Wednesday 30 July 2008

Lizard Land

Florida now. I get a quick blog fix while Big G ponders dinner options with our friends. They're favouring the Island Cow, with a menu the size of Minnesota. We are in the condo cooling our skin from this morning, re-applying sun cream and eating snacks. The two big kids play cards under the air conditioner, the two little ones play a secret game under the bedsheets.

We chose Sanibel Island for its relative lack of tourists, its wildlife, dolphins, pelicans and palm trees. The sea is as warm as washing up, and sprinkles a fresh haul of shells onto the baby soft sand each afternoon.

We'd only planned to stay 3 nights but might add a 4th ... relaxed times together like this are so rare I don't want it to end ...

Sunday 27 July 2008

Route 93 North

As more family members have gathered, we four made bed-space for the little ones by sleeping up at Big G's sister's house in New Hampshire.

I offered to drive because Big G had been flying and hadn't slept all night. His Day-Off Marguerita clinched the deal. With a light dusting of shame, I confess that in the 19 years I've been visiting, this was the first time I've driven more than a couple of miles on the wrong side of the road.

I moved the seat forward (this is a long-legged family), quickly reminded myself how to drive an automatic, and buckled up. We got onto Route 93 north and cruised in the middle lane. Over here, cars can pass on either side. The driving seems more mellow and the lanes are wider. The New Hampshire state motto is "Live Free or Die".

The roads got quieter. The air got cooler. The trees got bigger, greener and more densely packed. I pulled off the highway without crashing and we made it to the wooden house on the edge of a wood. The kids went to sleep straight away: The girl drifted off elegantly like a Queen Bee in a Queen size bed, sandwiched between Queen size pillows and teddy bears; the boy flaked out, smiling and exhausted on a blow-up mattress.

We popped a Boston Sam Adams beer each, and sat out on the deck. The cat skulked off for a night of chasing chipmonks. The mosquitos buzzed about and the storm clouds gathered in the humid night air. Apart from the sounds of our voices and the cold bottles clinking, it was very, very quiet.

Thursday 24 July 2008

Letter From America

Coooee! Over here! It's almost 8pm on the east coast of America, which means it's almost 1am in England, which means I must go to bed immediately. The children went to sleep at 6pm, but will be wide awake and eating Cheerios by 3am - I guarantee.

It's wet and humid today, and I'm in Big G's Dad's house. Grandad G lost the love of his life to illness 6 years ago, and he wears his grief like a pale grey cloak soaked in the tears of a longing, lonely soul. The ceiling fans purr, the dogs pad about and bark at cars and the clock on the fireplace ticks as it always has. Grandad G and I sat at the kitchen table of this classic New England home, ate omelette with salad, and talked the world right like old buddies do.

Our two English Roses are frothing with excitement at the thought of seeing their California Cousins who arrive on Saturday. 3 bright blond pre-schoolers, born 18 months apart and sunny as the place they live in.

It feels good to be here. I so need a holiday!

Friday 18 July 2008

Give That Boy a Guitar

My brother writes songs, and has very cleverly put some of them up on the worldwide interwebby net thing for people to listen to.

My favourite is 'A Girl Like You'. Have a listen. My brother sang it at his own yellow-flowered wedding in Sweden - land of herring, meatballs and ABBA. It was summer, we were near a lake surrounded by trees, and it didn't get dark all night. The meal was eaten with good cheer, the speeches were warm with love and the guests sang songs round the table, as is Swedish tradition.

Later the lights dimmed and glasses were refreshed, the band picked up their instruments and my brother sang this song. When he got to the line "I thank you for believing and for being my wife" the band paused, all eyes fell on his beautiful new bride, and everyone cheered.


Thursday 17 July 2008

In Her Own Time

My daughter has mild cerebral palsy. It makes her a bit weak and stiff on her right side, but she's capable of most things. She has a little dyslexia but is brilliant at maths. She wears a splint but can run and dance. She does most things with her left arm but can bring in the weaker right one when she has to. My girl is funny, quirky and gorgeous.

