Monday, 31 December 2007


And I suppose now we all have to make resolutions. Tsk. The excitement never stops. Always something going on. Then here's three.

1. Stop eating while walking about the house. If I see the children doing this I tell them off. And if I see Dig walking into the front room holding a cheese sandwich I tell him off too. But if I wander about clutching a few bits of cereal in my hand for breakfast I say I am too busy so I am allowed. People are beginning to notice and I have even heard talk of double standards.

2. Stop cleaning the shower while standing in it. This is a ridiculous idea and I wish I would stop it. For a start I get the cleaning cloth and face flannel mixed up because both look like grey bits of old towel. And by the bye I would quite like to imagine myself as that woman off the Badebas soap foam advert when in the shower, and not Hilda Ogden.

3. Stop living in chaos. Oh dear. Aunty Dee's Christmas presents are still waiting to be picked up at the paint-your-own ceramic studio, while Aunty Dee has been and gone. How was I to know the stupid shop would be closed between Christmas and New Year (apart from look at the information on the door in big red letters headed 'We are closed between December 24 and January 3')?

But I realise that New Year is not just about stop this and stop that. So here are three Must Try Harders. Now I've written that it looks like a rude instruction. Normally I'd edit it, but I'll leave it today because in the spirit of wild New Year's Eve abandon I have had a Martini.

1. Be a better vegan. I am a crap vegan because people are always cooking cakes and biscuits and puddings with eggs and cream in them. The fat and milk substitutes are easy at the expense of a rainforest or two to supply the soya and palm oil, but I must plan to have egg substitute and then convince everyone to try it. (I could be a better vegetarian too when Dig starts waving salmon about. I need to remember fish are our friends and not dinner.)

2. Perform a random act of kindness once a week. I will try to do this and in the proper thing of it too, and not just grab hold of some suspicious old lady who doesn't want help crossing the road but is an easy target to blog about.

3. I promise, I really do promise, to be a better correspondent and communicator to the lovely people I am so proud to know like Zia and Luna and Oo and Isbel and Brid and Big Kate and Fran and everyone that I think about often and see rarely. I promise, I really do. And that's a resolution.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Reflection and prediction

As if being stuck at home eating the wallpaper isn't bad enough, here are ten things I have to live with in the final days of 2007:

1. The neighbours have stopped inflating the reindeer, as recorded in this blog on Thursday 6th December. Below is a picture of it as evidence. It shows just the sort of thing that drove me to Cheshire in the first place.

2. Tiger screaming. She has been doing this a lot today. This is, I suspect, because Aunty Dee is driving back to Morpeth and therefore represents the removal of a significant adult. I have hidden the knitting needles just in case things get worse.

3. The new window cleaner we acquired two weeks ago and who did not appear for his first appointment appears at the front door today with his leg in plaster. Apparently he spent Christmas Eve in A&E having fallen off his ladder. Bodes well doesn't it?

4. The back door into the yard has fallen off its hinges completely. I cannot prop it back in the hole. I have wedged the fallen off door against the hole with a school table I bought at the tip two years ago which had the words 'Jessica Curtis is a slag' scratched on it in biro. Although the door and table combination is a solution of sorts, they do not conceal the contents of our back yard. Although the contents are mostly discarded bottles of paint and children's garden furniture, I am sure Burglar Bill is eyeing us up, so I have found the telephone number of the local police station in preparation.

5. Dig is flying to India in a few days time and is complaining about it. For now, Grit and the junior Grits are not going anywhere, except the front room, where we get a fine view of the privet. We might go somewhere later, but I am not counting my chickens in case foxes attend the counting ceremony.

6. The data disk is still broken. We have tried to be optimistic about this and think constructively of other uses for it, like door prop or garlic crusher. But in reality, no matter which way we look at a broken data disk, it is a disaster.

7. I cannot get to the sales no matter how hard I try. I am quickly descending into one of those life-is-pointless depressive periods and hope to buy my way out of it with a pair of earrings. Of course this attempt, even if I were successfully able to go to John Lewis, is doomed to failure. Would you put a silk hat on an old sow?

8. Someone has numbered the bananas. I look in the fruit bowl and there, carefully written on all the peels are the numbers 1 to 10. I suspect this is Squirrel, who is growing keen on inventory systems. She might be showing early promise as a librarian. It has had the desired effect, because I dare not eat one of the bananas in case I find that I have eaten the one not allocated to me and therefore cause a family argument.

9. I am working, intermittently, at typesetting a book. The editor, SS, is a git, and will find an error. Perhaps I'll have missed an italic setting on a word in Chapter 3. SS won't email back a list of corrections such as follows:

'Chapter 3 page 33, line 14 word 'speech' to be in italics.'

Oh no. SS will email back:

'Once again I have to check the work. This lack of professional care suggests appalling low standards and total disrespect for an author's work. I think it is time to review this situation.'

Just like before.

10. The end of one year and the beginning of the new is, I suppose, a time for reflection and prediction. Here's mine. The above in sum probably means the early days of 2008 will start much in the way that 2007 finished.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Dinner plans

Whose great idea is this? Dig says it's mine, but I say Grit might have had a bang on the head so it must be Dig's.

This is the idea. For the three days that Aunty Dee is here, Dig's handed over cooking to Tiger, Squirrel and Shark. They're each to take a day, and the challenge is to choose a three-course dinner menu, and cook it. For this they must shop if necessary, prepare food that is delightful in appearance, appetising, nutritious, vegetarian, fits within the organisation and routines of the kitchen, is environmentally friendly and would, of course, win junior Masterchef, if only we had the application forms.

Yesterday Tiger set the pace. Five hours in the kitchen produced a menu that would give Gordon Ramsay pause for thought and in a competition with Nigella Lawson would mean that Team Tiger would WIN and mummy Grit would get to tie Nigella Lawson's thumbs together behind her back with her apron ties and push her smug face into a bucket of cold dough.

Where was I? Oh yes, Tiger chose cream of onion soup and herb croutons to start, then individual macaroni cheese pies for main course. Along with those came courgette salad and potatoes dressed three ways (mayonnaise, vinaigrette, sweet and spicy). For pudding was compote of pears and vanilla with mascarpone and ginger. Mummy Grit helped with timetabling, clearing up, and in-and-out the oven work while Tiger did all chopping, stirring, working at the hob, composing, presenting and serving. Daddy Dig thought it was so good he went about choosing wines and calculating the cost.

And today it's Squirrel's turn. Here's her menu proposal. Fairy muffins followed by butterfly cakes, mini meringues, pretty fairy fudge, marzipan toadstools, peppermint creams, chocolate truffles, and blancmange. At this point, mummy Grit confiscates the Fairy Cooking book and tells Squirrel that her dining partners want some decent nosh when they've had a hard day loafing about on the sofa and staring at computers, so we'll make it a tomato and mozzarella salad, rustic Italian-inspired broth and oh alright then, because now there's tears, we'll make a concession about the chocolate blancmange so long as mummy Grit doesn't have to eat it.

Well now we've done the Squirrel screaming and mummy Grit slamming about the kitchen threatening to cook the ruddy book for dinner instead of cake, cake and more cake, tomorrow we can look forward to Shark's turn. And she's already decided. Shark is using Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes, and has chosen to prepare witch's green soup, mud burgers and edible wallpaper.

At this point Dig reminds me that if it wasn't for this stupid idea, which must of course be his, then we two adults could behave like proper grown ups who could have left Aunty Dee babysitting tonight and snook off for a decent dinner down at the Drummer's. Tomorrow we could all have enjoyed a buffet curry at the local balti house and Dig could have got his chops round a chicken jalfrezi.

Well as it is, Grit gets to spend three days in the kitchen supervising small people and making edible wallpaper. There. Ridiculous idea Dig. I wish you'd think these things through.

And to keep up on the new year resolution, even though it is not yet new year, here's a blurred and strangely elongated picture of Squirrel chopping a parsnip.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Target practice

First time out the house for nearly a week and what do I do? Fill a plastic jug with cold water and throw it at the neighbour's cat stuck up a tree.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Cleaning up for Aunty Dee

All day I spend tidying the house so that Aunty Dee can stay over at the Pile for three nights without thinking she might be living in the town dump.

This is not my Aunty, by the way, this is the children's aunty. She is Dig's sister and Grit's sister in law. Just to clear up any confusion there.

Aunty Dee is also the twin sister of Evangelical Vee, with whom she has just spent Christmas, probably being in a clean and Godly environment which is not covered in broken Playmobil and mould. In fact Evangelical Vee didn't get her name for nothing. She is very Godly and sells harps in Wales. No, seriously. I'm not making that up. We don't see Evangelical Vee much. When we do, I don't say much, mostly on account of the evangelism. This can make it very difficult to have any conversation without God interrupting, reminding everyone how much good he does everywhere, and where he can be found, should I care to look. Under the bookcase or behind the chest of drawers, I expect, along with the Lego.

Anyway, painfully aware that Aunty Dee, whom I treasure very much, will come straight to us from a clean and Godly environment, I turn my attention to the cellar bedroom.

First I clear up all the farm animals, railway track, Playmobil people and aeroplanes from the cellar bedroom floor so that it does not look like Satan's nursery. Sadly, I note that one Playmobil person is positioned standing upright, laughing maniacally, holding a shovel. The other sad little Playmobil person, lying at his feet, has no head. Beside them both is a pile of Playmobil horse poo. I'm not saying it was deliberate, but there seems to be a lot of Playmobil people lined up on the railway track, too.

