Day 171

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Nick off cycling, so my turn on morning duty.

Sometimes, working in the health service, I have envied the automatic extra credibility extended to those with a clinical background, and wondered why I never even considered studying medicine. Then something happens which reminds me that I am probably the most squeamish person ever to walk the corridors of a hospital and it becomes all too clear. Shortly after Nick had left this morning, I noticed that Jack had somehow lost most of the skin off the last joint of his index finger and it was pretty much raw flesh and looking very nasty indeed. Suppressing the urge to faint and / or vomit, I spent most of the morning trying to persuade Jack to let me bathe and dress it, but no go. By the time Nick got home around 1:30, I was feeling a bit desperate. Nick couldn’t persuade him either, but he did manage to get him to have a bath which, by default, washed the finger a bit. Jack still wouldn’t allow us to put a plaster on so, as soon as poor Nick had had a bit of a ‘lick and a promise’ and changed out of his cycling clothes, he and Jack set off for the nearest minor injuries unit (we had tried our GP after hours service, but they ‘don’t do dressings, love’). They waited for hours and arrived home in the early evening with Jack’s finger plastered and some antibiotics. At which point we embarked on the challenge of trying to get Jack to take the bloody antibiotics…

Day 170

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Katie didn’t feel up to going to Stagecoach, so a cruisy Saturday morning with only Dash’s guitar lesson to get to. After guitar, I was about to take Dash for his customary jam-sandwich-with-the-crusts-cut-off lunch at the Age Exchange, when I noticed that it was actually SUNNY! I persuaded Dash to forgo lunch and we headed home at speed to take the Christmas photo while the light lasted. Everyone pitched in and very soon the tripod was set up and everyone was washed and brushed and dressed in their new Christmas jumpers. We left Sherlock’s jumper until last, on the grounds that he might be a bit resistant to the idea, but in fact he seemed very pleased to finally be treated the same as the other children. He watched them all getting into their jumpers and clearly felt it completely natural that he should have one too. He then hopped up on the seat, placed one paw affectionately on Katie’s leg and posed beautifully for the duration of the shoot!


Day 169

Level 2 Chi Kung.

A quiet day at home with Katie off school. Got the boys off to school, then set Katie up, well rugged up, with plenty of craft materials and the computer to watch and, amazingly, she let me sleep for an hour and a half. I was almost thwarted by the builders, who arrived unexpectedly to remove the boxing from the concrete slab and collect all their gear. They padded in and out, making the gate squeak and graunch in a most annoying manner – totally unnecessarily because Tudor had taken Sherlock again. I finally couldn’t stand it any more and went downstairs to tell them that the dog was away and they could just leave the gate open, but of course I got one of the ones who doesn’t speak much English. Luckily they left soon after that and, finally, I got my long-awaited nap. Felt so much better afterwards.

In the afternoon I cuddled up on the sofa with Katie and watched Katie Morag – a lovely little show about a wee girl growing up on the fictional Scottish Isle of Struay – on iPlayer. I am now keen to find a recipe for ‘porridges’ (note the s) which seem to be some kind of sweet sticky cookie. Can’t seem to find one on google but maybe Phyll Buchanan can help me?

Day 168

Level 2 Chi Kung.

A productive day. Tudor dropped Sherlock back first thing in the morning as he had a meeting in town, but said he would be happy to collect him again in the afternoon. I was relieved to hear that Sherlock had behaved well and slept through the night. I didn’t like to ask outright whether he had chewed up any socks! I commented to Katie that I suspected that Tudor and his wife had let Sherlock sleep in their bedroom (which he doesn’t get to do at home) and she said they probably let him sleep in the bed!

