They chose a box of Maltesers, came home, wrapped them up, and put them on the radiator in the hall, ready to take to school the next morning.
Half an hour later, hubby remembered that the radiator was on, and so the melted maltesers were removed from the radiator and put in the fridge. DNT and Aged 8 went to buy some more maltesers, and the melted ones were used in our pudding.
So second present to Jack arrived home, was wrapped, and, this time, put into the fridge.
Long may relationships based on boxes of maltesers and complete lack of embarrassment last!
I think it must be possible to catch non computer viruses online. (Ohhhh.... that'll get the Adsense ads working overtime...)
A few days ago I was reading about Petite Anglaise's cough, and, all of a sudden I too have a cough. I woke up this morning with a just bit of a cough, but as with all early morning coughs it subsided sufficiently to have a long and important phonecall. With a friend. And then do my radio show.
Then, I came back from the radio, did some blogger gazing, and then, I started coughing every time I breathe.
Meanwhile, in my feeling grim state I left a message on the Our Albion blogsite, which I later decided was a bit too cutting. So, as I always do, too much really, I went back to apologise. Meanwhile, another blogger saw my apology comment, and suggested that I take up a hobby!!! Excuse me but I'm not quite ready for the knitting brigade yet. I just do a lot of apologising. Always have. Those who know me know that it is one of those strange things about me. A bit like living in landlocked Gloucestershire when I like water. We all have querks.
Never mind I thought. Today is a good day, because this afternoon BBC Radio Gloucestershire are playing the first of one of my five minute features about the Forest of Dean. As a Forest of Dean Radio broadcaster, I sold the BBC a series of features, to help fund the financially ailing but bursting with enthusiasm FOD Radio. Then another presenter, Ian Coe and myself tasked ourselves with the making of the said 5 minute features which are to be heard over the next few weeks on Radio Glos.
Like all good features I had cut out to get it down to a nice and tidy five minute piece.
The two minute piece that they have left in was really good.
It was a shame that they didn't feel the need to use the other three minutes.
Well, it seems "the interview" at the very very civil office went well.
So well that they want hubby down in Portsmouth as of now, to do a new job at the grade that he was applying for. The only problem is that only a few weeks ago, it took a two hour meeting, preceded by several months of going backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards and backwards and backwards, to work out how logistically the family could be moved down to Portsmouth in two years time. Moved without disrupting educational and other plans for huge family, huge house and huge mortgage, who are collectively tied up in the midst of major educational milestones for the next six years.
But now they want him there. And they want him there now. So we are back to square one.
It's a bit like one of those games that you play at Christmas. You know the sort, those high risk seriously mentally challenging games. Like Monopoly. You get so close to winning, and then, bang, you throw a six and down you go right back to Jail, without passing go and without the £200...
Now I don't expect that we will be going to another meeting with Scary One and Scary Two, because to be honest, they probably won't invite me. Either because I would almost certainly write another blog about them, or because we are now subject to a different set of rules. This time it is a move for career purposes rather than part of the bulk move. Only they actually want to make it part of the bulk move. That would be easier for them and the rules for the bulk moves are quite similar really to the rules for the unbulk moves. Well, exactly the same. The only difference is that in non bulk moves it's a sort of a speeded up version of the "Yes Minister" reality programme as opposed to a slowed down one.
So, the nice budget that they found, to house hubby and ED up here until she had finished her A'levels and until his job was ready to move down to Portsmouth, is no longer available, and, if we decide to allow ED to stay up here in a flat on her own, then we would largely be funding it ourselves. Given the normal regular balance on our current account, that is not an option that the call centre, (sorry did I say bank manager?), would relish.
Now there is a big dilemma here, because part of me, if it weren't for the fact that I would have to change every other aspect of my life, change the address for every utility bill and every bank account, change every child's school, sell the house, rebuy another house, tell all the family that we've moved, tell the children that we've moved, resettle the slightly traumatised, verging on slightly insane, previously rescued dog and cat.... would actually quite like to move down to somewhere nearer the sea. I like water. That's one of those strange things about me.
And yet here we are stuck in the middle of England, about as far from sea as you can get, due to the fact that nine years ago we made the decision that this would be a good place to live. At the time we were living over the said water in Northern Ireland. My mother must have asked me eighty five times why we had moved here. To that the reply was always, "because we could afford a house here and there are grammar schools locally." No wonder she carried on asking when we then we bought a house that we couldn't afford anyway and sent our children to private schools.
When we ran out of money we remembered that the grammar schools were our reason for moving to a place in the middle of England where there's no vast expanses of water, other than the sort that falls from the sky very regularly. In fact, the water from the sky falls so regularly that it sort of seeps into your bones. You don't realise that it's there until you feel ever so slightly damp on the inside. It's strange really. There's no place like it for feeling like a slightly rusty oil can.
Now I'm told that Portsmouth has some excellent schools. The only thing is that the league tables seem to have forgotten to list any of them in the top 5000 schools for the last five hundred years. They did put their very good private schools into the league tables, but NO.................... we're not doing THAT again.
So! Just like one of those challenging Christmas games, it's really exciting, because there's SO many options that we could go for. Move, not move and make tea for a living. Ruin children's education and not make tea for a living. Not ruin educational prospects but go bankrupt. The list is endless......
And the great thing is that if we're really lucky we may know the answer by the end of the year....... About as long as it would take to play a game of monopoly over the Christmas season.
Well, as long as it does in our house anyway!
p.s. ED seems to have disappeared from the Orange Website, but as she is now officially the "Orange" girl on Spanish T.V., I don't see why you can't see a photo of her in costume.....
Now I have to admit that rather vainly, I nominated me, after Ignorminious said that he had nominated himself, and I noticed that Anna from Little Red Boat had nominated herself. So, I thought, WHY NOT? And amazingly, they accepted my nomination!
After all, if no-one knows who you are, and you are therefore an insignificant bloggy person, then you just have to take a chance and ask if you can be considered as possibly the best insignificant bloggy person.
Now of course it's a bit of a dilemma, because lots of the nice sites that I visit, and like, are also nominees. But there you go. Perhaps if one of us wins there'll be enough custard creams to share them around.
So if you do like me, please do have a look at the site and maybe give me a vote.
But actually, more importantly, if you haven't seen it already, have a look at ED, on the Orange website!
It was the Christmas display for the gymnastics club.
The official photographer was out of contact it seemed. So on Saturday monrning, they asked me.
As eldest daughter will tell you, it was possibly an unusual choice, plus as we have a digital camera, notorious for a time lag, photos of fast gymnastics are tricky at best.
The gymnast amongst us (daughter number three, the 8 year old (DNT)) had to be there early. We all set off to join her at the gym a little later.
Then we turned round and went back home for the tickets.
Set off again.
Had forgotten DNT's change of clothes for post display Christmas party.
Turned round again. Collected clothes. Set off again.
Found spot in hall to be "official photographer for the evening". Explained situation to one or two people that I knew, in case they wondered why I was crawling round the display in various strange poses, clearly trying to get a better view of proceedings than them.
Took first photo and in true Sally style fell flat on my face having tripped on the gym mat. Caused great hilarity amongst friends and family, although hubby managed not to notice.
Crawled around the gym for the next hour, doing my absolute best to be best available amateur photographer for occasion. Managed to get some good shots, despite time lag. Changed batteries half way through. Deleted a few wasted photos , so as not to use up all the card before the end. Was beginning to enjoy myself. Felt like quite a professional.
Then came the speeches at the end. "Thanks to everyone etc etc....And finally, we just have a few more photos to take. The photographer managed to get here after all, and we are so very grateful to him." "HIM?" I wasn't aware that there was any doubt over my sexuality. Looked over and there was a true professional photographer, with proper camera. Oh..........
Afterwards the Gym proprietor came over to me, full of thanks for stepping in at such short notice to take photos. I felt perplexed and clearly looked so. She explained that the real photographer had arrived unexpectedly at the last minute, but she does still want my photos, because gym photos are very tricky, especially with the time lag on digital cameras...
