Day 202

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Katie was determined, in spite of the freezing weather, to have a picnic on the heath. We all walked up towards Greenwich Park with Sherlock, then I took Sherlock home while Nick carried on with the children to picnic and then visit the observatory.

Nick moved the chest of drawers and I took the opportunity to tidy and re-organise Katie and Jack’s drawers and wardrobes, sorting out all the clothes that no longer fit anyone. Unfortunately, on the last day of the year, we are still very much in the ‘darkness before the dawn’ phase. That, together with the cleaner not showing up, means that we are approaching the New Year with a rather messy house.

In the evening we all watched the DVD of Prince Caspian (one of Katie’s Christmas presents), then walked to a vantage point of the heath to watch the fireworks.

Day 201

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Some more progress on the great room reorganisation. The next hurdle was to move Katie’s wardrobe to her new room. We decided that, although it would be a close run thing, we should be able to move it from one room to another without dismantling it. Many hours later, after manoeuvring the heavy wardrobe into the hall and discovering that we were 5 mm short of space to get it past the radiator, and lifting the bloody thing onto the arms of a wheeled office chair, and easing it past the radiator… only to find that, try as we might, we didn’t have quite enough space to get it through the door of Katie’s new room… we finally gave up and took the damn thing apart.

Day 200

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Waiting around for an hour this morning but the cleaner didn’t show up and, when I tracked down her mobile number, didn’t respond to texts. Hey ho.

For some time we have been thinking about moving Katie into her own room and having Jack and Dash share, not to separate the genders particularly, but because Kate is such a night owl, she keeps poor Dash awake long after they are put to bed. We began the process today.

In the evening, I had a ticket to an ‘opera gala’ at the Barbican. Not my usual thing – a performance of the well-known bits from a bunch of different operas – and, when it was so damn cold, I was heartily regretting buying the ticket. In the end it was ok – a bit like eating trifle for breakfast – which I also did today!

Day 199

Level 2 Chi Kung.

The first app Dash installed on his new phone is one which allows you to film your family and then use special effects to give them superpowers. He appeared at my bedroom door this morning wanting to film me teleporting or shooting laser beams out of my eyes. I told him I didn’t want to be filmed while I was still in my robe (you never know what might find it’s way onto YouTube). He appeared again just as I was getting out of the shower and tried again. I guess technically I wasn’t in my robe any more…

The Christmas cake I have been diligently feeding with brandy since stir-up Sunday was nevertheless disappointingly dry. Not to worry though, as it can be reborn into a more delicious existence as several batches of Nigella’s Christmas pudding truffles. Yum.

As well as being press-ganged into starring in multiple superhero films, my other must-do today was to get stir-crazy Sherlock out for a walk. Not as much fun since he broke his lead when we were out walking on Christmas morning. We haven’t been able to fix it and the spare lead (short and not extendable) is a very poor substitute. We managed a walk to the dog park in Manor House Gardens, where I was very relieved to let the maniac off the lead to run with a couple of other dogs for half an hour. He is much calmer this evening, though still up to his sock-stealing mischief.

It’s not even 10:30 pm yet but I might have to hit the hay. I was making another trifle this evening (Nick suggested that, since the trifle I made for Christmas day was close to perfect, needing only a slightly heavier hand with the alcohol, I might as well make another and see if I could get it even better!) when I noticed a recipe on the bottle of lychee liqueur for a lychee champagne cocktail. I only had one, honest, but I feel half lit.

Day 198

Level 2 Chi Kung – back on track 🙂

One of my Christmas presents this year was a new iPhone. Nick has been suggesting for several years now that I upgrade from my now ancient (in mobile phone terms) iPhone 3GS but I a) don’t believe in getting rid of anything that still does the job and b) didn’t like the look of the iPhone 4 or 5. The iPhone 6 however, was a horse of a different colour – not only was it beauteous to behold but it’s arrival coincided with my faithful 3GS refusing to take photos on the grounds that it was groaning under the weight of a full load of books, audiobooks and (mostly) music. And at the same time, my lovely Dashi was desperate for the family trickle-down economics to trickle in his direction so that he could have my old phone…