I feel horrible that we've got behind on her physiotherapy since we moved - I'll blog more on that later (it might kick me into action). Knowing there are lots of people so much worse off than my daughter is one of the many things that make feel slightly uncomfortable blogging about this at all.

Last year I met a woman who had been the school helper for 2 children with cerebral palsy. From an early age to their teenage years she supported them through life's challenges. Her words of wisdom to me were:

"Take on every challenge head-on, and she will cope. Your daughter will learn how to do everything - she'll just do it a bit later than most other children, that's all".

So at age 8, she's still wearing arm bands but she'll swim eventually. She's still got the reading age of a 7 year-old but she'll catch up. She just has to work a bit harder, that's all. And today ... gasp, gulp, sniff ... today she rode a bike without stabilising wheels for the first time!!! She got on, fell off, got back on, asked Daddy for a push, went a few feet, fell off, got back on, and so it went on and on. Her steely determination paid off, and at the last count she'd circled the garden 14 times without falling off.

I'm so proud I could melt.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Saturday Night's Alright

Rioja (eagerly): "Honey I'm Home!"

Woman: "What are you doing here? I wasn't going to drink tonight"

Rioja: "Ah, but you know you want to"

Woman: "I'm thinking about it"

Rioja (beguilingly): "Just one glass won't hurt"

Woman: "But I'm on my own, it's a bad idea"

Rioja: "I'll keep you company, help you relax"

Woman: "But then you'll put me in a bad mood and give me a headache"

Rioja: "You'll be fine, and anyway it's sad not to drink on a Saturday night"

Woman: "But I'm happy and you'll spoil it for me"

Rioja (purring): "I'm gorgeous and you love me"

Woman: "I'm putting you in the cupboard so I can't see you"

Rioja (in a muffled voice): "But you can't resist me! Let me OUT!"

Woman: "Piss off"

Thursday 10 July 2008

Liar Liar, Pants On Fire

I love hearing what children have to say. Most of the time they're honest, quick and funny - their innocence wrapped around their little shoulders like a sweet-smelling garland.

Not so the girl next door, who is a total liar. She doesn't just slip in the odd forgiveable fib like most kids do; she pukes out one big fat fabrication after another, like turbo-charged projectile verbal vomit, reeking rot dripping in bile and not welcome in our house.

It's astonishing to hear her. She's nearly 10 and old enough to know better, but she's clearly got issues. She's nice in some ways, and usually she and my daughter get on brilliantly. But by golly she doesn't half talk some shite.

Here is a fresh selection dredged up from the vomitorium of stinking lies she's spewed out recently:

"My dad's car takes diesel and it costs £300 to fill it up"

"I looked in an encyclopedia to see what robbers eat, and it said horse meat"

"My mum lets me take my duvet to school so I can sleep in class if I want"

"I can have anything in the world I want, whatever it costs"

"I was the first baby ever to be born after 4 o'clock in the afternoon"

"I can't play with my toy push-chair because my cat jumped into it last night, did a poo in it, and then broke it"

"I was in the garden and put my hands out to see if it was raining, and a bird's egg fell right into my hands"

Surprisingly, the girl next door's nose is still quite small.

Monday 7 July 2008

Be Gone, Comfortable Cookies

"You Eat What You Are". I know, I know, but I just think that's a better expression than the usual, "You Are What You Eat". Everybody knows that if you cram cakes, fried egg sandwiches and chocolate down your throat all day long, you're going to get a bit chubby. News, what news? Saying "You Are What You Eat" is just a great steaming pile of patronising twaddle telling us what we already know.

Turn it around however, and you get something much more interesting. People cram cakes, fried egg sandwiches and chocolate down their throats all day long for a reason. They need something ... no, not nutrition ... comfort. Frustrated? Stuff ya face. Lonely? Stuff ya face. Hate your body? Stuff ya face.