Then had a chat with the pro. He told me that gym photos are very tricky on digital cameras, because of the time............. yes, yes I know.............
So a good time was had by all, and the party was good too.
And finally.....Eldest Daughter (otherwise known as Emily Lomax) is now on Spanish T.V. apparently! (But not on the internet yet). So if you happen to be in Spain currently, and you see an ad for Orange this Christmas, she's the blonde, blue eyed one. She'll either be sitting on a swing in the snow, on a shopping trolley in a carpark with a Starbucks in her hand, skating on an ice rink, or in a changing room putting ice skates on. She'll be telling you in fluent Spanish (dubbed of course) about the best contracts to go for with Orange.............. Please tell us if you see her!
p.s. She's now on the internet. She's the one on the front page of the website, holding a coffee cup!!
It's Friday, it's 12 o'clock and it's Friday Live on Forest of Dean Radio with Sally Lomax.
Today due to a combination of winter colds and overtiredness, from being out and up late at their school play, I was blessed with not one but two little broadcast assistants aged 8 and 6. So they came along with me to the studio.
"I wish you didn't do this Mummy" I hate having to come here with you when I'm not at school, said 8.
Being a heartless type, I ignore her, pass her the lunchbox that I have previously made up, and set them both up on one of the radio station's computers, before going into the studio to sort myself out for my show.
It was a Mark Harper day today. Our local MP. Every three weeks or so he comes on my show to talk about what's being going on politically so to speak, in the Forest of Dean. We often have little grumble about the fact that people in Whitehall and Westminster probably don't even know where the Forest of Dean is, so one day, when he has either risen to great heights as a politician, or like many other MP's before him, has himself become a broadcaster, maybe if he's really lucky for FOD Radio, I can at least claim kin, so to speak, and say that I interviewed him here first.
But I digress, because I was talking about my junior BA's, who, half way through my interview with Mark, suddenly increased the volume levels on the computer they are playing on. Now bear in mind that this is a community station and although we have some quite snazzy equipment available to us, we don't have seriously soundproofed rooms. So the noise gets louder and louder and louder, until I am sure that all who are listening to the radio at that moment would hear an electronic pinball game going "boing" in the background.
I start to giggle to myself, and then I catch Mark's eye. I detect a hint of amusement in his eyes too, but being a political type there is not a hint of it in his voice. Professional to the last he simply carries on, undeterred by the "boings" in the background. Put some music on at first available break point, and then go and sort out "boings". 8 and 6 completely unaware that decibel levels are very high, or that it matters, as they aren't in the studio, and therefore can't see when the red light is on.
Go back. Finish interview. Half way through next interview 6 year old comes in to studio. She has been before, so knows the score and so to start with is complely silent every time the red light comes on. Then she puts some headphones on and forgets she is in the studio and starts humming to herself....
Would Jonathan Ross and Chris Evans be able to cope with these additional elements to their shows I muse.
To be fair though to be able to take a 6 and 8 year old into a radio station at all, and expect them to be silent for over an hour while I am on air, is quite a feat, so on the way back we stop at the pound shop to buy fairy lights for the baby Christmas tree that we put up in the playroom each year. The deal is that the kids are allowed to make that one gaudy if I can have my perfect white lights and gold decs on the main one in the sitting room.
There are only illegal parking spaces left in the middle of Cinderford, so as I pull up outside the pound shop, I give 8 year old a pound and ask her to go in and get some lights, if they have any I add. "How do you know how much they will be", she asks. "I have a hunch" I reply. Two minutes later she emerges with some - amazingly - not coloured but white lights. No coloured ones left. "But we don't want white lights, she wailed. We want coloured ones". Secretly I am delighted as it means that all the house will look co-ordinated, but being a mother I sypmpathise accordingly and then, not too long hence, drive home, having consoled her with the notion that the decorations are coloured and the white lights will show up the colour of the decorations more............... or something along those lines.
And then I think to myself, who are the real politicians here? Thank goodness that I attended all those lessons in how to avoid the most contentious of situations in the battlefield when I was pregnant. I'd never have been able to cope with five children without those
New fridge, which had been ordered by manufacturer as replacement of one that arrived in July and never worked, for tenants, who have lots of rubbish, FINALLY arrives.
Only problem is that it is delivered directly to the flat, but the old fridge, which is actually a new fridge but a not working new fridge, and older than the new new fridge, to us anyway, and so it is now henceforth called the old fridge, is still in there too. The room where both fridges sit would be considered on the small side for cat swinging possibilities and that is with just one fridge freezer present. With two, the cat wouldn't get a look in, and in fact one tenant will now be doing somersaults into his bedroom in order to work around the fridge. Not good.
"Please can you take it with you?" I say to the delivery drivers.
"Because we haven't been asked to."
"Please could you make a call and ask them to?"
"We can. But we know what the answer will be."
Call. Surprise, surprise. No reply.
"So what do we do now." I ask.
"There's nothing we can do." They say.
I ask if they will at least take the packaging with them, to which they concede. This reduces the bulk sufficiently to at least be able to swing the cats whiskers.
Tenant and I are left stunned at situation.
Would anyone like a secondhand non working fridge? It's yours for collection.
p.s. Will not be eating meatballs in Ikea for a long time. p.p.s. I'm sure that some Whirlpool appliances are very good
I was talking to an old friend on the phone, and I was possibly being a bit negative, as you do to old friends sometimes, about how things are currently, but, as I came off the phone, I suddenly realised that I actually like being me.
Now some of you maybe reached this conclusion about yourselves many years earlier. Maybe I am a little slow in certain areas. But really, inspite of my appalling clumsiness over the years, my inability to take a right instead of a left turn decision when it comes to all things financial, my inability to accept that my days for being a really dazzlingly amazingly successful person should have been at least ten years ago, my inability to be on time for anything, because I am always doing something else first, and my inability to focus on important things, like bank statements in favour of reading a story to the children, cooking a cake (but only at the most inappropriate times) or writing my blog, I actually quite like being me.
I would of course like to be thinner, have more money to spend on clothes, and have no mortgage or other debts. And if I could have a few of Nicole Kidman's inches too, that would be useful. She could spare one or two and would probably be quite glad not to tower over whichever man she is on the arm of. But I do so often remember that for everything that I don't have, I do have five gorgeous children. That in itself is amazing really considering the response that I got from my mother each time I announced that I was yet again pregnant.
The first time it was: "Oh. You're pregnant!" It was neither statement, nor question, but there was a definite hint of disapproval there towards the daughter who had been married for three years and was 27 at the time.
The second time it was: "Oh well, better to get it all over and done with at the same time I suppose".
The third time it was an aghast: "How are you going to afford three children." Good point.I'm still working on that one.
The fourth time, I chickened out. We were living in Northern Ireland at the time, so I had the excuse to phone rather than visit.It was such a relief to get my Dad on the phone first..........
It took three hours and then she phoned. "I believe congratulations are in order" was the opening line...........
Fifth time was the best. We were visiting, and she had wanted to buy number four's first pair of shoes. So I was driving us both to their local town. I gave the news, concentrating very hard on the road in front.
Then........... "Oh my God Sally! Nobody has five children nowadays.........."
Fortunately for each new baby that was born into our family her comments did not put me off, and needless to say, when each baby was born she was the first to visit and always helped me, adored the babies and has been a fantastic "Nanna" to them all. She's lively, lovely, still acts and tap dances, and puts the average thirty year old to shame in her various keep fit classes. In fact she never acts her late seventy odd years. She just wasn't keen on me being pregnant. She once produced a smock like maternity dress, that someone had given to her for me. (I was pregnant with number three.) It looked like something that you might put on a convict. Or on a nun in a convent. One of those. She wasn't too impressed when I suggested such. It was a surprising gesture from a woman who has always taken pride in looking stunning in clothes. But enough of that. If she's reading this, she knows it all too well. It regularly comes up at family get togethers and has become a bit of a standing family joke. You know the sort. The stories that are told at every family gathering.....