Once I've cleared away these scenes of torture, I make a wardrobe happen. The wardrobe is one of those wooden plank and linen cloth arrangements that Oo has contributed to our eclectic range of household furniture. Oo's wardrobe involves tripping over it, trying to balance bits of it on my head, inserting twenty screws and swearing a great deal. In fact there is so much swearing I didn't realise I knew so many naughty words and could cohere them so quickly together. Obviously, I try not to swear with God in it at all, just in case Evangelical Vee turns out to be right and I am condemned to live all eternity up Satan's bottom.

Next, it's clean up time for the leaky cellar bathroom which has resulted in mould and fallen-off tiles. If cleanliness is next to Godliness, there is no way he's coming in here. I attack the limescale on the wash basin taps with a screwdriver and stab the plughole with a pair of tweezers. I'm aiming to get out the hairy stuff that always goes down the plughole even though no one ever washes hair here.

Pushing after the tweezers a twisted up coathanger, a selection of household cutlery and three screwdrivers starts to look like deliberate bathroom sabotage and a determination that God's not going to find his way up the plughole, so I try not to do it more than is necessary.

And so, by the afternoon, with a newly put-up wardrobe, a cleaned-up floor and a sink with a screwdriver stuck in it, I am well on the way to accommodating guests. Just the bedding to go.

Now I don't know what it's like in your house, but bedding is a nightmare here. The covers never match the duvets. The pillowcases never match the covers. The duvets never fit the beds. To disguise the entire mess I might throw over a length of fluffy fabric in the hope that it suggests sensuous exotica. In reality it looks like a dog's bed. Then I wonder if exotica and animals might not be a Godly visual message to send out and hide the fluffy cover, just in case.

Although I did not find God behind the towel rail, I'm counting my hours of labour today as a cleaning success. From chaos to order. From dirt to not-quite-as-much dirt. From black mould to, well, black mould. And although I cannot supply God, with newly cleaned and restored surroundings, I hope that the transition for Aunty Dee is not too uncomfortable.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

What shall we do today?

According to BBC Radio 4 news it is Boxing Day. Oh no! I should be in a shopping frenzy somewhere on a UK high street!

Clearly, I am not. And I realise with pain and regret that my true place was there, united with the people of this nation, focusing together our contribution to the great commercial enterprise of our society, supporting the oppressed of the UK retail sector, and somehow, through that endeavour, grabbing hold of those bargains before anybody else while simultaneously showing off from the heights of a moral high ground with a range of home-made shopping bags.

I am sad. I have missed out on a great event of British cultural significance.

So here's a picture of a balloon modeller and a balloon modeller's output.

(The balloon modeller is wearing an Egyptian hat. Obviously.)

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

When do the arguments start?

Today has not been unsatisfactory. Here's why.

1. Thanks to Our Supreme Leader, Hobbycraft, the little junior Grits have been quite well catered for and busy all day long, making candles, pictures with acrylic and chalk, balloon modelled owls, bead necklaces, embroidery samplers, and a statue of a dolphin.

2. Dig says the average family argument starts at 10.30 am. Surprisingly, there have been few arguments here today. At 2pm Squirrel had a big to-do over whose make-your-own candle set it was, and no, Tiger couldn't have a go. This was excellent news for Grit who now has a perfect excuse to get Tiger to Hobbycraft as soon as possible during the sale and use the purchase of another make-your-own candle set as an excuse to worship in the aisles where there are those cute little red glass love hearts on wire stems.

3. Although Grit has lost the presents she bought at the charity shop because she stowed them away in a cupboard somewhere and now cannot remember where, she consoles herself with the thought that they will turn up in time for a birthday.

4. Sarah's vegan Christmas pud turned out very well. We use this every year and it is excellent.

5. Dig has been quite nice and not at all complaining about airports / visas / crashed computer disks / Christmas presents costing too much at Hobbycraft / the fact that there are baked potatoes for the main course at lunch today because Grit is anti-Christmas dinner and wants to play with the bead set instead.

6. I manage to watch Coronation Street on TV. This is possibly the first time this year. That John's a bit unlikely, isn't he?

7. Tomorrow Tiger, Shark and Squirrel are opening more presents and perusing all cards and good wishes from friends and family near and far. And I promise to thank all these folk most warmly and personally but thank them here, now, as well. Because I don't think we deserve your thoughts, generosity and kindness, but am jolly appreciative of them.

8. Grit has a bottle of Laphroaig. And it's looking at her this very moment.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Is it Christmas Eve?

A party! A party! Grit and Dig and all the junior Grits have been invited to a party! Quite frankly, this is amazing. We never get invited anywhere and, if we are, Tiger is sick down the back of someone's leg so we never get invited again.

But this party is The Hat's hosting, and she's more sanguine than most about sick stains. She's also kind hearted, laid back, and forgiving: qualities which are essential when dealing socially with la famille Grit and Dig on a night out.

The first thing la famille Grit and Dig need forgiving for is arriving over an hour late thanks to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger refusing to be peeled off the sofa during Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The second thing we need forgiving for is the cat. Sorry about the cat. I apologise for this wherever we go. Dogs too. It's just a mass hysteria thing. Please forgive us. Just get rid of the cat on the stairs licking its bum. Get rid of it now or we're going to scream and stampede. Yes. Right now. Or else.

The third thing we need forgiving for is the rag tag of presents we come equipped with. For example, Shark offers home-made soap put in a box formerly used for office equipment. The box bears the bar code and label which reads OfficeConnect Power Adapter (UK). This temporarily confuses The Hat who might think we have brought her some form of office electronics. The stink which arises from the box when she opens it tells her otherwise. 'That's Shark's' I say by way of explanation. 'And that's the result of our chemistry lessons this term' I add. And not exactly with pride. Fruit-flavoured rose-scented purple soap with gravel in it. Can't think why it's not been marketed professionally.

Then we need forgiving because we are there, actually at the party in someone else's house. Squirrel, Shark and Tiger are suddenly very shy. Squirrel, Shark and Tiger do their hiding behind each other routine. This takes place in a small front room with a lot of people looking on in bemusement. Today the hiding routine takes the form of Squirrel, Shark and Tiger going round and round in a tight little circle paying special interest in the carpet and pretending not to hear anyone say hello or how are you.

Then of course we need forgiving for mummy Grit's awkward attempt at overcoming this slightly difficult social situation by ushering Squirrel, Shark and Tiger straight into the kitchen where there are grapes. After five minutes we have polished off the grapes and need forgiving about that. Then we start on the bread. And the cheese-topped potato. And the crisps, fruit salad, and lemon tart. Sorry about that everyone. Please forgive us.

Then when the food's cleared, we need to forgive mummy Grit for saying 'Not bloody likely' when the musical instruments come round. Apparently the front room is now full of musicians who are going to play a spot of live music so it's time to join in. This is typical of The Hat. Just when you thought you'd sussed it, out comes the Vietnamese frog and the triangle and, by the way, you're dancing. Do forgive me for clinging to the wall like that.

Finally, I apologise to Moss, who is The Hat's husband and who now lives in Oxford and Kuwait instead of Oxford and Iraq. If you're wondering where your 2003 Chateau Laroque Grand Cru Saint Emillion went that you hid behind the fridge, apologies. It was me.

You see, it's that time of year. Forgiveness is all.

Sunday, 23 December 2007


Dig says this is a day of achievement. So here it is.

Big Bro, a bloke called Stew and an Alsatian called Fangs arrive. Big Bro and Stew pick up the Clio. Big Bro changes the ignition coil first, which takes all of five minutes, so Ya Boo Sucks to Pissed off receptionist at Clio garage. I told you so.

Big Bro and a bloke called Stew also load onto a pick-up truck the little red two-seater Suzuki Cappuccino suitable for a non-child owning couple. This darling of a motor has sat at the bottom of the garden rotting for nigh on seven years. Two years ago it failed an MOT and hasn't moved since. Car maintenance is not something we're strong on in this house, so Stew's dad Mick is going to take a look at it. He's a welder and should know a thing or two.

Fangs did not take any part in the car proceedings, probably preferring to sleep off last night's Winalot in the back of a pick-up truck. This is just as well, because if Shark, Squirrel or Tiger had clapped eyes on Fangs we would have had to call an ambulance for the resuscitation expertise.

Squirrel cajoles Shark into doing what she calls 'princess make-up'. Princess make-up involves drawing a love heart on one cheek, adding a pair of curly eyebrows, two pink cheeks and some strawberry lip gloss. Shark obliges and off they disappear into the back bedroom. After ten minutes Shark is slamming about the office and would be swearing like a trooper if she knew how. When I see Squirrel, I understand. I say never mind, eyebrows are difficult. And I could get used to the two slugs strapped to her forehead.

The Grit and Dig family go to the theatre for some light Christmas entertainment. Oh how jolly this one is. Woman has overdue baby and goes to witch for help. Witch says she will help on condition that child is given to witch. Woman says no. Witch puts curse on child. Child is born anyway. Child is awkward little sod. Child is rebellious. Child is teenager, hangs around in gangs, fights, sniffs glue. Child burns down house. Grit walks out. Grit sits in car reading Lonely Planet guide to Britain, planning escape route to Portsmouth.

Dig solves dropped-off waste toilet pipe by banging the pipe back on with a hammer and propping it up with a CD case. Unusually far-sighted for Dig, he removes the CD first.