When Sherlock and I got back from dropping Katie, I decided that I should find downstairs things to do in order to keep Sherlock company during his captivity, and the new freezer had reached temperature, so I started transferring stuff from the ancient chest freezer in the garage and then clearing out various bits. I was delighted to find an ice cream container of Nigella’s Beef in Belgian Beer so I got it out to thaw for dinner. I also found some roast capsicums and tomatoes, and some slices of dense dark pumpernickel-style bread, so I had the veges on the toasted bread for lunch. I got the chest freezer a bit more organised but was thwarted when it got to the point where I simply couldn’t get the lid open – the warm air that had got in had obviously cooled and sucked the lid down tight! What it really needs is to be turned off and completely cleaned out but for that I think we need to first eat our way through some of the supplies until what is left can mostly be accommodated in the inside freezer, with the rest in a chilli bin for a couple of hours. I also need to buy some more of the stacking bins I got to organise it – I bought them on a whim and only bought two because I wasn’t sure about dimensions but I think we need at least another two. Otherwise the chest freezer is just one big space.

After that I noticed that the builders had left the hose all covered in cement – which seems to screw the fittings if not cleaned. So I spent half an hour cleaning that off, while making a mental note to leave an old hose out for them next time. Still more time to keep Sherlock company so I vacuumed the fluff out of the innards of the tumble dryer and the crumbs out of the hard to reach part behind the oven door.

We were just about out of fruit, so I shut Sherlock in the house and did a quick shop. About mid-afternoon, I started to feel really dreadful: overwhelming nausea and headache and a general feeling of hardly being able to put one foot in front of the other. I was relieved when Tudor came to collect Sherlock before Dash and I had to leave to get Katie from film club as at least that meant that we could just walk quietly, without the added complication of an excited pooch pulling us along. I had to drag myself out to get Katie and resolved to ask Nick to take her to trampoline instead of me. I was wondering if the veges and bread from the freezer had perhaps been a bit dodgy, however we hadn’t been home long when Katie complained of nausea and then rushed to the downstairs loo to throw up, so it looks like we both have the same thing and my lunch wasn’t to blame.

I started feeling a bit better around 6 pm so I made a pound of butter up into shortbread. It turned out really well so I made sure I got some packed away in the freezer before the vultures could demolish it all. I was careful to do this while Katie was occupied elsewhere. Last year she ran into the kitchen when I was carefully packing shortbread into a pretty tin as a Christmas gift for my nephew, and went pop, pop, pop with her grubby little fingers, snapping a dozen pieces and prompting a stream of most un-Christmassy invective from her mother. Some visitors who had ‘popped in’ for half an hour and stayed for three hours, and who had announced their departure some 90 minutes earlier but were, in fact, still in the entrance hall, very slowly gathering up their possessions and getting their coats on (I had said my farewells and excused myself, explaining that I needed to get on with Christmas preparations), were rather shocked to see me chasing Katie through the house, flailing wildly at her bottom with the damp tea towel which happened to be to hand!

Day 167

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Having dug out yesterday, the builders returned today to lay the damp-proof membrane and mix and pour the concrete. Having builders around makes me very pleased I bought a percolator a couple of months ago as it makes a large volume of coffee at once and is much easier than waiting for the espresso machine to make 6 big mugs. Sherlock was in his element when they arrived – happy to have his ‘playmates’ back – but about 1030 they rang the doorbelland asked if I could keep him inside for the next couple of days to keep him away from the wet concrete. I called him and a very wet and muddy dog shot up the garden and proceeded to cover me and the kitchen floor with muddy, cementy footprints. At first he was happy enough to be inside with mummy, but when he realised that he couldn’t actually get out he was clearly a bit upset about it. Wondering how we were going to get through two days and nights I hit on the idea of calling Tudor, the man who contacted us through BorrowMyDoggy and borrows Sherlock for walks etc. As soon as he heard our predicament he agreed to collect Sherlock after lunch and keep him overnight. I packed up some food, the lead and Sherlock’s blanket and Sherlock went happily off with his friend.