People say to me "How do you cope with all that you've got on". And I always give the same response: "You cope with whatever you have." Which is true. And actually, the human body copes with that and a little bit more usually. And that's good, because there are times for instance when we are supposed to split ourselves several ways to be at different ends of the county for three, four or five children's different activities as well as our own commitments, and somehow, we manage. I could do with some of Hermione Grainger's powers at times, but hey you can't have everything.
Over the years I have moaned about having to get up to go to work on a Saturday (a deliberate policy when it started so as to avoid the need for childcare costs, and it's only during term time), and at the same time moaned because I haven't yet made it as a successful voice over artist, broadcaster, actress or writer. (I have modest ambitions as you can see). Of course I have spent the most part of the last 16 years bringing up children and there is a limit as to what you can do on top of that. But, the good thing is that I feel that I haven't let any of my ambitions go either, and although previously I have grumbled loudly about being one of the few women I know who has five children and has to work etc etc, if it hadn't been like that, maybe there would be parts of me that would have died into obscurity. And I like the fact that they haven't.
Life can be as exciting as you want it to be, if you keep it that way.
Doing the best for your children is all that any of us can ever hope to do. So when six years ago eldest daughter was looking at secondary schools and asked if she could also look at the very nice, local, but private school for Girls. We couldn't resist.
It was lovely. Everything that you could possibly want for your daughter. Bright, beautifully decorated buildings, a gym to die for, a fantastic modern indoor swimming pool, an auditorium with snazzy snap back seating and more spare land to surround it than the rest of Monmouth put together. Probably the rest of Wales really. And probably in truth, to send five chidren there you need to be looking at most of the available disposable income from Wales.They even gave us proper coffee when we went to the interview.
Being who she is, Eldest Daughter sat the exam with absolute determination and gained a 25% bursary offer as a result. We did our sums and somehow made 2+2 add up to 3. (Hubby is the mathematician amongst the two of us. I am just an optimist) It all seemed quite reasonable, the day we did the sums. She went, and I started my business to pay for it.
Now bear this in mind, I am married to a lovely Civil Servant. He is on a Civil Servant's salary. The day that we made that decision must have been the day that we thought we saw a magic beanstalk growing in the garden up to the geese that laid the golden eggs. I like to think that we are intelligent people, but that day, the day that we made the decision to send our children to private school, someone had taken away our intelligent brain cells and swapped them for ones which didn't see the wood for the trees. Quite good considering we live in a Forest.
A year later, we were so thrilled with it all (I just loved those carpeted hallways and leather sofas for parents to sit in while waiting) that we decided to expand the business and send number 2 and 3 to the Prep Schools within the same organisation. We moved house too. So as to be on a better bus route.
A year later still and the expanded part of the business hadn't taken off with the same gusto as the first bit. So we remortgaged, I started yet another bit of the business and struggled on. Six months later, new bit of business was doing well, but the bit that was ailing was seriously struggling still - wrong area - and so I eventually, after much discussion and soul searching closed that. Only problem was that it left me with insufficient income and huge debts.
After more deep soul searching and discussions with various people, we gave notice to the schools for Eldest daughter, who was coming up to the end of Year 9 and due to start her GCSE course that September and Eldest son only son, who was just finishing primary school. Local school couldn't take daughter number two to do year 6, so we made a decision, with the school's blessing, who were by now in full knowledge of our situation, to keep her there for another year, until the end of her primary school.
We promised them too much money in repayments and struggled on. Again.
Meanwhile Eldest daughter and Eldest son got into brilliant state grammar schools and second daughter sat for various grammar schools to move onto after primary school.
Everything went according to plan (that is plan number 2) and all moved in time to state grammar schools. The kids were fantastic. Their awful parents had promised them the Earth and given them just the type that comes out of the ground. But they rose to the occasion and have positively embraced everything that has since been thrown at them. Which I personally believe makes ED's Angel campaign for Orange all the more deserved by her. Her parents have managed to struggle one way or another for the last 20 years. I would never wish to inflict such struggle on our children, so if they can become financially solvent at an early age, all I can say is thank God. And clearly there is one who is looking after my children in the absence of a good mother.
I was a wreck for weeks. No, months. Years. Even now I can't write this without tears streaming down my face. Because I feel, as a mother, I have failed. I set out to do something for my children which I didn't achieve. We all make occasional rash promises to our children, and sometimes it doesn't work out exactly as planned, but this was a very very big mistake.
The worst thing was that when eventually daughter number two left at the end of Year 6, we still owed the school money. I also had big business debts, and the most ridiculously oversized mortgage. I joke in my other blogs about huge mortgage for huge house for huge family. Like most jokes the funny thing is, that it is funny to those who know us, because it isn't funny. But being funny and looking at the funnier side of life is my way of dealing with everything else that has been going on in my life recently.........
Last month after struggling so hard for the last five years, I finally sold out my business to my franchisor. There is no profit and I still have business debts. I still run the business as a manager for a weekly fee. They have been very good to me, and I am quite blessed in that sense.
There won't be enough money left to pay off the debt to the school. And currently, they won't accept our offer of meagre monthly payments. They are being, to say the least, unpleasant. And so it's a bit of a mess really.
But, thank God, it's only money. And I do believe that there is definitely more to life.
The 1st December has always caused a bit of a flurry in our house.
It's when Tinsel and Twinkle first arrive.
You haven't met them? No?
Well that is probably because they are our own very personal Christmas fairies who first made an appearance Circa 1953 when my eldest brother was 2 1/2, ten years before I was born even. And they have been visiting ever since, but only in Advent, and they can only be seen by certain selected people.
Tinsel and Twinkle who are now really quite old for fairies, although as we understand it they are immortal so won't be too much affected by such, are also tasked with the job of filling the cloth advent calendar with sweeties on a daily basis during December. This task has become More difficult for them as the years have progressed because fitting five sweeties into a little pocket made for one is quite a challenge. Fortunately, with their magic powers they are able to magic up smaller sweets and as such they cope admirably.
So this evening at bath time of the two youngest, they asked if the Advent calendar was up yet. No I admitted. I haven't done it yet I said. (Was perhaps too busy blogging and doing radio show.) That's not fair said 8 year old. It's Advent, and we haven't even got the calendar up yet. Piously 6 year old said "Christmas is about Jesus anyway. "I don't believe in God" came the retort. "So, quick as a flash hubby retorted back, "So why are you bothered about Advent then?" No response, naturally.
Meanwhile having enlisted help of daughter number two, while the little ones were still in the bath, we got out the advent calendar and hung it up and left Tinsel and Twinkle to do some magic with the sweets.
We then did our family tradition of talking to the fairies, once the 8 and 6 were tucked up in bed. ESOS (eldest son, only son aged 14) and DNT (Daughter number two aged 12) came to join in, not wanting to miss out on giving any messages to Father Christmas. Eldest daughter (aged 16, who always said when she was younger that she wanted to be a fairy when she grew up, and got close by becoming the Angel for Orange in Spain last week), was at a party but I am sure would otherwise have been there too.
Tinsel asked youngest daughter (6 year old) what she would like for Christmas. "A guinea pig" came the response. Fortunately the fairies very sensibly suggested that that might not be such a good idea at the moment, given that we have an 8 month old collie puppy who needs to be the baby of the family for a while and a cat with nose put out of joint since puppy arrived who might eat vermin on entry to the house. She then asked if she could have some things to give to the "Love in a Box Scheme" for children who don't get presents at Christmas. This was one of those moments as a mother when (forgive me for being a bit soppy) but I just wanted to cry and give her a big hug. Contained tears but did give her a big hug....
Went on to talk about the rest of their lists, and then predictably ESOS and DNT joined in with their lists too. Took a look at the Advent calendar and sure enough sweets had appeared there as we had talked to Tinsel and Twinkle.