There. This is probably about as much achievement as a woman can take.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

How to catch up on the blog

Squirrel's alarm bursts into an EEE! EEE! EEE! EEE! at 6.30 am.

Grit is fast asleep in a dream wrestling a walrus off the shelf in Tesco, unaided by Dig, who of course has a glass of white wine in his hand, and is standing next to the toilet rolls, complaining. Grit has to drop the walrus and wake up pretty sharpish because Tesco is on fire and there's the fire bell so vacate the store.

As I crash to the floor, Dig murmers helpfully, 'it's the alarm'. I pick myself up, blind and naked and veer past the door into the princess room, where Squirrel and Shark are fast asleep in their bunks. The bit of the brain that is still asleep transfers me from Tesco to the naked division of the SAS. I reach out, grab Squirrel's alarm and stumble out the room with an unexploded bomb, disconnect it in the semi darkness of the bathroom by ripping out its battery, then I stagger back to bed and fall over and go back to sleep.

Only I can't. After five minutes my eyelids pop up like they're on just-released elastic bands. No matter how hard I try, I can't roll them back down. So I stare into the grey outlines of the room.

Oh dear. Grit is now awake. Grit's foot hurts. One armpit itches. I need a wee. And I'm starting to think about more than walruses and fire alarms.

Now why did Squirrel's alarm go off at 6.30? Aha. I remember. At 10 o'clock last night, a striding-about Dig with raised forefinger in full lecture mode is telling everyone they get out of bed too late, and the solution to this problem is to set the alarms at 8 o'clock. But Dig is too short-sighted to have actually supervised the alarm-clock setting.

Now Grit is cross. Grit cannot go back to sleep. Grit will never go to sleep again with Dig waking her up with Squirrel's stupid alarm clock. Grit needs a wee and Grit is furious.

Grit leaps up out of bed, shouting 'And next time you have a f****** stupid idea about the f****** alarm clocks will you f****** well supervise it!'

And then Grit gets dressed in a huff forgetting about her knickers and with her trousers on inside out and comes down and sits in front of the blog, and catches up.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Looking for a festive spirit

Even with a plastic tree and two sets of fairy lights, one set being in a tangled heap at the top of the stairs, I am having difficulty getting into the festive spirit here at the Pile. I wonder if this has anything to do with the following?

Dig, just back from Bahrain, is worried about how he is going to get to India for the 2nd of January. Apparently, visa offices close down over Christmas and New Year. Can you imagine that? Inconsiderate sods.

I ring up a car shop to get the Renault Clio ignition coil sorted. Don't tell me you forgot we have a broken-down car sitting outside the house which is somehow my responsibility to mend? This is the car that Big Bro lent to me after I smashed up the Berlingo. Anyway, I ring up and ask how much it is to fit a new ignition coil. I get a pissed off receptionist who informs me that it might not be the ignition coil. I tell her it is. I say I trust my brother's diagnosis; my brother who offered me a broken down car with three dodgy tyres. Pissed off receptionist says it's none of my business doing a diagnostic test. If I want a diagnosis I'll bloody well pay a garage mechanic £44 for the privilege, so there. I tell her to shove it. After I put the phone down, of course. It puts me in a bad mood all day long.

Dig's data disk breaks down. It breaks down big time. It won't even flash, or wink. We may have lost two years work. Don't ask, 'Did you take a back-up?'

Big Bro now says he will come round to fetch the Clio. The Clio was going fine until it started flashing an engine sign at me on the A5. Any car that flashes any type of engine light at me may as well put out a big notice saying STOP! STOP NOW OR YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. Strangely, recalling a car accident and the insurance paperwork for it that is still sitting on top of the non-working radio in the kitchen makes me feel depressed.

While I'm heading down that tunnel of misery, I'll pass the hall mirror to stare at my reflection and consider that my age is now possibly 67 thanks to the grey hair. I conclude I am past everything.

At 9.40pm this evening the toilet waste pipe falls off in my hands. This is the toilet waste pipe installed in the new bathroom less than two months ago at a cost of 5K. You're wondering why I was holding the toilet waste pipe in the first place, aren't you? Wonder on. It's the sort of thing I just have to do.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Visit Oo

I visit Oo. She is going off to live in the Middle east where the climate is better and the money is higher. Of course Hubby and Son are going too, so all the Oo family will be missing from my life in the UK, which makes me very sad indeed and very happy for them all at the same time.

I tell Oo to blog. Her life is lived in a different sphere from mine, and reading about it would be both illuminating and incomprehensible. I cannot imagine how circumstances here at the Pile might arise that led me to visit A&E at 3 o'clock in the morning with a broken nose; or how I might conduct a battle with a council over a lamp-post; or how I could spend several days and several hundred pounds trying to get a cat in a box, but these things happen in Oo's life, usually on a daily basis.

And for that at least I'm going to miss Oo and family. And say a big thank you for your generosity, wit and grand sparkle. And put us on the visit list for 2008.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

I forgot about the gardener

It's 9 o'clock in the morning and the buzzer rings.
'Hello?' I say through the house intercom.
'Hello' comes a voice from the lobby.
'Can I help you?'
'I've come to do your garden.'
'Oh. We don't need that, thanks. Er, we've got someone coming tomorrow.'
'Have you?'
'Yes, we've got a gardener thanks.'
'I think it's me. It's Glastonbury here.'
'Oh! It's you! You're the gardener!'
'Yes. I've come to do the garden.'
'Oh! Are you not coming tomorrow?'
'It's not tomorrow then?'
'No. It's today.'

By midday Glastonbury has gone strangely quiet.
I ask Shark and Tiger to creep into the garden room and peer out the window to see if Glastonbury is actually in the garden or whether he has had enough and sloped off down the King's Arms for a pint.

'He's still there' announces Shark.
'What is he doing?' I ask.
'Waving his bottom in the air' answers Shark.

So there you have it. Today we pay the gardener to surprise us all.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Really shopping

Whoop-de-doo! After discovering that our nearest Hobbycraft is not in Glasgow but is ten minutes down the road I have gone to those glorious aisles and been transformed. It has been an extra satisfying experience because I have spent a great deal of Dig's money on oodles and oodles of lovely sparkly crafty items that Grit, sorry, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger will adore come the 25th.

Indeed, Hobbycraft is so wonderful I have dropped the Jehovah's Witness idea and converted to Hobbycraftism. Hobbycraft is my leader. I will follow Hobbycraft anywhere. Hobbycraft is fab. Hobbycraft is wonderful. Hobbycraft, lead me out of winter darkness.

In fact Hobbycraft can use this endorsement in any promotional literature. And all I would ask in exchange is a 10% discount on my next shopping bill, which may possibly be as soon as next week. How reasonable is that?

Monday, 17 December 2007

Now for the Christmas shopping

Dig has returned home. At 10.30 this morning. By 10.45, with a babysitter in place, or at least Dig slumped in front of a non-working computer, I shout that I am off to do some Christmas shopping at the charity shops. Departing, I say I have to check the charity shops every day now because I am very poor after being forced to book a cottage in Cheshire due to his continued absence in Yemen.

Half an hour after I am gone, Mr Pod, the neighbour who lives on the middle storey of our three storey house, knocks at the door to complain about the noise the children are making above him. Apparently, while Dig has nodded off downstairs suffering from jet lag, the children are jumping onto the floor upstairs, which is his ceiling, while shouting 'Fly unicorn fly!' at the tops of their voices. He grumbles that his picture has fallen off the wall and his ceiling light is swaying. And, of course, they have woken him up because he works shifts, so today is his night.

At lunch time I wake Dig up again and instruct him to give everyone a cheese sandwich with pickle. Dig cannot find the block of cheddar bought yesterday, instead locating the rancid bit of Wensleydale at the back of the fridge bought last month. And he can only find the chilli pickle. When I return two hours later, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger leap at the offer of some scrambled egg, even though everyone hates it. I can deduce from this, and the discarded chunk of green Wensleydale in the middle of the table, that Dig's lunchtime efforts have not been appreciated.

When I do get back I have a big loud lament. I report to Dig my total failure. I have a toy seahorse for Shark and a jigsaw of a ballerina for Squirrel. Everything is on ebay I cry. I am broke I blub. I will have to go back tomorrow I say. Dig says he cannot take anymore, so he makes a speedy electronic payment of a satisfactory amount into my bank account and says on Tuesday get down the craft shop and do all the Christmas shopping in one go.

On consideration this is possibly an effective strategy to use again next year.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Putting up the Christmas tree

Now I've started with the Christmas preparation, I may as well complete it. Today, in anticipation of Dig returning for some Christmas cheer, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have been putting up the Christmas tree.

This involves the following.

First, great excitement. There is much squealing and running about making a noise. Mummy Grit shouts at the top of her voice 'Be Quiet! You will wake the neighbours!' No-one hears, apart from, possibly, the neighbours, because mummy Grit is back on her hands and knees in the eaves, rummaging about looking for the box containing the plastic tree that she got from Help the Aged for a fiver three years ago.

Four years ago mummy Grit declared that because we are posh we never have an artificial tree because they are so gutter. Then Shark, Squirrel and Tiger got at her posh tree with its fragrant little pine needles and decorated it with bits of string, sellotape, a few videos and the contents of the lego box. From that point there became Children's Tree and Mummy Tree. Children's Tree is plastic and goes in the children's room. Here it is decorated by them with shuttlecocks and bits of paper. Mummy Tree is real and goes in the front room and looks posh and sophisticated with gold baubles. If only I can be bothered.