Fat tastes gooood. Sugar tastes gooood. Slowly curling your tongue (tired from moaning) around vanilla ice cream oozing raspberry sauce feeeels gooood. Salty crisps distract you from the paperwork mountain. Brownies cushion the blow of a bitchy remark. A sneaky spoonful of chocolate spread from the jar is sweet mini revenge for the bitter tedium of grumpy kids kicking off at bedtime.

Forgive me for coming over all evangelical, but I'm trying to shed the extra pounds I don't need before my holiday, and it's taken me 6 months to get round to it. And for my beloved friends hooked on calorie comfort, I wish them the power to dig deep and find enough love for themselves to STOP!

Friday 4 July 2008


I had a good look at my hands today. They grew from a longing inside my father to tiny fists inside my mother, and came into this world with 10 soft nails the size of snow.

I must have discovered I had hands at around 3 months old. They fed me, got bigger, and I used them to steer my first bike. How amazing are hands - they've lifted and squeezed, caressed and scratched, grasped and wrestled, wrung and stroked, tweaked, pushed and pulled me through life. The hands that tap tap tap in front of me take the thoughts from my head onto your computer. Wow! They're a pink skin pillow to lean on while I read.

I've always liked my hands but my nails don't get enough love. The gold ring on the left has earnt a few scratches in the last 14 years, and I wear them like medals of honour.

I remember gently pulling up the skin on my Grandma's hands so that I could marvel at how it didn't go down again! Mine still goes down, but I've noticed a few brown age spots (I might insist they're freckles). I looked at a palm-reading website but quickly left - these hands do enough without telling me the future.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Yeah Yeah Yeah (Yawn)

I love early July for the Wimbledon on the telly. I drift in and out, checking on the score, and as a fair-weather sports fan I only sit and watch properly when it's a really big or exciting match. When Boris Becker appeared today to commentate, I took the opportunity to educate and inspire my daughter by telling her about one of the greatest sporting legends of all time:

ME: "See him? He WON the WHOLE of Wimbledon when he was JUST 17!!"

GIRL: "He hasn't got any eyebrows"

ME: "Yes he has. But listen. He was only 17 - and he was a champion!!"

GIRL: "Why hasn't he got any eyebrows?"

ME: "He has, they're just very pale. It was amazing ... I was only 17 myself, and this guy ..."

GIRL: "Please can I have a biscuit?"

***** sigh ***** I really don't know why I bother.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Looking Forward to Chapter 10

Chapter 1
Summer 2006. Mr and Mrs live in the north of England where they don't belong, and decide to re-locate. But where to? The soul-searching begins.

Chapter 2
Mr applies for a job in the US and gets it. America it is then. It'll be fantastic, they dream, and tell their family and friends. The Big News spreads like lice in a playground.

Chapter 3
Mr packs up and moves to New York. Mrs can't go yet, "I'm not ready", she wails. She tries to move mountains alone, and gets scared at night.

Chapter 4
Mrs hates being asked "have you sold the house yet?" Mr loves his new job and commutes back and forth. The children are angry. Mrs is angry. He tries so hard but feels excluded - and he is.

Chapter 5
Summer 2007. Loose ends are tied up, Mrs is almost ready to go. But wait ... maybe America doesn't feel like 'home' after all? They re-visit London and light up like firecrackers. The seeds of doubt grow.

Chapter 6
A decision is made. They're Going Back South. Mrs and the kids call the removal men, pack up their lives and fall into the arms of their extended family. What a gift from heaven they turned out to be.

Chapter 7
New home, new job, new school, thin on friends. Too many changes for Mrs to handle. She gets excema and dizzy spells. The children are ghastly but who can blame them.

Chapter 8
Mr and Mrs know they're better together. The children are settled and happy again. There's more talking, respect, caring. Petty arguments disappear like lost baggage.

Chapter 9
Summer 2008. Mr works really hard to get a good job back in the UK - and gets the best one imaginable. Respect and appreciation are thrown all about the place. The future suddenly seems a dozen shades brighter .....

Triple Delight

And the wonderful Daryl E gave me this one! So before this flurry of award giving makes me giddy I'd better get down to posting something ...