So they all ate the sweets, and then, as I was trying to remember to be a good mother, I sent 6 and 8 off to clean their teeth again, and while they were doing that ESOS (aged 14), DNT (Aged 12) Hubby (aged 44) and I (Aged 44) carried on talking to Tinsel and Twinkle. We were completely away with the fairies and so happy................
He isn't normally around by the time I sit down to visit my blog first thing in the morning. But he went into to work a bit later today, so when all the children were finally dispatched to their various destinations (we have four between the five of them) I sat down for my half an hour of sanity.
Today needed some sanity in particular, because when at 7 a.m. both of us having run round the house for 3/4 an hour looking for things that three eldest needed to take to school, throwing things towards them for their school bags, being shouted at by one for having lost her perfume (it turned up underneath her things on the stairs), hubby being shouted at for having had the audacity for putting something found on bathroom floor into the washing basket, and the dog having been shouted at for having taken a glove to chew and then being apologised to when it was found unscathed and unchewed (unlike most things at the moment), child number two, also known as eldest and only son, ran outside to the bus (bus stops outside the door, very convenient), without school bag. How he didn't notice that he wasn't encumbered by something which weighs as much as your average bag of bricks is beyond me. But he did. Forget it that is.
And so, Hubby, ran outside in his (albeit very nice, Next from a couple of Christmases back) dressing gown to the (not even a school, but a public) bus to give ESOS (Eldest Son, Only Son) the schoolbag. I died. It takes a lot to embarrass me, but today I died, and hid from the view of the bus which passes our kitchen window.
Then we relaxed for a bit by getting the younger two up and going through the same process again. Much easier though with children aged 8 and under. In fact they even decided yesterday that with the appearance of a VERY NICE and very considerate new lollipop lady (Please stay, we love you. Don't go like the last one did over a year ago. Just because she was 92 and had been doing the job for fifty years. Takes a long time to recruit a new lollipop lady) that they would walk to school on their own.
Now before anyone tells me that I am a hard and heartless mother letting my 6 and 8 year old walk to school on their own, let me just explain that it is literally across the road, and that you can see the gate from our front door. And yes, it was deliberate policy to buy a house across the road from a primary school and on the bus route............And then we sent our eldest three to private schools 12 miles away, until we a: came to our senses, given that there was a primary school across the road (which youngest two did already attend) and also rare and sought after (state) grammar schools in Gloucester available on a bus in a different direction and b: most significantly, we ran out of money, which caused us to come to our senses, very quickly. But that's another story, for another day....
"True" I say (to the comment about addiction in case you've forgotten, which quite reasonably after that ramble you may well have done). "But, it's better than smoking or alcohol. And given the stress of our day to day lives, either would be quite possible in the normal run of things."
I used to have only one addiction (that is apart from chocolate, which does have some health benefits, to me that is, so I won't count that), and that was the need to watch Neighbours every day. It wasn't the brilliant story lines, the fantastic acting or the marvellous sets (I mean have you SEEN the multi millionaire Paul Robinson pad? Surely to goodness even on a limited t.v. budget they could possibly make it look a BIT more like a place that belongs to someone who owns most of the town......), but more a need to completely switch off from the rest of the world for the 25 minutes that it is on. Somehow, by knowing what is going on in the lives of the people in Ramsay Street, I keep my own life on an even keel.
And now I have a second addiction: blogging. Every morning I look at my blog. Read any new comments, check the site metre to see not only how many people have visited, but which sites they have been referred from. I then get a little kick out of looking at the world map and seeing how far spread my visitors are, before I visit all my favourite sites, leave a few comments and then think about what I am going to write.
It really is quite sad, because it's the sort of routine that you might impose on someone who is undergoing some sort of rehabilitation therapy, so as to keep them sane, and just like my eldest daughter used cooking as a distraction therapy when she was supposed to be revising for her GCSE's (In defence of ED I have to say though that it did work because she did really well), I similarly blog rather than open the post and deal with my daily round of robbing Peter to pay Paul and negotiating bank charges (always lose, because banks are much better at charging people who are broke, as there's more of them, so they can make more money that way) caused when Peter and his wife ran out of money, because they paid school fees for just a little too long........
So here it is. A confession from an admitted bloggerholic. I am a blogger. However, unlike other addictive habits I have NO intention of giving this one up, so, with the odd break to write a best selling novel (when I am eventually commissioned), or to be an important voice on an important set of commercials (maybe for one of the High Street Banks, that would be the perfect irony) I am here to stay.
p.s. Meant to say that I have decided to sell my soul and join Blogsvertise, so if you see little underlined words here and there, do have a look and it might just help us to pay huge mortgage on huge house for huge family!
It's so fortunate that I have teenagers in my life.
Without them I would not have a very elaborate tone that rings on my mobile every time I get a new text. This was put on by my eldest daughter who realised that ancient mother needed more serious alert to said texts, because she kept having the audacity to call her instead of texting.
It's also extremely fortunate that teenagers really don't have any concept of the value of money. It would have been so boring for instance if eldest daughter hadn't compained about my not sending texts, because then we would not have had the - slightly heated- discussion about the fact that I prefer to use a phone as a phone, because calls are included in my contract, and texts are not. Thankfully I had two actual and one almost teenager to put me in my place about that one.
And thank goodness they have such excellent taste in music, making their parents choices so utterly absurd. Without them we would never be introduced to the fantastic music of the next generation.
And without my teenagers I would not know when my fashion taste has gone awry, that school bags, shoes, ties and any other paraphernalia associated with those aged between 12 and16 should of course live on the floor. Also it makes me see that on rare occasions it can be quite fun to act the part of slave in some sort of noisy out of control modern day drama.
But mostly the best thing about having teenagers is that you can actually see what your own parents had to suffer, and you can appreciate that your younger children are just children. So when the younger ones jump up and down on the playroom floor when you are trying to write a blog (as they did earlier) and turn off all the lights in the house by tripping them... twice... you can take it in your stride, know that it is completely your fault because huge house with huge mortgage for huge family (oh that will prompt another round of mortgage related ads onto my blog site...) has needed rewiring since about 1850, and as there is no more available funding left to do such rewiring just yet, that really it might be a sensible idea to move the playroom to a different part of the house and ask Blogger to put some sort of saving mechanism onto the "create posts" page. (Now I know that those of you who are more experienced Blogging types will tell me that what I want to do is to change to a different blog provider. But being a mere adult, and not a teenager, and not very new to this game I think I'll just stick here for a while - but if anyone from Blogger is reading, it would be lovely if there were a save facility without having to save to draft and then re open the post............)
Meanwhile, have just got a bizarre test from eldest daughter: "Wat? That pot can't em everything? What?" Took a few moments to work it out and then I realised that it is a copy of a text I sent her, without looking to see if I was taking any notice of the predicative text, and that she is asking ME for a translation. May just let her stew for a while. Nice to have the upper hand for once on text speak, even if it is accidental. Oh yes, and if you can work out what it was that I was trying to say to her, let me know!
As I get further into my forties, and I am still the right side of 45, just, and holding on there, it never ceases to amaze me just how much I suddenly feel that I am considered old.
Five years ago I was 39. At that time I was only 10 years past my 20's, and therefore still "young", or at least I still felt so for the most part.
My first entree into the world of "age" happened at the age of 36, when, on going to a job interview something cropped up about my school days. "Well, excuse me," came the repost, but that was a very long time ago. Now, given that I didn't actually finish formal education until the age of 23, I didn't consider thirteen years on from that to be a considerably long time, and although school itself finished five years before that, I still at 36 did not consider myself a dinosaur. I passed these comments off however and happily continued for the next few years in the belief that I was certainly not "OLD" - yet.
On my 40th birthday I prided myself with the fact that maybe I have a picture in the attic somewhere, and that I didn't look very old for my age at all. It was of course possibly my eyesight starting to go, so I didn't see what others did. But nevertheless, I did feel reasonably good, just four years ago. But then one way or another we have nearly always managed to live in houses that have gone up as far as the attic, so perhaps I am the picture in the attic. But then that wouldn't be a good thing in other respects. So hopefully not.