When the Christmas tree from Help the Aged comes out the eaves I declare it is a project in team building. I say I wonder if everyone can help co-operate to put up the tree this year while I have a cup of coffee with rum in it to celebrate the start of Christmas season. Squirrel immediately legs it and pretends to be making a fairy out of odd socks.

Five minutes later I pack the tree back in its box because Tiger has got a branch of it and is chasing a screaming Shark around the room threatening to wallop her across the head. Getting cross and shouty and wrestling the Christmas branch from a screaming Tiger seems to have destroyed the Christmas atmosphere so I cook pasta for lunch and lead a discussion on team building for strategies in putting up Christmas trees.

Shark and Tiger decide that taking turns to stick in three branches each is a good idea, and this is what they do. When the tree is finally up, Squirrel abandons the sock fairy to join Shark and Tiger. Then everyone has a fight about territory before they start to play birds in nests. This means choosing one branch each to decorate and weighing it down with eggs, which are baubles, while leaving the rest of the tree blank, which are the borderlands in the event of further territorial dispute.

Mummy Grit then comes along and says how lovely it all is and how she'd like to add some fairy lights. In doing this she knocks off some of the baubles and stands on them by accident, causing much crying because she has killed the baby birds. Mummy Grit has a solution for this. She presents one chocolate biscuit each to Squirrel, Tiger and Shark to shut them up and in recognition of their great achievement. Of course there are three for the leader by virtue of being good enough to give the children a plastic Christmas tree all of their own to use as a team building exercise in the first place.

And so we end the day with one Christmas tree, two fights and three chocolate biscuits. I am declaring today an achievement.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Happy Birthday Blog!

HA HA! I've done it! A post every day! For 365 days! What a pointless exercise! What a complete waste of time!

But at least I can say YA BOO SUCKS.

Friday, 14 December 2007

How to put up fairy lights

  1. Wander round the house for two hours and say 'Where are the fairy lights?' repeatedly. Reply 'No, not those. The other ones' every time Tiger, Squirrel and Shark point to the fairy lights in the kitchen which are still up from last year.
  2. Crawl about in the eaves for fifteen minutes with a torch. Bump head, several times. Shout to the fairy lights. Say things like 'Where the f*** are you. Come on out. I know you're in here somewhere you little b******s'.
  3. Find the fairy lights in a Tesco plastic bag. Take them out and leave them in a tangled heap at the foot of the stairs. Warn everyone not to trip over them.
  4. Trip over them. Three times.
  5. After fourth time, decide something must be done with the fairy lights and consider hanging them around the front door.
  6. Get a wobbly step ladder. Balance on it, holding a hammer, two nails, and the fairy lights which are inexplicably tied round one ankle.
  7. Decide this is a stupid idea and get masking tape instead.
  8. Decide it is a stupid idea even with masking tape. Consider instead wrapping the fairy lights round the banister all the way along the stairs so that this looks really pretty.
  9. Spend 30 minutes thinking how to do this without causing a trip hazard because the socket is on one side of the hall and the banister on the other. Speculate about the inconvenience of calling an ambulance on Christmas day after tripping over the fairy light wire and falling downstairs. Mentally develop the scenario at A&E with an irritable nurse. Add a doctor, social worker and, possibly, magistrate.
  10. Decide against causing a trip hazard and wonder about putting the fairy lights through the letter box to drape them in the lobby where they can look even prettier.
  11. Open the door to view the flap on the letter box and put fingers in door hinge. Forget fingers are in door hinge and close door. Shout F*** F*** F*** and procure a bag of frozen peas for swollen finger.
  12. Shout at fairy lights and call them rude names. Open a bottle of beer. Decide to put the little b******* back in the eaves and not have any fairy lights at all.
  13. Listen to children hum. Decide being a kill-joy misery-guts without-fairy-lights is not what Christmas is supposed to be.
  14. Drink beer and consider options.
  15. Clear accumulated rubbish from the table on the landing which is next to a socket and wipe surface clean with a toy leopard. Make a big pile out of the fairy lights and say it is very chi-chi and not a pile of tangled wire.
  16. Put baubles amongst tangle of wire and say it looks even better.
  17. Lift up the pile of lights and baubles and put a big wooden bread board underneath so that it nearly does start to look like art.
  18. Guard. After one hour pick out toy leopard, plastic gorilla and one sock. All of these may go in there to nest and are not essential to finished ensemble.
Congratulate self on speed of fairy light putting-up, a record at only five hours and a half.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Ways to avoid the 25th

Oh dear. I can see December dates hurtling to the 25th. And I have a sneaky feeling that Shark, Tiger and Squirrel might have some sort of expectation here.

Well, Shark, Tiger and Squirrel, some truths. In the absence of cash, the remains of which I just blew on a desperate three nights in a field, there is no Christmas shopping. And in the absence of daddy Dig, who is enjoying himself now in Bahrain, there is no Christmas shopping. And in the absence of enthusiasm, because I am Grit, there is no Christmas shopping.

Therefore, I have made the following plans:
  1. Wrap up some coat hangers. There is a huge bundle of coat hangers behind the curtain in the lobby. No-one knows they are there. They would make excellent presents. I could tell everyone that they are not coat hangers but part of a three-dimensional puzzle. In fact you could spend the whole day linking them all up. Now Shark, Tiger and Squirrel, off to your rooms with your new present and don't come out until I've gone to bed.
  2. Become a Jehovah's Witness. I could do this on the 24th and then convert back to Awkward Git Grit on the 26th.
  3. Lock myself in the cellar, by accident, like Sasha. Put a bucket in there and a box of chocolates first. Hide the ladder.
  4. Run away. Live in the car for 24 hours. Return home on the 26th and say I have lost my memory. This worked for Ann and John, so it should work for me.
  5. Lie. Pretend to Shark, Tiger and Squirrel that this year the government has said we will move straight from the 24th to the 26th and if anyone says it is the 25th then the police will come round and prosecute. This is dreadful, isn't it, but you wouldn't want your poor mother to go to prison, so better not fight this one.
  6. Say it is all daddy's responsibility and he is not here so what can you expect.
  7. Say that on the 25th it is traditional for mummies to lie down on the sofa and read a book about the Wars of the Roses which they have been trying to do for three months and it is traditional to put children outside and lock the doors. Don't you remember this from last year? Of course you do. Now wrap up warm and out you go to play.
  8. Make the best of a bad job, cook baked potatoes for lunch, have an argument over who saw a robin first, run out of beer, go to the Co-op which is shut, complain about the neighbour's cat, tell Shark, Tiger and Squirrel to get on Education City because I am not paying for a website subscription again which no-one uses and, finally, lock myself in my bedroom to sulk for fifteen minutes in a wallowing hollow of self-pity and misery with a bar of Divine dark chocolate for company. There. Sounds perfect.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Independence day

Up and about early today. Because today we're going back to Tudor times to learn about Christmas celebrations. This means Shark, Squirrel and Tiger get to wear their Kentwell Hall costumes again in public, an event which they have been looking forward to for weeks; and mummy Grit gets to heave a big sigh of relief because the kids get transported off in a workshop to be someone else's responsibility for a whole two hours.

And today I am going to be mean. I am responding to the way Shark, Squirrel and Tiger sometimes hide behind each other in awkward social situations until Shark gets pushed forward because she's 1 millimetre taller and born first, pipping Squirrel by a minute, which makes her the biggest and oldest and therefore bravest. Watching this display of shy triplets who probably think no-one's noticed them when, in fact, the gaze of the entire room has been turned to this three-headed struggle and whispers of 'You do it', has made me think that perhaps sometimes I am sheltering these children too much. Perhaps I am leaping ahead of them instead of hiding behind them.

Well, now is the time. It is nothing to do with the fact that after three days of intense discussion on the Romans, field drainage, dinosaurs, chickens, and Abraham Darby, I'm up for a bit of time off. No. I want the children to be more independent. And today I am determined to make a stand. No more will I hover about them, anxiously ready to leap in and help with some embarrassment. No longer will I stay to watch proceedings and fuss about who's doing this or that. No way will I be wittering about which group Shark might be in. And on no account will I help pass resources quietly under the table before the tears pop out.

No. No. No, I tell Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. Today you must be independent. You are aged seven. That's old enough to be able to deal with some things on your own account and not always rely on me fussing or Shark doing the asking because she's the only one bold enough to step forward for something really embarrassing like a crayon or a bit of paper. You need to be brave today, I say, as everyone is leaping into their costumes and fiddling with hair and sleeves and pearl necklaces.

When we arrive, just on time, with Shark, Squirrel and Tiger all dressed up, we are plunged into a huge and excited crowd of kids in costume, anticipating two hours of Tudor dancing, mumming, and other celebratory traditions.

In the midst of this I whisper 'Do you want me to come with you?' Shark turns round, rolls her eyes and pokes me in the chest with a reproving finger. 'Mummy!' she whispers in admonishment. She gets hold of Squirrel's hand. I can see Tiger and Squirrel aren't even paying attention to my anxious fussing. They're eyeing up the lords and ladies table, sussing out which seats will be theirs if they join hands, build a three-person barricade, block off the competition, stick out remaining elbows, and run fast enough.


Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Homeward bound

Going home today. This is made easier by the fact that I have got Finn to come round at ten in the morning to get us out. I have told him to glower, especially at Shark, and to cross his arms and tap his foot. This should do the trick. I have warned that if he does not come round to shoo us out, then we may stay, possibly forever, since it is much easier to live in a cottage with no belongings than a house full of treasures as diverse as six broken computers and a life-size wombat with suspiciously believable fur.

And, I promised on the other side of the cottage door yesterday, we can visit Wroxeter on the way home. This will be fun. This will be brilliant. Wroxeter, I tell Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, is a big city abandoned by the Romans and not lived in since, so there is bound to be Roman treasure about and, who knows, it could be us that finds it.

A cross-looking foot-tapping man and the promise of illegal digging of some gravel in a field is a combination that is clearly too good to resist. Tiger, Shark and Squirrel pack up their belongings without resistance or argument and are sitting in the car ready to go by 10.17.

This is an excellent start, and I congratulate everyone before setting off. And when we get to Wroxeter I give myself a big kick in the shin because in winter Wroxeter is shut on Tuesdays.

So off we go to Ironbridge again with our newly acquired family pass to have an argument round the back of Abraham Darby's furnace and to drag our feet in the museum about the History of Iron. For added convenience the science exploration bit is shut until 2008.

And after that, there's nowhere to go on a freezing cold shut Tuesday but home. Where I discover I've left the heating on for the last three days. So at least it's nice and warm even though I've single-handedly managed to trash the environment in my absence.

A so-so day, I'd say.

Monday, 10 December 2007

English Heritage says...

Beeston Castle is very pretty. English Heritage says there are incredible views over eight counties.

I'm sure the other tourists exploring Beeston Castle today would like to concentrate on those incredible views. Especially the gentleman with the video recorder capturing the panoramic views. Unfortunately, Shark had a sneezing fit, so the following exchange will now be heard forever:

Shark! Stop sneezing!
I can't! (sneeze)
Have you got a tissue?
(sneeze) No!
Oh Bugger. I've got this bit of toilet paper, use that.
(sneeze sneeze)
Oh no! Look at all the snot! There's miles of it! Hanging out like string! Oh (expletive removed) it's soaked the toilet paper!
(sneeze sneeze sneeze)

English Heritage also says there are acres of unspoilt woodland trails to explore. Now I apologise to everyone going up to Beeston Castle in the next few years because I deposited two sheets of toilet paper covered in Shark snot in the undergrowth on the way down. I tried to do this discreetly, obviously, since litter louting doesn't come easily. But be kind in your judgement. Would you put two pieces of toilet paper soaked in the hanging variety of Shark snot into your coat pocket?

English Heritage also says there's plenty of wild life to see. That'll be Tiger, then, in the car park, throwing a fit because Squirrel saw the gate first.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Contrast and compare

Dig texts me. He says he is in Yemen and it is beautiful. I say we have been on the A5115 and it is so-so.

Then he says that the flight into Yemen was lovely too. You get to go through the mountains at high altitude and see all the gorges. I say that is nothing. We have been on the Chester Park and Ride and you get to see the home improvement shop just off the ring road.

Dig is clearly impressed. He is trying a bit of oneupmanship on me now. He says the buildings in the old city of San'a' are magical. I snort. I tell Dig that we are actually, right this moment, standing in the Roman ampitheatre at Chester which has a footbridge built on it and a road going round the other bit. Beat that.

Dig is fuming. He says he has drunk ginger tea with Yemeni honey. I say we have some cheese sandwiches which have gone slightly stale.

I can see Dig is losing this. He says it has been sunny and warm and he has been in his shirtsleeves. Pah! I cry! That is nothing! The sky here is the colour of my dishcloth water and we have been freezing cold all day long!

And then, says Dig, I have given my lecture and everyone now thinks commas are important.

I can only swell with success. I tell him that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have been filmed in the high street by a BBC camera man with their fingers all over an ice sculpture until Squirrel stuck her fingers up her nose.

I win.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Late arrival

Tra la la! Off we go to Cheshire! Clever Grit has acquired an 8-disc story with a run time of 8 hours. This should guarantee a trip to Cheshire without screaming, fighting, kicking, or Tiger making threats to leave the car while travelling at 70 mph on the M54.

First stop, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. This is an educational trip after all. So we're going to stop here to learn about iron and iron-y things to do with coke and coal and things like that. As I know nothing about iron or iron-y things then this experience will be ideal family education.

In fact it is an ideal family experience, sadly without Dig who is up a mountain. We press all the buttons, spend hours hogging the interactive computer screens so that no-one else gets a go, no matter how long they stand behind us and tut, then we watch the video three times round, do all the rubbings and puzzles, and laboriously stand around questioning, arguing and debating every minor thing including why the signs are put this way and not that way and why Squirrel is allowed to watch the video again when Tiger is not. Three hours later I get fleeced for £2.25 in the gift shop for a glass dolphin, butterfly, and glow-in-the-dark frog.

When we've had a family learning experience and I have learned about coke but not why it is different from coal, and chanted Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution until I am told off by Shark, we all clamber back into the car and I realise I do not know where I am going. Because for possibly the first time since booking the cottage I actually read the printed details. It's basically called The Cottage and its address seems to be sadly lacking, bar the village name. And the village is somewhere in Cheshire.

Now I've overlooked this lack of address in the belief that we have a post code, and that'll do nicely for the lady Sat nav. But it won't, will it? Because some post codes simply get you to a bit of tarmac in the middle of nowhere, at which point lady Sat nav rather smugly repeats over and over again 'You have reached your destination' while Grit is parked on the verge sobbing with the map book open on her lap, traffic hurtling past in the dark and Tiger shouting 'Can't we get a move on?'

It is just as well that Grit has A level geography because she needs it now. We have driven around for a miserable hour trying to find any road that leads to a village which doesn't seem to exist on any local signs, so I try and work out where to site a village from first principles. I work out drainage, hillsides and farm access and decide it really must be down that little right turn that looks suspiciously so much like the entrance to a field.

Well just a bit longer and a bit more work and I find the little village that's got no sign and I find the house where Finn lives.

Finn is the gentleman I've spoken to on the phone, several times now, and he's hiring out The Cottage to us. Apparently The Cottage is round the back of his big house. There is Finn now, lying on the floor in the dining room while I'm standing at the big front door, banging on it. I can see him lying on the dining room floor, through the huge picture windows, and am thinking that I really hope Finn is not dead from a heart attack brought on by the emotional stress of dealing with that woman arriving, two hours after she said, with the screaming triplets who can't find her way out of his neighbour's field in the dark.

But no. After a few minutes Finn springs up, and after a few minutes more we're in The Cottage, with Tiger complaining that she doesn't like the tapestries and Squirrel saying she's not sleeping on that, and Shark asking is there pasta for dinner.

And I can at last open a bottle of beer in celebration of our safe arrival.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Drastic action

Right. That's it. I've been driven bonkers by the sight of the bicycling Santa and Dig texting me that Yemen is very nice at this time of year.

I've booked a cottage for three nights in Cheshire and we're driving up tomorrow. Off to pack. No. Off to remove the toothpaste from Squirrel before she packs it without the cap on. Then removing all unicorns from the luggage, laying down the law about wearing knickers in winter and remembering to print out the information about the cottage that's been booked from Saturday to Tuesday. Otherwise I won't know where I'm going.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Lights and appliances

And while I'm on the subject of lights and appliances I'm just going to pause to complain about the lit-up tat that appears up our street every time it's Christmas.

Well, Grit, stop there. Because it's not just Christmas is it? Oh no. The junior Grits have been staring at Santa on a bicycle the entire year thanks to the idle sods at number 22 who couldn't be bothered to unscrew him from the wall after last year. Can you imagine that? We go down to the newsagent's on a sweltering day in July and there's Santa! Riding on his bicycle!

Well this year they've added a Santa climbing up the wall. I suppose we'll have the pleasure of that every time we go to pay the newspaper bill. No wonder I leave it until it's over eighty quid.

If only it were Satan - now that was a mistype, but maybe I'll leave it - if only it were Santa on a bicycle, then maybe I could cope. But no. There's more. Here's my evening walk of misery to the Co-op.

First sighting, blow-up reindeer lolling over a wall. Accompanied by a blow-up Santa on a blow-up sledge. What possible excuse can there be to do this to the neighbourhood? It's clearly deflating. They must have to blow up the reindeer daily. It's already got a broken neck and it's only half-past six. And Santa looks like his head's caved in.

Second sighting, lines of blue fairy lights strung up around a pebbledash wall. Call the electricity board. Either a power line's down or we have strayed to the set for the Evil Dead.

Third, completely revolting mish-mash of cheap crap flung about a back garden. There is no possible starting point. It is one of those bizarre heaps of lights that in someone's head might have some shape but in reality looks like an exploding blancmange. Some bits of it are flashing for added effect.

If this isn't enough to force me to drive the seven-minute walk for my Co-op bottle of beer, then hey! We reach number 22, and the perennial bicycling Santa! With his new chum, Santa! Off up the wall! Well come June I am going to push cabbage leaves through the letter box and run off.

But wait. I haven't got to the Co-op yet. At number 28 is a plastic Santa carrying a sack. He's clinging onto a window ledge. Some of his foot is dropping off thanks to him being thirty years old. But some people don't give up, do they? 'Santa Stop Here' signs appear at numbers 34, 36 and 38, all of whom are clearly engaged in some sort of warfare because number 38 has added plastic candles and a lit-up snowman.