I felt sorry for the builders working in light but fairly relentless rain and kept them supplied with coffee. No chance of a nap as I was waiting for the delivery of the new freezer. It was meant to arrive between 7 am and 2 pm but didn’t finally arrive until 2:45 and, as I have to leave to collect Katie at 3 pm …

When we got home, I realised that the slightly over-ripe bananas had reached critical mass, so I made banana bread. Luckily I made two loaves, as the first was 2/3 gone within minutes of Nick and Katie arriving home from swimming!

Day 166

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Really determined to have a nap today, so, as soon as I got home from dropping Katie, I fed the dog, heated a wheatsack, piled an extra quilt on the bed, disconnected the landline and climbed under the duvet. I had been asleep for all of 15 minutes when my mobile rang. I groggily answered, intending to put whoever it was off as quickly as possible and go back to sleep, but it turned out to be Guy, the landscaper who had said yesterday that he would get around to laying the concrete slab in the back garden ‘some time in the next two weeks’. Another job must have fallen through, because he had phoned to ask if he could come around within the hour to discuss the job, with a view to having the guys start digging out this afternoon. I didn’t want to put him off as I had been a bit worried about the two week timescale, as the concrete will take ages to harden off in this damp weather and I didn’t want to end up missing our chance to have the build done for free. No point going back to sleep then!

Sherlock was very excited by the arrival of the builders and ran round and round the back garden in high velocity circles, leaping up on them and me, frequently and with some force. They insisted that they didn’t mind, but I expect the next quote I get is likely to include an additional allowance for putting up with the dog!

Katie has become very focused on finding me a new vocation so that I don’t have to go back to PHE or ‘that boring old office’ as she calls it. Regular readers will recall that she was trying to persuade me to become a childminder, like Clara’s mummy, until she came home from a play-date at Clara’s declaring ‘there are too many babies in that house’. Then she thought we could write children’s books together until she found writing the first page of Jill and the Giant Sandcastle rather harder work than she was expecting. On the way home from school today, she revealed her latest plan: I should be a baker and work in a bakery/cafe. I should take my lunchtime at 3 pm so that I can pick her up from school and take her back to the bakery where she can sit at a table and do her homework and eat cake. On days when she doesn’t have any homework, she can just eat cakes. And nobody will have to pay for the cakes she eats, because her mummy will have made them! When I sounded dubious about this plan, she suggested that the right time to implement it would be at the end of my career break, when I had been back at my old job for a couple of weeks – at which point I should be highly motivated towards the bakery option!

So, in CV terms – a strategic thinker with a clear focus on long term goals!

Day 165

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Knackered. I made a rather newby error last night – it must have been close to 10pm when I finally got the Christmas cake in the oven, and since Edmond’s no 2 cake takes 4.5 hours… There was a point – when the butter and sugar were creamed, the fruit was prepped and steeped in brandy, and the flour was sifted – when I looked at the time and realised that continuing would mean a very late night, but I decided to plough on. I took this decision partly on the basis that, provided all the children went to school, I would be able to have a nap at some point today. Unfortunately I was forgetting that the new cleaner would be here from 10 am to 2:30 pm, thereby effectively wiping out any napping opportunities. No sooner had I farewelled the cleaner, than I got a call from Katie’s school. They are obviously aware of how anxious-making calls from the school are for parents, because they always start the conversation with ‘Nothing’s wrong. Your daughter is fine.’, then, presumably when they hear you breathe, they continue with the purpose of the call. Today it was to ask if I could possibly pick up Agnes, a little autistic girl in Katie’s year, as her family had called to say that they had had a medical emergency and ask if the school could keep Agnes for a couple of hours. The staff, who haven’t a clue how to handle Agnes, were disinclined to do this and asked James, Agnes’ father, if there was any parent he would trust to take Agnes home. I was happy to help out – Agnes is a lovely wee girl and Katie is fond of her – but I could have wished it wasn’t on a day when I was running on less than four hours sleep!