At 41 I was just past 40. So was o.k. still. 42, an even number. I've always liked even numbers. 43 - oh no. Hubby (who is just 6 days older than me giving me just six days to be a younger woman each year, which over the twenty years that I have been married means that I have gained almost four months on him) said that that we were now in our mid forties. "MID" I shrieked. Don't be ridiculous. We're only just past 42. That's got to be EARLY forties.
Then 44 came. Even I had to concede at this point that I was approaching mid forties and that I was hard pushed by now to classify myself as a young thing.
But there was still my voice. That is young when I do voiceovers I said to myself. And I have always considered voice overs to be my main strength. So, I entered for the competition to be "The Speaking Clock" run as part of the "Children in Need" campaign. To say that I was disappointed when I didn't even get to the shortlist was a bit of an understatement. It was a bit like that scene in "When Harry Met Sally". Do you remember the part when she says, "And I'm going to be forty". "When?" "In 8 year's time."? I was wailing to hubby, "And, I'm going to be 50" ........................in 6 year's time.
It was as if I suddenly realised that people in their mid forties an on are put on the scrap heap. Now don't get me wrong, it's not because I didn't win the Speaking Clock competition. I thought that the girl who did win, Sara "double barrelled" had a beautiful voice, and ironically quite similar to mine. And I do think that as they didn't choose me, then she was the best man for the speaking clock job so to speak.
It's just that realistically the chances to be "noticed" as "somebody" get less as you realise that all those who have been "noticed" as "somebody" are getting to be five, then six, then seven, then eight , nine, ten , eleven, oh no, twelve, twenty, even twenty five years younger than you.
So, when we went to Spain last week, I was quite pathetically dead pleased when they were doing a "making of" video of making the adverts. Eldest daughter's agent had even negotiated a fee for me too, as I was to appear in the "making of" video. Sadly however, he phoned this morning, and I don't appear on the final cut, so I don't get a fee. Now I am trying to be very sensible about this, because I do know that final cuts depend on all sorts of things, but it is so difficult not to rule out (given that I was on the set the whole time, 27 hours, due to being there in official chaperone capacity) that maybe I have been cut because I really don't look the part.................
So come on everybody. Can we have just a little space in our life for some slightly overweight but certainly not past it 40+ year olds? What do you think?
Knew that we were firmly back home this morning, when at 6.45 a.m. eldest daughter shouted at daughter number two for having used the last pair of natural coloured tights. Apparently it was the fault of daughter number two that no other tights were available, because she hadn't been away last week. I proffer a pair of barely black tights. ED shouts that she can't wear barely black and that I know that. Daughter number two gratefully accepts the barely black, whilst daughter number one waits for daughter number two to pass her the last pair of natural ones.
We then scrabble around for the bus fare. Not enough cash in the house to buy a weekly pass, so between us hubby and I manage to scrape enough together for today's fare. Will have to do some major moving around of overdrafts today to fund family to the end of the month. Thankfully only a few days away. Hope the tenants pay on time.
Think of bizarre price of business class tickets from Madrid. I guess we are not the first parents of an angel to be paying huge mortgage on huge house for huge family and struggling to get to the end of the month, while at the same time discussing how best ED can save her money in a high interest account ready for university.
House looks like Hiroshima. Can't find anything. Million things to do, but can't remember what.
I'm SO tired!!!
Still, the "Orange" Spain Christmas ad campaign will be released on 4th December, so will scour internet for photos of ED then.....
We get to the shoot at 11 a.m. See some of the clothes that eldest daughter and designer had between them rejected. Amongst them was a Hugo Boss coat retailing at 569 euros. She didn't like it apparently. Rest of team thought her a bit mad. She opted for one that cost around 40 euros on the High Street.
They work on a very long time clock in Spain. Start filming at 12 midday. I suggest at 3 p.m. that ED might need a little rest and maybe some lunch. Finally at 3.30 p.m. they give her some lunch and apologise to us for not being like (the very strange English) by having lunch at 1 p.m.
However, the people from Orange think that ED looks like an angel, which is why they chose her. Have called whole campaign Angel. Feel immense pride.
Get back to hotel at 6.30 p.m., then at 8.30 p.m. the voice coach arrives again, and after a very long scene in an outdoor carpark in fake snow, we finally get back to the hotel to sleep at 5.30 a.m. Body clock means that I wake up at 8.00 Spanish time, and can't really sleep properly after that.
At 12 0'clock I awake from from a half sleep with a start. Something prompts me to look at phone which had put on silence. Missed call. Was Forest of Dean Radio. Had arranged for one of my regualar guests on show who does a travel feature to fill in for me, with me do the travel feature from Spain. Look at time on phone. See that it is 12 0'clock and think that FOD radio were calling early, as know that they are not going to call me until 12, which is 1 p.m. Spanish time. Just about to try to have another doze, but something prompts me to decide to call them back. Look down at my phone again. It's Forest of dean Radio AGAIN. Answer. Hi Sally, we'll just put you on hold and then we'll bring you in. Oh, why is it so early I think. Suddenly realise that my clock in British time and they are calling me at 12.10. Do feature in bathroom, in nightie so as not to wake ED who is still sleeping like a baby.
Quick walk around Madrid (very beautiful city) this afternoon whilst feeling as if on a different planet.
ED now with voice coach again. Trying to find a way to make the script dubbable into Spanish. This is third script. First she did in Spanish (pretty tough given that she had never spoken it until yesterday) second started in Spanish, but at 3 a.m. someone suddenly remembered that the Spanish are experts at lip synching, as 99% of their programmes and films are dubbed. So, whe switched to Inglis! At 8.30 this morning during my period of restlessness I find a way of writing script number three as nonsensical but nevertheless learnable sentence in English that will fit in with the Spanish words for lip synching purposes, so that unlike last night, they won't have to rewrite the Spanish script for the voice over. Naturally ED doesn't like her mother's ideas, because they are her mother's ideas. Voice coach however has had similar thoughts and had also written a sort of script, so between us we tweak mine a little and then I make a hasty exit to write blog, and let VC convince ED to learn the silly English sentence, as time available before shoot this evening is short.
She has just come down to the room with computers, very happy, and gave me a note with thank you written on it. Clearly I do have my uses after all... She is now having some time to herself on the other computer recovering from her deprivation from Bebo. Her friends will be wondering how on earth she has coped without such for the last two days.
Time to go, as off to film shoot soon and then onto plane in middle of night, so as to get back in time for Stage School tomorrow....... Wow!
In fact we had oranges for breakfast, but actually we had lunch for breakfast. What a feast! Fresh fruit, tortillas, smoked salmon (ED VERY impressed, as favourite food), salami, other cold meats, bread of every kind a plate of cakes and puddings. Sadly couldn't face puddings at 8 in the morning. Didn't have the face to ask for doggy bag.
ED currently with voice coach in hotel lobby, and as was putting ED off, I have found yet another computer. I am strying to find my way around the Spanish keyboard, and had just about sussed it, when I realised that this one seems to have Spanish keys, but has been adapted software wise I presume for the English speaking market, so all the keys say the wrong thing. Confused? I am!
ED has to do a snow scene today. It is currently 15 C in Madrid, but rain is threatened, which could cause a problem. Apparently fake snow and rain do not mix well. Still, we have been to two capiltals this week. Maybe we'll have to upsticks and go to a third where fake snow can work? In your dreams Sally Lomax!
ED must wear clothes in shoot that she wouldn't normally be seen dead in. Amazing what payment can do. Perhaps the answer to all teenage solving difficulties is to pay them.
Never knew that international travel can be included in the job description of a mother!
It is completely mad.
At 10.30 a.m. this morning I was walking the dog with mother in law and hubby and now here we are in Madrid. (Hubby had already taken the day off, and mother in law had come up to visit from Devon, because a few weeks ago he won tickets to a "Take That" concert in London tonight. We never win anything, so that in itself was pretty amazing. Took some organising. Hubby arranged day off and MIL to come and look after the brood.)