And this is just the beginning. The worst is yet to come. Well the Grit family isn't joining this neighbourhood trawl of bad taste, that's for sure.

But obviously I'm not a kill-joy. I'll put up some some cute little lights around the front door which clearly will be tasteful and not crap. And of course I'll leave the fairy lights in the garden that I put up in 2002 and never got round to taking down. Well, I say, in summer it looks like an outdoor restaurant in Indonesia, so it's cool.

You see? Not a bit of Christmas tat in Grit land.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Just in time, the electrician arrived

Dig is back from Scandinavia for 24 hours before pushing off to the Middle East. Just enough time to slump to his hands and knees on the kitchen floor and stick his head under the sink.

I'd like to boast this is an intriguing new sexual position we'd like to try out before reaching for the cocoa, slippers and mop for the dribble, but it isn't. It's because we have had a total electric ring main circuit failure. The boiler, plus all the appliances, have switched themselves off. Every time we go up the ladder to push the trip switch back to ON it won't go and stays firmly OFF.

Now it's been nearly 24 hours. I am frozen and my broad beans have defrosted. As has the filo pastry, emergency bread and fish fingers which I do not know why I bought because the children refuse to eat them. Actually, I do know why I brought them. They were reduced to 50p in the Co-op after their freezer broke down, so I thought that buying them was an act of charity to help the Co-op get back on its feet.

Getting back on one's feet is something that takes Dig quite a while. Because he discovers that under the sink there is a socket which doesn't do anything. Dig then finds it's full of water. Apparently, pouring water into it from the back of the sink doesn't do it any good at all. 'Why is it there?' I ask naively. 'Should something be plugged into it?' 'No' says Dig. 'And it's there because we couldn't find a junction box'.

Well now it's sorted. Just as well, because Dig's off tomorrow. And apart from a message of good timing, the moral here is that bodging something in haste will come back to haunt you, bringing you no heating and a defrosted bowl of spinach soup that didn't seem too appetising the first time round, and is certainly no better the second.

And after a day of electrical wiring, no more plug and socketry work, sadly, was done.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007


I see it's December. I'm sorry.
1. If you send me a Christmas card I will be grateful and feel guilty. But I'm sorry. There is no chance you will get one in return. This is not to say that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger won't go beserk with red glitter round the kitchen table, squash the appalling results inside a tiny envelope and write the wrong address on the back of the envelope in the handwriting of a seven-year old. The fact that you'll never receive this piece of art will also have nothing to do with the fact that there's no stamp on the front. There will be. Probably upside down.

The reason you will never get your card is that your card will not leave the house. After Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have done all of the above I will realise that Mr Mail is saying 'Well it's too late now. It won't get there before Christmas. Look, we told you the last posting date and what did you do? Scratch it on the chalkboard in the kitchen with that slate pencil you nicked from the museum and forget about it.' When I realise this horror, I will hide the envelopes behind the hall curtain and lie, and say I have posted all the lovely cards. But I will console myself with thinking that I can use the cards next year. Sadly, come next year I will remember that I have thrown out your Christmas card in August, after peeling the stamps off to use for ebay. Sorry about that.

2. If not the post, then the emails. If you send me greetings by email, then I may not reply until February. Sorry. The mail machine goes Pshwwrrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhh. I don't switch it on every day. And when I do, there's lots of people trying to extend my penis and telling me everything's sold out anyway. So now I switch it on less and less.
3. Big Kate, I am sorry I missed your birthday on December 1st. Happy Birthday.

4. While I'm about that, I'll apologise for everyone else's birthday I miss too. I think there must be lots of them. Sorry. And to Brid & Phil because I have lost the address so can't not send a Christmas card. And to Fran, for not being here whenever you pop round. Which gets me to the next sorry.

5. Because it's December we have a party for lots of people we don't see very often. Some people turn up every year and we are very, very grateful to you. We couldn't hold it last year because we weren't here. We can't hold it this year because Dig's not here. He'll be looking at commas in the Middle East. So I'm sorry. You can't come. Unless you visit independently. And please check beforehand. I'm sorry if we're out.
6. It's December and the children are expecting presents. This is a problem I share with many home educators. How do you shop for presents when these small people are with you all day long? So far I can use the toilet without the rest of the family hanging about. And I can slip to the Co-op and buy beer if I stick in a video, and no-one notices I'm gone. But unless Dig does some serious child distraction pretty soon, come the 25th, I'll be making one Very Big Sorry.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Day off

After all this work and sudden exhaustion, it's a day off for Grit, which means setting no targets and no achievements, thinking as little as possible, and having nothing to show for it.

So today I shove a DVD in the machine. It is Jurassic Park.

First job is to get it, because we don't have it. Tiger, Squirrel and Shark are busting themselves to see it, having seen a 20 second clip of it on Channel 4's 100 greatest family films last night. But when we get to Tesco's DVD department down the road, they don't have a cheap DVD of Jurassic Park for £3. Oh no. It's the box set with all films and forty special features, sixteen of them probably Steven Spielberg wearing a hat. And it's £15. But there's no backing out now.

Then I see it's rated PG.

Now here's a moral dilemma. The last time Shark, Squirrel and Tiger got a five minute glimpse of anything outside of a U rating it was at Christmas two years ago after mummy Grit had fallen asleep on the sofa and forgotten to guard the TV. I got woken up with shrieks of 'scary! scary!' going off around me like mortar bombs and Squirrel diving behind the sofa.

But now we're in the big league. If it was a U certificate I'd wander off and do the laundry. But with a PG rating I feel duty bound to stay while the dinos go beserk. And this is a real growing up moment. It's too much for Squirrel who puts a blanket on her head 30 seconds after I press play. Tiger winds the tie belt of her dress over her eyes so it looks like her head's bandaged. Only Shark sits joyously through the whole thing pointing at the screen in glee when the T. Rex comes on. I manage a bit of it but can't take the tension of the frilled lizard about to eat the baddy in the jeep, so run off to hide in the kitchen on the pretext of needing a cup of tea.

Now it's over I decide it is a great achievement, watching Jurassic Park. We even watch the extra film about how it was made and the robotic monsters and computer images and everything. Then by evening I've decided on our next goal. Film Studies. I'm off to print out 100 greatest family films and we'll start working our way through them. And what a project this could be! Shark could make her own underwater animation sequence with modelling clay; Tiger can animate her illustrated animals using her massive computer skills, and Squirrel can film a costumed drama complete with hats and fairy wings.

See what a day off can do.

Sunday, 2 December 2007


Today I am tidying up the house. I don't know why. Perhaps I have got hormones again. Perhaps it is wading knee-high through office paperwork, washing up, toys, old clothes, and bags of stuff from a cleared out car.

It must be serious. I have even started on the garden.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Is it Saturday?

We have a new car. It's standing outside now. It's very new and I dare not drive it in case someone turns right in front of me without indicating or, in fact, looking, to see if anyone's actually using the road they're crossing.

Well at least the timing is good, because Big Bro's car has of yesterday started flashing its engine light at me. When I speak to Big Bro about this he says that's always happening because it's a Clio so it's the ignition coil. Just get it into a garage and don't drive it because it burns the cat.

And now Dig says he's off to the airport today. Did you forget Scandinavia Grit? How was that? He'll be back soon before he pushes off to the Middle East and back in time for Christmas, so don't worry, just sort everything out, fill in the forms, do the Christmas shopping, don't use the oven and bring up the children in a stimulating and educationally rich environment.

What's the problem there then?

Friday, 30 November 2007

Busy Friday

Thursday didn't go too well then.

The police say it is no excuse, so bring the licence when you get it and no pleading. And cut out the grovelling.

Then I get to the crashed car centre at 3.30 and Bloke says, 'They took it Wednesday. It's in Hertford. Are you going that way?'

This morning then, I bundle Tiger in the back of Big Bro's car and drive to Hertford where I am escorted by another bloke to the back end of a field where I find the crumpled Berlingo minus its tax disc but with its treasures.

Tiger helps load up our bin bags with stones from Romney marsh, sticks from everywhere, crayons, broken audio tapes, a stuffed elephant, two unicorns, a bottle of Dettol, three French folders, four odd gloves, two pairs of knickers, a home-made butterfly net, five pairs of socks, one wellington boot, a picture of an albatross, factor 40 sunscreen, a 3-year old bottle of washing up liquid, the bungs from the blow-up airbed, coins from Latvia, books on assorted subjects from bird watching to fossils, umpteen brochures for tourist sites across the UK, a bag of orchard apples, two sheets of silver card...

After 30 minutes Bloke is staring at his watch and looking like his soul has left his body.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Busy Thursday

Big Bro has lent us a car. This is useful. Today's list:

1. Track down where the smashed car is now. Drive there, pick up the child seats and the treasures. Incidentally, when I telephone this morning to make an appointment for that, this is the exchange:

Grit: Hello, I'm trying to locate a smashed Citroen Berlingo that I think you might have.
Bloke: We got hundreds, love.
Grit: The assessor called me yesterday and told me it was with you. It's a red Berlingo -
Bloke: What's the reg?
Grit: (fumbling with papers) Um, I think it's got an E in it.
Bloke: Has it got anything else?
Grit: Well it's got three child seats in the rear.
Bloke: (pause) Oh. That one. Bring some bin bags.