When we passed Nick’s old 3GS on to Katie, it had been sitting around unused for months and we had plenty of time to tidy it up (and put it in a pink case studded with sequins!) before handing it over on her birthday. This time we were attempting to do the transfer much more quickly as both phones were Christmas presents. As a result, much time has been spent over the last few days trying to get the new phone set up and the old phone ready for Dashi. All of which was complicated by the fact that I had never quite got around to getting my old phone to sync with the new iMac I got back in March, because every time I tried to connect the phone to the computer I got a message asking if I was sure I wanted to completely wipe Jessamine’s iPhone. I finally worked out how to authorise the new computer and then went through the tedious process of setting up the old computer, doing a sync and back up (just in case) and then authorising and syncing the old phone with the new computer. At which point I discovered that it had somehow lost over 700 tracks! After hours of pfaffing around, we got it to the point where only 42 tracks were missing, at which point we decided near enough was good enough, and I was able to put the old phone in it’s new (lion-patterned!) case, and hand it over to a grateful Dashi.

Day 197

Boxing Day. No Chi Kung 🙁

Lovely visit from my nephew and his wife and their little boy Tiger. Tiger was initially a bit frightened of the dog and correspondingly reluctant to leave his mum’s side. Apparently he picked up a fear of dogs, along with a tendency to say words like ‘butter’ and ‘water’ without sounding the ‘t’s, from his south London babysitter. This (both the fear of dogs and the estuary accent) has horrified Tiger’s South African-born Mum even more than his NZ-born Dad. Tiger thawed eventually though, and by the end of the visit he was on the (rather damp) trampoline and playing in the playhouse and on the swing seat with Katie. It was lovely to see the wee cousins bonding, and Katie was over the moon at having a wee one to mother. I think it is one of the things she misses most from Montessori.

Day 196

Level 2 Chi Kung. Christmas Day!

Unfortunately it was 1:30 before all three excited children were sufficiently sound asleep for us to fill the stockings, eat the mince pies, drink the madeira and disarrange the reindeer’s carrots (bite marks etc). So we were still pretty sleepy when Katie came bashing on the door just after 7 this morning…

The good news is that the missing present has turned up. The bad news is that Santa has left Katie a lovely expensive man’s wallet in soft grey leather. No doubt I will eventually find a small, square (wallet-shaped!) package of glow-in-the-dark modelling clay addressed to Nick! Oh the perils of wrapping gifts when half asleep.

As soon as I had admired the children’s Santa presents, I realised that I could no longer stand the state of the dog (smelly) and decided that he needed a Christmas morning bath. This may sound like cruel and unusual punishment (from the dog’s POV if not from mine) except that Sherlock enjoys baths – which makes it easier for both of us

Once Sherlock was bathed and everyone was dressed, we lead the children out into the back garden for the big reveal: that the log cabin we have been referring to as ‘Daddy’s new shed’ since it was erected last Friday is, in fact, a playhouse for the children.

After presents, Katie and I took Sherlock up to the heath for a walk, then home to a lovely Christmas lunch. Very relaxing for me as, for the first time in our 27 years together, Nick did the cooking. And, best of all, by my reckoning it is going to be another 26 years before it is my turn again!

Day 195

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Nick is almost always the last to bed and hence is the one to settle Sherlock down for the night. But last night I stayed up putting the finishing touches on the ginger crunch and doing other bits and pieces. When I was about to go upstairs, I gave Sherlock a cuddle, urged him onto his mat, and turned the lights off. Before I had even reached the stairs, Sherlock was whining piteously and body-slamming the kitchen door. I went back in, cuddled him again, made sure he had his chewy stick and left again. Whining and door thumping followed me up the stairs. Nick was sound asleep but, as the racket from downstairs continued, I felt I had no choice but to wake him and get him to go down and do whatever he does that keeps Sherlock happy. He’s not an easy man to rouse but, eventually, the noise from downstairs got too much for even Nick to ignore and he staggered downstairs to the dog. He gave him a quick cuddle and said goodnight and was back within two minutes. Not a peep out of Sherlock the rest of the night. Obviously just missing Daddy!