We had thought that as we had heard nothing by 5 p.m. last night that she hadn´t been successful at Monday´s audition. So in the words of all those nauseating people on t.v. competitions, we both said: "It´s ok We´ve had a great day out, and it´s been such a wonderful experience". You can imagine the sugary sweetness of the sentiment as we say it.
Then at 5.15 p.m. yesterday evening Tarquin phoned. Tarquin is ED's agent gained from mother running a stage school and trying out agency system on daughter, to see if students can get jobs.
"You´re the hot favourite" he said, but they are not making a final decision until tomorrow morning." Talk about last minute. We knew that the filming was to be in Madrid on Thursday and Friday.
10 a.m. this morning. Phone Tarquin. Still no news.
10.30 a.m. Go for walk with dog, as decide am probably going to London tonight to see "Take That" and not going to be international parental traveller.
12 0´clock. Phone rings. In a completely non excited way, T says. "Well, they´ve booked her. Where´s your nearest airport? And can I have both your passport numbers?" I am to go too, because ED is only 16 and they feel that it is more appropriate. Birmingham I reply. "I´ll call back," he says.
12.05. "No planes that work from Birmingham. Where else? " Heathrow or Cardiff is probably best I say. (Decide to avoid Bristol, due to impossible drive across or round Bristol itself).
12.10. "We´ve booked you on the 3.35." We can´t, I say. It´s over 2 hours to Heathrow from here.
12.15. "Youré on the 4.35. Can´t be any later, because there is a costume fitting tonight. "
Hubby meanwhile has gone to collect eldest daughter from school, where he has to explain to Head the necessity to take her out of school for 2 1/2 days. She is in the 6th form, so legally she is covered, but he takes the educational viewpoint of course. "From the school´s point of view, as an educator, I have to advise you that I really don´t think that this is a good idea. But of course, it is your call." Hubby manfully rises to the occasion and tells Headteacher that it is important that Emily does this and that they have to go, now, as flight is leaving very soon. From Heathrow.
12.20. Throw my bag together very quickly, Probably pack completely inappropriate clothing. Have no idea what the temparature is in Madrid and no time to find out.
12.35 Talk to eldest daughter on phone. Directs me to do packing.
12.49. Write super quick blog to let world know the news. MIL downloads camera, so that we can take it, even though it has very weak and on way out batteries. Will buy some at Heathrow.
12.52 ED and hubby arrive home. ED runs upstairs and gets another 1/2 a dozen things to put in the bag.
12.55 Leave for Heathrow.
1 p.m. Help, I don´t think I packed any knickers I say. Mine will fit you Mum says ED. Highly unlikely I think. (ED size 8. Old Mother pushing a 16 at moment).
3.05 p.m. arrive at Heathrow. Park. Walk away from car.
Walk back to car. Haven´t locked it..
Walk away again.
Walk back again. Didn´t take note of bay.
Go to get bus. Very uncoolly take photos beforehand. Not regular international traveller.
We arrive in the airport at 3.30 p.m. and check in. Oh my goodness. We are going business class. Now for all you seasoned travellers out there, this is no big deal, but for me aged 44 and for ED aged 16, it is BIG!! Boarding card is marked as MAD. I presume that this is intended to show our destination, rather than the state of our mind.
I look at my clothes. Having had no time to change I am still wearing the clothes that I walked the dog in this morning and ED is wearing uniform. All the years I have HOPED to be upgraded for free and have dressed smartly at airports, and then the one day that I DO travel business I am dressed as dog walker. No problem. Everyone will know that I am cool and nonchalant person who travels regularly in business class with very glam and soon to be famous in Spain Daughter. No need to dress up.
Get to the security queue. I think of going up to the security guards and pointing out that we ARE tavelling business class, and do we have to wait in the queue? I then look at others in the queue, and realise that considering the number of suits in sight that such a comment is not a good idea.
Never mind we think. We can at least have a drink in the business lounge, before boarding.
4.15 We finally get through security. By the time we have worked out which way it is to the gate we hear a call. "Would all passengers travelling on the IB3177 to Madrid, please make their way to gate 4 now. This is your final call."
Adrenalin kicked in and I realised that the boys in Chariots of Fire had nothing on me. 44 year old woman and ED were NOT going to miss plane and international fame opportunity to Madrid.
No time for business lounge. Will have to wait another 44 years for that clearly.
Get to gate.
"Oh slow down, Don´t worry. You´ve got bags of time" says guard. "They always make those announcements. It´s really annoying."
4.35. On plane. It´s just the normal seats says ED, with a spare seat in between. Slight disappointment. Menu in front of us seems to have prices attached. Do you think we have to pay for food I say? Try to send text to hubby. Am told off by stewardess. Whoops!
AND THEN we take off!!!!
As the trolley comes round ED, who is sitting on the aisle seat listens out for transactions in front. Ascertains that it is after all free. Phew. Quite a relief, as have come out of the house with less than five pounds (no pound sign on this keyboard, of course) and have no way of getting euros, as didn´t have time to stop at bank in airport.
The menu arrives. We try very hard to look nonchalant, like the others on the plane, who are clearly seasoned business travellers. But it is no good. We are obviously amateurs at this game. Complete novices and so easily exicitable.
Anyway. We are now here.
They have just stuffed some euros into my hand for the "per diems". Haven´t got a clue what they are supposed to include, and no-one speaks very good English. Hope that it isn´t to pay for food in hotel. Assume not, as wouldn´t cover cost............. We´´ll see!
Meanwhile ED is having costume fitting and a meeting with the voice coach (It´s being fimed in English, and then dubbed, so they have to get the lip synching right), and they are talking about a two year exclusivity contract for "Orange" in Spain. They let me have a computer, as I am really a bit of a spare part. Perhaps they sensed that I looked like a blogging type, and thought that I could use up some time.
Our world has gone mad in Madrid! Will keep you posted.
Have just found out that the "interview" that eldest daughter went to on Monday, which was actually an audition for an Orange commercial (but was sworn to secrecy by ED incase she didn't get it) was a success. What's more, they want us in Spain TONIGHT.
So am writing this in haste, as hubby, who happened to have the day off, because we were supposed to be going to a TAKE THAT concert tonight (he had won tickets in a competition), has gone to collect her from school. Then we are leaving immediately to get a flight from Heathrow at 4.35 tonight.
Being the country types that we are nowadays, going up to London is a big thing for us. Bit of a treat really.
We got a coffee before we got on the train. Found ourselves a nice set of seats with a table, and got ourselves sitting comfortably, as you do.
It was fortunate that I had had a major crisis of confidence, prior to setting out, about my size and had therefore settled for "slimming" (don't be perusaded otherwise by Trinny and Susannah) black, because as eldest daughter arranged her work on the table, the first cup of coffee went over and landed in my skirt. I say "in", because that is what it was like. A massive black receptacle for a seemingly rather large cup of coffee. Lovely. It didn't show, and miraculously even the pink scarf and maroon coloured jacket (concessionary colour allowance to show not in mourning) missed the coffee completely. I was just a bit wet, and smelt slightly unpleasant. Coffee isn't good secondhand.
I had just mopped it up as best as I could when the train jolted and Eldest (being a very slim teenager) got some coffee down her white shirt. Thankfully, she had packed a spare (white) shirt in her bag, not because she was anticipating spilling coffee, but just in case she changed her mind about what to wear, which of course being a teenager, she frequently does and can.
And then the train jolted again and this time just caught my maroon jacket a little..... Thankfully again I had taken off the scarf to avoid it sitting in puddle of coffee and as such was able to replace it later to cover spillage on jacket.
So, we arrived in London, stinking of second hand coffee. Given that we had come up from Gloucestershire, and I am naturally a very late person for everything, when I have to do something important I always overcompensate for time. We practically ran to the tube, both thinking that we had just over 40 minutes to get to Oxford Circus from Paddington. It wasn't until we arrived at Oxford Circus that we realised that we had left Paddington an hour and forty minutes before the interview.