2. Keep out of the way while Dig continues negotiating with the garage over another Berlingo which we can impose rules over, like 'No eating in the car'. That rule should last a good 30 seconds.

3. Go to the police station with documents.

4. Before that, apply online for new driving licence so I can plead that although strictly I am not presenting all the documents, I am intending to. Honestly.

5. Get Squirrel, Shark and Tiger to their gym and trampoline lessons. And back home again.

I think this might be a secret test by fate of my timetabling and organisational skills.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Pause for reflection

I have had enough of looking for the driving licence. Actually I have found one torn bit of it. So I will go sheepish to the cop shop on Thursday to present my documents following the car accident (which was most certainly not my fault even with the naughty tyres) and I will present:

one MOT test certificate (in tact)
one insurance certificate (in date)
one bit of driving licence (torn piece, size of right thumb).

When I go to prison at least I will have the fond memories of a super-doopah meal last night with the lovely Ellie and Mister W.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger were superbly behaved and never interrupted once, having been bribed with Beauty and the Beast on a video in their room and a bucket of fruit. The food was passable, considering the circumstances and the severe interruption to the menu planning to look for the driving licence.

It is all just as well, because now the oven has broken down.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Perhaps it's on the floor?

Bugger this. I'm off to cook dinner for Ellie and Mister W.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Nope. Not there.

Been round the office three times now.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Found it yet?

Not on my desk, either.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Looking for the driving licence

Nope. Not on the dining table.

Friday, 23 November 2007

It could have been worse

  • I could, for example, have had a tot of brandy in my morning coffee in preparation for another day surviving triplets in fight mode, domestic chaos, and the white cat who sits on the doorstep and shouts at passers-by in cat language. Of course Grit would never ever resort to brandy at 9am. Not a tot. That's for sure.
  • There might have been a full-blown triplet fight going in the rear. With scissors. Shark would be screaming, Squirrel would be thumping and kicking, and Tiger would have unstrapped herself, shouting 'Stop the car! I'm getting out!'
  • The car might have had no MOT. Thank goodness we remembered.
  • And all four tyres might have been bald.
  • We might have been travelling more than 28 mph. The consequences of that I hardly dare think of. Bo, who I once worked with, was travelling home when she crashed into a van. The shopping that was on the back seat disgorged and a pot of strawberry yogurt flew forward and splattered open on the windscreen. She thought it was her own blood and promptly passed out.
  • I could have been on the phone while simultaneously tuning the radio just at the moment of impact. To get out of that one I might have told the officer, 'well to get Radio 4 I did put the cheese sandwich down'.
  • The pet leopard might have been real.
There. It could have been much worse. I feel better now.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Oh dear

I'd like to post something very positive today about the lovely psychologist lady who said very nice things to Tiger and mummy Grit and was very reassuring and kind and let Tiger go on and on and on while mummy Grit tried to get a word in edgeways.

But I won't. Because it's already swept from my mind. Unfortunately, while driving away from the meeting with the psychologist, Grit had a road traffic accident, removed the front of the car, was interviewed under caution in a police riot van along with Tiger and her pet leopard, and then got breathalysed. Leaving just the court appearance, the search for all documentation and, of course, no car.

At least I can look at the bright side. The owner of the other car is probably in tears because her wrecked vehicle is hopefully on its way to the crusher after being seized by the police because she had no insurance.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Recipe plan no 3

Things are looking grim on the menu planning. This is today's.

Tinned peaches and old orchard apples with a crumble topping without much sugar and butter but with custard

This is easy to prepare. I wonder about serving it up properly, like at an emperor's banquet. It sounds much more interesting than, 'I'm a bit busy today what with the psychologist's appointment tomorrow'.

D: Is there a first course today?
Sq: Is there any food? (Said while contemplating an empty plate and being told, 'It's your first course. Eat up.')
Sh: Mummy?
T: UGH UGH UGH! (Mummy Grit suggests Tiger tastes it. Tiger says she has tasted it and it tastes revolting, so there.)
G: No comment.

We have a lot of potatoes. Let's eat those. Oh look here's the last egg. I'll stir the egg in and make a sort of 'potatoes with a stirred egg' meal.

D: It looks very nice. I like potatoes.
Sq: Is there anything else? (No, Squirrel.)
Sh: I like it. (Can I give you a kiss, Shark?)
T: UGH UGH UGH! I can see egg! I hate egg! You're forcing me to eat egg and you know I don't like egg!
G: There's grass outside.

Tinned peaches and old orchard apples with a crumble topping without much sugar and butter but with custard
This gives Squirrel something to do to stop her going back into the schoolroom and causing mayhem by breaking into the intensive play that's been going on for the last hour between Shark and Tiger.

D: Can I have the custard? Yes, just the custard.
Sq: Yum.
Sh: Yum.
T: Yum.
G: Must get off and do some shopping.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Recipe plan no 2

I have been usurped. Shark has taken over the recipe books and today's experimental menu is all hers:

Tangy avocado
Filo pastry baskets with mushroom filling
Bubble and squeak
Spiced apricot yogurt

Tangy avocado
It is only me and Shark who like avocado in this house, so I agree to this immediately and offer to buy a packet of six. The avocado is filled with fried red onion and Worcester sauce. It would contain Worcester sauce, but Tesco wouldn't sell me any. The man said it wasn't on file so they couldn't sell it me. He then confiscated it.

D: This looks interesting.
Sq: What is it? (said breathlessly with a look of pure horror while gazing at the avocado. Has an enormous green caterpillar erupted from beneath the surface?)
Sh: I like it.
T: UGH UGH UGH! (Mummy Grit suggests Tiger tastes it. Tiger says she has tasted it. She must have some sort of supernatural trick here because she never lifts her cutlery or appears to sniff, chew or nibble.)
G: Basically it's avocado with some fried onion on top. And it's not tangy at all, thanks to Tesco.

Filo pastry baskets with mushroom filling
We make the filo baskets ahead. They look great but when cold, set like concrete, so no-one knows how to drive a knife and fork through them. I think there is a stake and mallet in the garage, and promise Shark we will get them out if the filo baskets win our tasting competition.

D: It looks very nice. (Would you like a manual drill or an electric drill, Dig?)
Sq: Oh no. (Said while covering her eyes.) Is there anything else? (Oh dear. I think we've been here before.)
Sh: I like it. (Shark, you chose them.)
T: UGH UGH UGH! (Said while stabbing her filo basket with a knife.)
G: I think they need to be served warm. What do you think, Shark? (Said as I remove a shard of filo pastry from my cheek, where it seems to have skewered the skin.)

Bubble and squeak.
Easy peasy.

D: This is nice.
Sq: Yum.
Sh: Yum.
T: Yum.
G: (Actually, I don't like bubble and squeak. Better keep quiet.)

Spiced apricot yogurt
This was easy. Mix together Greek yogurt, soft dried apricots, pistachios, cinnamon, lots of orange zest. Mummy Grit pours a large Cointreau over hers.

D: This is unusual.
Sq: UGH. Has it got cream in it? I hate cream. I only like squirty cream. What is it? Has it got cream in it? I hate cream. (Said ad infinitum. Or at least until Mummy Grit removes Squirrel's helping and pours Cointreau over it.)
Sh: Yum.
T: Yum.
G: Double yum. This would go nicely with a brandy on the side.

Tomorrow, experimental recipe set number three.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Recipe plan

Aha! A recipe book!

Here are the results of the first experimental menu.* Dig, Squirrel, Shark and Tiger have kindly provided the comments.

Watercress and stilton soup
Chestnut, walnut and red wine loaf
Pears poached in honey and ginger with mascarpone

ercress and stilton soup
This recipe was compromised because I did not put any stilton in. I thought the children might go UGH if I put stilton in. So I left it out. I know this is a dangerous line of thinking, because the next thought is, 'I'll put in some pasta instead'. I bravely resisted this, so no pasta. And no stilton either.

D: It needs the stilton. Where is the stilton?
Sq: What is it? (said breathlessly with a look of pure horror while gazing into her soup bowl. Has an enormous green toad erupted from beneath the surface?)
Sh: I like it.
T: UGH UGH UGH! (Mummy Grit suggests Tiger tastes it. Tiger says she has tasted it. Clearly without lifting her soup spoon or moving her lips.)
G: Basically it is leek and potato soup with watercress. And it needs the stilton.

Chestnut, walnut and red wine loaf
This recipe is vegan. It isn't meant to be. It has eggs and cheese in it. I got distracted half way through so only the top half of the ingredients went in, and the eggs and cheese were in the second half. Unfortunately I also drank the red wine by accident so couldn't put that in either.

D: It looks very nice. (It does not. It looks like an Ibstock brick.)
Sq: Oh no. (Said while covering her eyes.) Is there anything else? (How I wish there was, Squirrel.)
Sh: I like it. (Have you been at the Tixylix again, Shark?)
T: UGH UGH UGH! (Said while stabbing the slice on her plate with a pink straw.)
G: You need to try lots of different foods. Try it. (I want to pewk. If I were to eat a meteorite, I think it might have the same density, texture, appearance and taste as a chestnut, walnut and red wine loaf without the red wine. This one is definitely out.)

Pears poached in honey and ginger with mascarpone
This recipe was easy.

D: Is it sweet?
Sq: I like the honey.
Sh: Yum.
T: Yum.
G: Yum. This one's on the possible list.

Tomorrow, experimental recipe set number two.