Day 164

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Stir-up Sunday and I woke with Christmas cake very much on my mind. I took Katie to the Christmas Fair in the village, which was great fun and much better organised than last year – though sadly the mulled wine had run out by the time we got there! When we got home, Katie, who must have heard me mention it to Nick, eagerly demanded to know when we were going to start making the Christmas cake. My heart sank. For me, recreational baking with the kids is a very different headspace to cooking for the purpose of getting something cooked, while at the same time tidying the kitchen, and attacking the laundry mountain! Fortunately, when I explained this to her, she seemed to understand immediately and modified her ambitions to having a stir of the cake. My wee girl is growing up. I assured her that, in fact, everyone in the family would have a stir of the cake for luck. She immediately asked if that included Sherlock but I’m afraid I drew the line!

In the end, the multi-tasking had a good impact on the cake making. Usually I am too impatient to wait for my creamed butter and sugar to get really fluffy, but tonight it was so damn fluffy I could have called it mock cream and spread it on a sponge (if I didn’t loathe mock cream that is). Then I really did bring the 10 eggs to room temperature and add them one at a time, with a spoonful of flour and a good beat in between.

With Sherlock fresh from the groomers yesterday, my other ambition for the weekend was to get the Christmas photograph taken. Unfortunately the light was flat and grey and miserable all weekend. What’s the bet we’ll get lovely autumn light tomorrow when the kids are at school? I had my heart set on an outdoor shot, but I may have to give in and rig up some lighting to do it indoors.

Day 163

Level 2 Chi Kung.

For some weeks now, Katie has been seeming reluctant to go to Stagecoach, while at the same time insisting that she wanted to continue. Finally today she confessed that she was continuing because she thinks it costs a lot of money to stop. I am guessing that she heard some of the other mummies grousing about having to give, or pay, half a terms’ notice and misunderstood it as some kind of fine. Of course even if there was an actual fine I wouldn‘t want her to continue if she isn’t enjoying it! Originally I was happy for her to go to Stagecoach because a) she loved it and b) it seemed to be really helping her confidence. Then, hearing Katie talk about how great it was, Clara and Arina talked their mummies into letting them go. And sadly, thinking back, the arrival of her school friends seemed to mark the end of it being a positive experience for Katie. This is sad – Clara and Arina only stayed a couple of terms but it seems to have been long enough to stop it being a safe place for Katie – and it means that, if Katie takes on something new, I may have to restrain my natural urge to share and keep it quiet from the other mummies.

Day 162

Level 2 Chi Kung.

One of those rare occasions when we use a car – one hired for the morning from the car club we belong to – reminds me how good it is not to own one the rest of the time! Driving is by far the most efficient way to get to Jack’s school, but now that I am hardly ever in cars, the motion sickness is pretty bad in heavy traffic. A good meeting with the new deputy head, to plan for a smooth transition to a new school when Jack turns 16 next year. By the end of the meeting – which took over two hours – I was starving, and suggested to Nick that we have lunch on the way home. I then enquired innocently as to whether we might be in the right part of town for Odette’s. Nick was initially dubious: Odette’s tends to be rather spendy in the evening – but I pointed out that they do a very reasonable set menu at lunch time, plus with Monique in Thailand we haven’t been out for ages. He was (as usual) not hard to persuade! Fabulous mushroom soup (oh, what a symphony of subtle flavours), poached salmon with lightly curried mussels (surprisingly yummy) and then chocolate mousse for Nick and caerphilly with bara brith and quince cheese for me. Hit traffic on the way home and were very slightly late for Dashi’s bus (yikes!). Did some admin then headed out to collect Katie from after school club. Afterwards Katie and I headed straight to a restaurant for our monthly meal out together (that Katie instigated in November). We are on a quest for penne as good as Carluccios and are working our way around the Italian restaurants in the village. This time we tried Bianco 43. Katie pronounced the penne acceptable but my bruschetta was dreadful. Hey ho, the search continues.