Eldest daughter was delighted because we visited the BIG Topshop at OC, had some great girly time trying on some clothes, got an extortionately expensive but I did have to (grudgingly) admit, very nice, gingerbread coffee from Starbucks all before the interview. Then afterwards we had a look at the Christmas decorations (was amused to see that they weren't very different to those they used 20 years ago) and spent far too much money on some Christmas presents from Hamleys. Maybe I thought that I was going to be late for Christmas this year so had to do some shopping early. Something like that.
We'd had a really great day, despite the vague coffee aroma that we carried with us wherever we went. And, as we went down the escalator at Oxford Circus, it didn't occur to me that vast black coffee smelling skirt might be a potential health hazzard, until I was walking off the bottom of the stairway and could go no further. I realised when I seemed to be staying static and going a little bit backwards, that I was a bit caught up and going the wrong way towards the stairs. Fast. A kind passerby pressed the emergency button, and nearly sent hundreds of people flying off the staircase as it drew to a sharp stop. He then pulled out what was left of my skirt for me. I was very grateful, and very apologetic. He did look at me as if really I was just a little bit VERY STUPID and as if it was definitely MY fault, which realistically it probably was. Perhaps after all there is a benefit to wearing a belt in the place of a skirt, as does my daughter and her friends, because then there is no danger of being sucked up in an escalator via a big black coffee smelling skirt.
And of course, had I worn a shorter version of said garment I wouldn't have then had to make my way from Oxford Circus to Paddington with a smelly skirt with a very large rip at the bottom. Perhaps I should have sat down and put out a hat. I may have raised my train fare.
All I need now I thought is to bump into someone that I haven't seen for ten years. We turned the corner and there .........................
No not really, but it would have been great for the blog.
Instead I just brazenly walked around Paddington for 3/4 hour (early again!) waiting for the train, and if anyone did notice a slightly strange coffee smelling woman with ripped skirt and very glamorous daughter waiting for the Gloucester train yesterday, thank you so much for not staring or commenting.
On Wednesday I was our local shop buying some bits and pieces, and while I was there, one of the articles on the front page of a national newspaper caught my eye. They have discovered that if people don't drink or smoke too much, and keep fit, they will live longer. WOW! That really took some working out.
It got me thinking though, because when I last spoke to my 83 year old very physically fit father on the phone he said to me that my mother was feeling a bit low because her local amateur dramatic society, to which she has given her life for the last thirty years, no longer wants her talents.
They possibly feel that her ideas are old fashioned or inappropriate, in our (oh so much improved?) modern world.
Now, she is my Mum, so only I am allowed to say what I am going to say, and none of you are allowed to criticise her in any way shape or form. As far as YOU are concerned she is perfect. Admittedly though, she does sometimes have very strong opinions on the way things should be done, and for the last three or four years she has badly needed a hearing aid, but possibly for vanity reasons refuses to go and get her hearing tested and wear the said aid. This could mean therefore that she does miss certain things that are said, which could be important, and as sadly people are generally very intolerant of anyone with any aging disability, then they have possibly tired of speaking loudly to her to get their point across!
Grumble over however. My next point is far more important.
Why as a nation are we so intolerant of elderly people?
Why can we not accept that people who have fought in wars, had children, grandchildren, have cared for elderly parents, made money, lost money, paid off their mortgage, worn every fashion ever thought of and laughed each time it is reinvented, hosted more parties that your average celebrity goddess, were there when the word pizza was first used as a word in the English language, when courgettes made an appearance on the British meal table and when kiwis first turned the fruit bowl green - are not only older, but far far wiser than those half their age? And WHY do we not realise that if people are "written off" in their forties, there is a lot of life left yet - especially as everyone now understands thanks to said National Newspaper how to live a long and healthy life. Thank you National Newspaper.
I then went to pay for my goods. I didn't have enough cash on me - or wanted to preserve the little I had, and so decided to put it on a card. The joint account was the only one with any available funds. Knew that I couldn't remember the pin number, so looked it up before going into the shop in my secret pin number place that only I know about. Got into the queue. Had forgotten pin number again. Looked it up again. Got to the front of the queue................ and yes.............
But ........... I still intend to be a fit 80 year old. Just a slightly forgetful one at times. I'm busy. That's why I forget things occasionally!
Well, in 2000 it was to be Portsmouth in 2003. Then in 2003 it was to be Salisbury in 2006. And then in 2006 it is Portsmouth again, in 2008.
This week anyhow. We have known that a move is on the cards for almost seven years, but being the very very civil civil office of Forbidden England, we have also known that we have to wait for a posting letter until it happens.
So two year's ago, hubby wrote a letter to sensible people in relevant department to explain that we had five children and that there were very limited opportunites to move them over the next few years without major disruption to their educational milestones. He suggested that we could move two year's ago (summer 2004), this summer ( summer 2006), or failing that in 2012, as all dates in between were a no no given that each year fell between GCSE's, AS levels or A levels for one or other child. Naturally we got a very civil response, but sadly nothing could be done until we had a "letter of intent". Now for all those of you not in the know, the "letter of intent" comes before the "letter of posting". They post the letter of intent to you to tell you that they will be posting a letter of posting about the proposed posting at a given date in the future. They do explain that they intend to given you a "letter of posting" at a certain time, but obviously things can, and do slip, and so we all accept that this is an approximation.
In September, eldest daughter started A'level course meaning that she should preferably stay where she is for the next two years. Eldest son starts his GCSE course next September, and so can move any time up to next September but not thereafter, but then daughter number three starts her GCSE course the following September, so then she can't be moved for two years after that.......... and so it now goes on until 2012.
Meanwhile the letter of "intent" arrives at the end of September this year. Had it arrived six weeks earlier we could have perhaps made a case to move this summer - albeit very rushed move, and settled everyone in prior to said courses. It didn't though. And so we are now in our six year "no go" period. "Letter of intent" tells us that in October 2007 (approximately) we will get a letter of posting, which will mean that we will be moved in the summer of 2008 - half way through son's GCSE course. They will let us move up to three years after that or even a year before, but, naturally it still falls in the no go area for the academics amongst us.
So, hubby writes letter to nice people in civil department to explain in very civil way the state of our very civilian affairs. He puts forward a number of suggestions, such as putting one or other child into a boarding school for a couple of years to get round the problem of the company move, (with them paying......) or maybe to pay for the cost of a flat in Gloucester for a year for eldest daughter, so that she can finish her A'levels, so that we could move ahead of the group, in the summer of 2007, before son starts his GCSE course.
They want to see us. So we go to a meeting in highly secret location in rural England where hubby works.
I arrive at the civil civil office in Forbidden England. I smile at the security camera and am given a day pass with a completely unsmiling photo featured. Clearly the smiles are digitally removed to avoid too much human content. I am taken to a room with no windows and no airconditioning, but I see with relief, there is coffee available. We sit at the table and are faced by two women who look as if they would scare off your average prime minister.
We present our case to the scaries and their rule book. (This is a big volume which sits in front of them, only visible to them, but containing every dot, comma and crossed t on the rights and allowances of employees employed by the very very civil civil Forbidden England office.) Clearly they are not going to pay for boarding school fees for two years for one or other child. So, we suggest a state boarding school. Half the price because no fees involved, only boarding costs. Rough estimate £18000 for the two years involved. Stern faces. Not a liked suggestion. It transpires that the "help" that they offer towards boarding school fees for unsettled children due to the move is in the region of £195 a month, up to a maximum of 50% of the actual cost. Well, they must be basing their actual costs on the price of boarding schools circa 1975, because £2500 a year won't pay for very much in 2006!
We go back to the drawing board.
What about the "non Mover's" package? They say. Known around the office in Forbidden England as the job seeker's allowance, the none mover's package means that hubby can work weekly down in Portsmouth from date of official move to six years hence and will be paid a downwardly sliding allowance for a set period, until after six years it fizzles out completely. At that point he is expected to either move (at his own cost) to Portsmouth, or leave.