* I know what you vegans are thinking. I am killing cows, destroying the planet and should do better. All I can say is that I bear the guilt. I promise to go to next and whip myself senseless with a spatula.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Big thought

This is big. This is Really BIG. Grit has a deep and profound thought.

Ellie and Mister W are coming to dinner and Ellie and Mister W will not want to eat Tesco value pasta with tomato sauce.

Now this calls for some serious thinking. Grit has been cooking Tesco value pasta and tomato sauce for 234 years. She has forgotten how to cook anything else.

This calls for some very deep and serious thinking.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Acting like grown ups

Tra la la! Ellie and Mister W are coming to dinner! Tra la la! Tum te hum! Do de dum!

Grit is all happy now because next week Ellie and Mister W are coming to dinner and they are not aged six, or even seven! No! They are proper grown up humans! They do not throw themselves to the floor and howl in Tesco! They do not hang on the door frames refusing to move! They do not swing on my front room curtain and then, as the curtain comes crashing down about their heads, say 'She did it!' No, no, no no no. None of these.

And what's more, we won't have to send Ellie and Mister W to their rooms for kicking the chairs, slamming the doors or waving scissors dangerously. And we won't have to tell Ellie and Mister W off for sitting on their chairs in a silly way, or for making irritating noises, or for throwing all the cushions off the sofa, and smuggling the cuddly leopard under the kitchen table at eating time when everyone knows he is Not Allowed Now because he causes fights. No! Ellie and Mister W are lovely grown up people who really are very grown up and adult and quite possibly may be among the few adult people I will speak to for more than five minutes this year without being interrupted.

Because, and this is the best of it all, Ellie and Mister W are leaving their offspring at home! With a babysitter! And we are bundling Squirrel, Tiger and Shark upstairs and nailing planks across their bedroom doors so that they cannot get out!

Well, OK, that last bit's just wishful thinking right now, but it's hoped that eight hours of listening pleasure with the audio book series of Watership Down will have the same effect, while Ellie and Mister W and Grit and Dig are all downstairs doing what grown ups do best. In Grit's case this might be drinking heavily and falling asleep in front of the fire. But let's hope it's sharing dinner, being civilised, and talking.

Talking, probably, about the children. But heigh ho, this is a start.

Friday, 16 November 2007


There is a lot of fighting. And I use a lot of negotiating strategies. At the moment the negotiating groundrules I'm trying to apply broadly are: Don't push people into defensive positions (She did it!); Don't ascribe motives (She did it because she wants to upset me!); Don't use absolutes (She did it! She always wants to upset me!).

If I get so far as to remind my miniature actors about these rules, then I try and say the positive, too: Be patient and listen so everyone can say how they feel and the impact that someone else's behaviour can have. Offer suggestions for how to proceed. Suggest options for what to do next. Try and find common ground, so that everyone gets what they want. Suggest a new way of doing something or new code of conduct that everyone can agree with. If shouting starts, then stop talking and come back to it later when everyone is calm.

Is it working? A bit. One danger is that we spend all our day in the negotiating. Take today. We're going to the library. What books shall we take back? What shall we renew? What books shall we borrow? Which library card should we use? Who's carrying the books? What bag shall we take? ...and we never actually get to the library to take back the overdue books.

Sometimes I think why don't I provoke a big shout and scream, then I can lay the law down, leave everyone in tears behind me, and go to the library alone. And there I can put my feet up behind the natural history, and have a quiet read.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Cardboard boxes

Well I hope Dig's learned his lesson. Never give cardboard boxes to children. Because this is what happens.

1. Squirrel wants a cardboard box to build a pirate ship. Dig gives her a huge cardboard box from the enormous pile that has appeared in the office (and which he denies has been filled with a new computer system). Squirrel manhandles the box through the doors and goes off to build a pirate ship with Tiger. They start to do this in the schoolroom. It involves waving scissors around dangerously and taping straws to the cardboard box. There is a fight. Tiger refuses to work with Squirrel.

2. Tiger goes to the office and asks for a cardboard box to make a nest with. Dig gives her a box. She takes it into the schoolroom and begins to wave scissors around dangerously. Squirrel, meanwhile, is howling in the front room.

3. I ask Squirrel what would stop the howling. She says her pirate ship has been taken over and she wants it back. I go to the schoolroom, extract the pirate ship and bring it to the front room. Tiger starts to howl because she wanted to put the nest on the pirate ship and now it is all Squirrel's fault. Squirrel climbs inside her pirate ship in the front room and starts to howl some more.

4. When Tiger calms down, she goes back to the office and asks Dig can she have another two boxes, that are bigger. Dig gives her two big boxes. She takes them into the schoolroom.

5. Shark has seen all the giant cardboard boxes and wants to make a house for the toy leopard. She goes into the office and asks for a cardboard box. Dig gives her a box. She takes it into the schoolroom and stuffs a leopard in it. Squirrel, still in her pirate ship that looks like a cardboard box, is sniffing quietly.

6. In the schoolroom, Tiger and Shark have a fight. I bring both of them out of the schoolroom where they are not to be dangerous with scissors. The schoolroom and front room are now filled with cardboard boxes, some with bits cut out of them, and some with straws taped to them, and one with a Squirrel sat in it. Dig seems to have emptied his office of most cardboard boxes, and is probably feeling quite pleased with himself.

7. After a while, Tiger goes back to the schoolroom to make her nest. She cuts a hole out of the side of a cardboard box. Shark then reenters the schoolroom. She sees that Tiger has cut a hole out of the box that she was using for the leopard. Shark is inconsolable. She thinks Tiger has done this on purpose. She wails, she cries, she weeps, she howls. Tiger leaves the room, taking some of the cardboard boxes with her.

8. With all children howling, cardboard boxes going to and fro, and Squirrel refusing to come out, mother opens a bottle of brandy. Dig, tired of all the demands for cardboard boxes, has strangely locked his office door. But Tiger now wants another box. Tiger is determined. Unknown to me, she takes my keys, opens the office door, goes in and asks for more boxes. Well I don't know if she is successful, because mummy Grit is having a temper tantrum, what with the howling children, cut up cardboard and nowhere to drink a glass of brandy in peace and quiet and she has started to throw some of the cardboard boxes into the yard.

9. Thirty minutes later, Dig comes in through the garden in his socks. He says Tiger unlocked the office door to come in, and then, when she left, thoughtfully locked the office door again, leaving the keys dangling in the door, so that from the inside, Dig can't put his keys in the lock to open the door. Having been locked in the office, he has to leave by his garden door and find another way into the house. In his socks. In the rain. By then, Grit has laid the law down about the boxes, finished her brandy and all is calm, excepting a few sniffles from the front room.

Now Dig, have you learned your lesson?

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Ballet exam

It is the day of the ballet exam. Squirrel's exam is at 10.00, so we are all told to be there for 9.00. This is inexplicable to me, because all she needs to do is have her hair up in a bun and put on a pink skirt.

But apparently it is all much more complicated than Grit thinks. The foul Miss Tuzy is there, ordering everyone about, and making sure the whole process is the ballet equivalent of 'medicalised'. Now me and Miss Tuzy have quite a history of mutual loathing. It is difficult to know when it started. Perhaps Miss Tuzy thinks I am a cold insensitive cow, while I think she is a prissy affected airhead.

For example, I am not allowed to adjust Squirrel's pink skirt. No. That's the specialist job of Miss W, who also attends to Squirrel's socks and shoes. Being only the relative of a ballet exam candidate, I can no longer deal with socks and shoes, despite having put on socks and shoes some 5,000 times in my short child career.

And then there's the hair. Grit cannot possibly be trusted with that. The loathsome Miss Tuzy calls out to Squirrel 'Have you brought your hairclips? And your hairbrush? And your band? And your net? And your hairspray?' Squirrel looks horrified at this list. Meanwhile, Grit would like to shout some very naughty unballet words at Miss Tuzy, preferably along with a couple of sticks sharpened into spears.

Of course Squirrel is not going to answer, and of course Grit hasn't got that load of crap, so everyone just stands there for a few moments in some sort of silent face off. Miss Tuzy makes it worse by pointedly smiling a frozen wasteland of a smile at the cringing Squirrel while Grit hunts through a handbag in search of a comb.

Well that's all there is. That and the value hairclips bought at 11pm last night at the 24 hour shop down the road. For a start we never buy hairspray and I'm not effing well going to start now so prissy meringue head Miss T can squirt it about, polluting the environment for a ten minute show. Second, we couldn't find a net. Quite frankly, because I couldn't be arsed to look. Third, I have brought the wrong hairclips. Miss Tuzy shouts this out when Squirrel takes them over, then adds for public benefit 'Never mind, you can use some of mine'.

At this show of munificence, Grit would like to go over, wrestle Miss Tuzy to the ground and give her a jolly good thumping. I have to do that, and the Chinese burn and headlock, all in my imaginings. By then, Squirrel's head is getting extra ballet bun torture, probably for being the inadequate daughter of the menacing Grit in the corner.

Next, Squirrel gets her shoes re-checked, and her ribbon attached. So my little Squirrel is, by degrees, wrestled off me and turned into a ballet exam candidate, complete with tight bun, identifying ribbon and Miss Tuzy clipboard. And at five to ten, off she goes, up the steps, ready to get her left and right mixed up and to gallop right through the tinkle-tinkle bit. And I sit downstairs, fixing an upturned drawing pin on Miss Tuzy's hairdressing chair with Blu-tack.

Only in my imagination, of course.