Nick did the second coat on the log cabin floor, then we dressed everyone warmly and set off on our customary Christmas Eve trip to the zoo. A real treat this year as we got to see the baby gorilla born two weeks ago. The mother was cradling the baby in her arms and stroking his head. You can say what you like about zoos – and I was very dubious before I had children and somehow found myself a regular zoo visitor – but you can’t doubt that the people at ZSL believe in what they are doing and genuinely care for the animals. Katie really enjoyed stroking the African pygmy goats. They were very cute – especially the friendly one that tried to eat my carrier bag. I asked a keeper about their unusual (very rounded!) shape and he said that they are simply fat and also full of wind – he says he sometimes feels like he should just give them a firm squeeze…

We had booked for Katie and Dash to visit Santa’s Grotto and it really was the best Santa I’ve seen. Beautiful costume, snowy beard etc, cut glass accent with just a hint of brogue, everything said in verse (including answers to the children’s fairly random questions). A photo was taken of the children with Santa, then Santa urged me to join in the next photo (I was reluctant). As we left, we were skilfully herded to the photo counter, and given a choice between the photo of just the children, and the one with me and the children. I was about to say ‘just the kids’ when Dash piped up and said he definitely wanted the one with me in it. The shop assistant expressed surprise, saying that kids mostly wanted the photo without a parent in it. I said, ‘I guess my kids like me’ and she said, wonderingly, ‘Yes, it’s so sweet.’ I still would have preferred the version without me in it but I thought, under the circumstances, it would be churlish to insist.

Beautiful sunset and a really bright, sharp sickle moon on the way home.

Home and an hour of frantic activity before the arrival of our lovely Madalina who stayed for the evening and was to have had dinner but ended up having to make do with cake, on account of having unexpectedly turned vegetarian! Lovely Skype with Aunt Betsy.

Day 194

Level 2 Chi Kung.

While Nick, having sealed the underside of the cabin floorboards yesterday, laid the floor and applied the first coat of seal. Kate and Dash both helped level the floorboards into place. I took Katie with me to Borough Market and then to Elliotts Row to check that the repairs to the leaking shower were ok before paying the plumber’s invoice. A bit worried about the state of the place. After the last tenants, who stayed for 10 years and always kept the place clean and tidy, these lads are a bit of a shock to the system.

The market was full of stalls selling wonderful-smelling food but all the good stalls had queues out along the street and, with Katie being a bit particular, I would probably have had to queue twice. In the end we ducked into the market branch of Fish! and had a rather expensive lunch, which nevertheless made us both feel slightly queasy.

After Elliotts Row we made our way to the South Bank to meet Nick and Dash. Katie had a great time while we waited for the boys: scampering about on the climbing frames, looking around the Christmas market, eating candy floss. When the boys arrived, we took the children to dinner at Giraffe (dreadful but the kids like it) then went to see Timber! A family of lugubrious Quebecois lumberjacks whose act is based around feats of log-balancing, wood-chucking, and axe-juggling. Very clever and quietly funny – and definitely eye-candy for those who like the beardy, muscly type.

Got home and made the icing for the ginger crunch, then foolishly stayed up until nearly 3 am doing bits and pieces.

Day 193

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Second coat on the log cabin (not such hard work as the first coat yesterday) but complicated by the presence of an agency cleaner. I don’t like to use agencies, because you pay top whack and the cleaner only gets minimum wage, but they target people advertising for cleaners and can be very persistent. These guys spotted that i checked out their website and kept emailing me progressively more attractive deals. When they got to £20 off a 4.5 hour clean I thought I might as well give them a shot for one of the weeks that Glacier-girl was going to be back in Hungary. It wasn’t a success – she arrived half an hour late, I couldn’t understand her accent and she couldn’t understand mine. She then packed up and announced she was leaving after three hours. I pointed out that I had booked 4.5 hours but she said that they were telling her to get to her next job. I said fine, not to worry, Merry Christmas and that I would sort it out with the office. But she rang the doorbell again ten minutes later and said that they had told her to stay. She stayed another half hour or so, (so still well short of the 4.5 hours booked) then left without mentioning that she had broken the crisper drawer on the fridge. Hey ho.

Made the base for a triple mixture of ginger crunch so that there will be enough to fill a tin for my nephew and his wife.