Not seeing a realistic way of paying for huge family to move down to Portsmouth for company move at our own expense, I point out to the scaries that that would possibly leave hubby jobless aged 50. Not a good time to be jobless, and despite new laws saying that age is not a problem any more, we all know that your average boss is not going to employ a 50 year old when he has a grand choice of people aged from 25 to 40!
Could we take the non movers package for six years and then move down to Portsmouth at their cost in six years time perhaps?
They then suggest that perhaps the best thing in our situation is for him to take the option to apply for redundancy. Hubby asks if that means that he can apply for redundancy now.
Because you haven't had your posting letter yet.
But I have had a letter of intent which says that if we change our mortgage for a better deal over the next two years, we will have to pay any redemption charges ourselves.
So, therefore you are considering the starting point of these negotiations as being now.
But we can't change our mortgage and still have any reedemption fees paid by you when we move.
That's because you know that you might be moving.
Exactly, so as such, am I able to apply for a redundancy option now?
No. Not until you receive a posting notice.
So, to summarise, there is a job in Portsmouth, but we are not officially allowed to know or act upon the fact that there is a job in Portsmouth until we officially know that there is a job in Portsmouth, and although they will do everything they can to help us to move there, they won't pay for anything that isn't allowable in their little booklet of allowable expenses for employees employed by the the very very civil civil department of Forbidden England.
We have reached a stumbling block in the negotiations. They have one set of rules for them, and one set of rules for us. They have "budgets", but the budgets don't meet our needs. They have a job, but it's in the wrong place, and they are not willing to take this to a higher department to ask if the rules can be "flexed" a little.
Hubby suggests that this is effectively a form of constructive dismissal. Nobody can deny that.
I ask if I might have a cup of "the coffee". I don't wait for an answer, but stand up to help myself from the coffee sitting on the side. Clearly, this is a bad move. The "COFFEE" is not intended for "wive's of employees" of the very very civil civil office of Forbidden England, but for the scaries themselves. Hubby explains that I have left home early and driven a long way to get here................. Phew.... am granted a concession for a coffee.
Then somehow, amazingly, the term "Early Movers Package" emerges. Quite where it comes from nobody seems to know, but it means that he can "apply" for a posting letter early, and all going well can officially move to Portsmouth next summer. (I have a sense of deja vue here). Of course, there is no job down there until summer 2008, so he can't actually work there. But by some amazing loophole, we can move and hubby can stay up here in a flat during the week, which they will pay for, and eldest daughter can stay with him and finish her A'levels. It is officially hubby's "allowance" and not eldest daughter's, so can be paid for.......
For that, "in the budget of big invisible rule book" of "Office of Forbidden England", they will pay up to £7000 ish a year. Enough to rent a flat near here.
What happens if the move slips a little we ask. Oh that's fine, they say, we'll pay until you do move down to Portsmouth.........
Now bear in mind that the move has already slipped five years, so it could realistically slip another three, and, if it does, that will cost £21,000 ish in rent for hubby (More than the cost of a state boarding school, plus they will have to pay expenses at a mileage rate to get him back and forth at the weekends............. )
But it's o.k. because it comes out of a different pot so everyone is happy.
Now, if you really understand the ins and outs of all this, you are a better person than me!!!!!!
When we bought huge house for huge family with huge mortgage we always knew that there would be some letting potential there. Part of the building was an old Doctor's surgery, and so after much discussion, many paint pots, many more thousands of pounds and four years we finally got a tenant in there. Well we actually got two tenants in there, but in doing so had to give up the part of the house that included the downstairs loo, much to the disgust of six year old who tells us daily the inconvenience that she is suffering as a result.
We found the tenants because one of our friends was moving away from the area and needed somewhere for her eighteen year old son to stay. Eighteen year old boy barely had enough money to pay for his cigarette and alcohol habit, let alone food and rent. He therefore asked if he could bring in other eighteen year old boy into the flat too to help pay for the rent. No problem we said, and prepared to move the office, forego aforementioned downstairs loo and soon enough we had another suitable room to incorporate into "the flat" as it became known.
Not having had a great deal of experience with tenants we then had a great learning curve to climb. We drew up a contract with all the things that we thought needed mentioning, but forgot to put in as one of the clauses that one of the rules was not to totally ignore the contract at all times.
A friend recently asked how it was going. Fine, I said. "Do they pay on time?" Mostly, I said. We've had a couple of problems. "Do they keep it clean?" Well, not very I said, but they are young boys. They do smoke in there though, and we did ask them not to, I said. "So", she said, "apart from the fact that they don't pay their rent on time and don't keep to the contract, its fine!" Yes, I said, meekly.
Of course I do accept that I have the word "MUG" written all over my forehead, and I can be taken for granted very easily. Somebody pointed out to me that I am not always clear in what I say, and as such people don't necessarily get the full message of what it is that I am unhappy with.
Until this morning that is, and then it all changed.
I walked past "the flat" and saw that despite it being rubbish day they hadn't put it out. Feeling benevolent, and knowing that they are young boys working hard, getting up early etc etc I thought that I would do it for them. Apart from anything else I didn't really want the rubbish hanging around for another week. So I moved a rubbish bag into the street. Then I moved another rubbish bag. Then another, and so it went on. I got down to the bits that had fallen out of the bags. The moudlyyoghurt pots, the food smeared cardboard and paper, and then the "recycling". They hadn't quite cottoned on to the fact that nice people throw away or finish the contents of the bottles and tins prior to putting them into the recycling, and preferably give everything a rinse too. Instead it looked like the average pub bin must look like after a heavy night's drinking with the (hundreds of) fag ends dropped into the not quite empty alcohol containers.
It took me half an hour to clear the mess and clean the area, and unfortunately, the planet didn't get a look in. It isn't recycling week, so I had no intention of also rinsing out and recycling the recyclables and leaving it there for another week. Instead I found several large black plastic bags and threw everything. When I finally got to the bottom of the container that was posing as the recycling box (I recognised it only by its vague similarity on the outside to our own) I scrubbed it out and liberally used bleach (sorry planet, again) to give it some sort of hygienic smell, before using rest of bleach to clean out area where rubbish had been.
It then took me a further hour to compose very stroppy letter, which after phoning hubby to discuss, before taking round to tenants, I had to seriously modify as he quite sensibly suggested that we did need the rent money, and so a little more tolerance was perhaps required on my part.
In the letter I had mentioned that the flat always smelt of smoke, as when went in last week to allow them to have (big and expensive) speakers that they had ordered delivered, it did smell heavily of smoke. But on taking the letter round, found that they had had the window open and amazingly, this time, it didn't smell. There was another rubbish bag sitting in the flat though, full, but too late now as rubbish had already been collected. Tenants clearly weren't in, as had banged on door several times while cleaning bin area (very cross bang) , so knew could not possibly have slept though the racket. Checked bedrooms to see if they smelt of smoke. First one didn't. Opened second door. Horrified to see teenage boy asleep in bed. Closed door VERY quickly and ran.
Came back in, modified letter again and went round again. This time, banged on door. No reply, so opened door. Placed letter in hall and left, again, very quickly, as did not want to be perceived as some sort of forty something Mrs. Robinson type character with fetish for cleaning. Oh help!!!
Sally's writing is about being a mother of five, now all too grown up, children, (four girls, one boy) a husband, a dog, and a serious ambition to be a mortgage free and famous actress, voice over artist, broadcaster, writer and teacher.
The "Cast" List for the blog includes:
Hubby - Her husband,
ED - Eldest Daughter,
ESOS - Eldest son only son,
Sensible - Second daughter,
Gymnast - Third daughter,
Tinkerbell Mushroom - Youngest daughter and youngest child,
Mad Dog - AKA Lucy - the border collie.
Guest appearances by MIL (mother in law), parents, two brothers, inlaws, nephews, nieces and great nephew.