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The Seismic Shift

August 24, 2010

This week it’s back to school for Fourteen and Eleven.

Oh lordy, now we’re talking.  All the other parents of school-aged children will appreciate what that means.  Gone is the idyllically late getting-up time of 7.30 in order to make it into work for 8.45.  There will be things to do and prepare and this includes helping Eleven along with his morning ritual.  By that I mean chivvy him along when he stops to redesign one of his Geomags creations 2 minutes before the bus is due and he hasn’t even got his shoes on or cleaned his teeth, let alone walked to the bus stop.

On top of that, there are things like lunch box preparations, clothes needing to be ironed, the store cupboard to be stocked with mini apple juice boxes and a plentiful supply of individually wrapped waffles and part-baked rolls to be ever-present.  Not only that, but I must, I mean really must buy some new clothes for Eleven.  His current wardrobe extends to too-short trousers and T-shirts that he has had for two years or so.  The shoe situation is even worse.  School requires two pairs of sports shoes – one for indoor activities and for one outside activities (keep them separate so as not to sully the beautiful floors in their two enormous sports halls with something as unsavoury as mud or wet stuff ).  During the school holidays when his (totally inadequate and overpriced) canvas shoes of a certain stellar brand were discarded for being too small, his two pairs of trainers have become his regular footwear of choice whenever we are going anywhere that requires a lot of walking or bike riding.  Not only has the indoor pair become totally sullied but he informed me last week that all four shoes are too small.

A bigger shock for me, though, is the fact that Eleven is going to be starting Big School.  Not such a big deal, I would have thought, going by our experience with Fourteen but then she is a girl and the elder of the two and well, just more mature, sensible and sorted.  When she started secondary, the transition was barely noticeable, in that I never had any doubts about her ability to cope or get herself home or deal with anything that may come her way.  A false sense of security perhaps, created by her apparent cool-headedness and practical approach. We were blissfully unaware, however, that she would turn into a young woman overnight.  She went to bed on that first evening the little girl who had grown up with us and woke up the following morning a totally independent teenager.  Luckily for us, three years down the line she still has not acquired the concomitant attitude.  Frankly, I cannot see this happening in quite such a heart-stoppingly sudden way with Eleven.  I don’t even trust him to cross the main road on his own yet, let alone not accept lifts from strangers or be lured somewhere awful by the offer of some sticky sweets.

Perhaps I’m an over-anxious mother looking forlornly at my last baby who is about to take his first steps out of the house and into his own independent world.  No doubt he will excel and I will wonder how I could ever have doubted that he would be hot on his sister’s heels.  It’s just that from this side of the school holidays, I cannot see it.  Ask me in a month.

The other enormous culture shock will be Fourteen’s return to a normal sleeping schedule.  At the the moment she is semi-nocturnal, rising around mid-day and going to bed around 1.00 a.m.  Her bedroom, dubbed The Lair, is in a constant twilight state, with the curtains drawn and the bed unmade.  She would rather have the light on than throw open the curtains and let the sunshine stream in.  Not that we’ve had much of that this month anyway….  No longer will she have breakfast at lunchtime, followed by dinner at 7.00 p.m. and a bedtime snack at midnight.  Thank goodness.  The quantity of sugary breakfast cereal eaten at all sorts of odd times of day has increased ten-fold these holidays.  Terribly unhealthy.  I’m saddened that the summer holidays are nearly over and at the same time I am anticipating the return to some sort of normal routine.   Although the summer seems to have been exceptionally short this time around, the school holidays seem to have been interminable.

Today I took eleven to Glowgolf at the beach, an indoor mini-golf played in the semi darkness where all accessories are neon-coloured and glow under the UV lighting.  Perfect for today’s crappy grey weather, although it was extremely humid and warm today, which led to a suffocating indoor second round.  We were given glo-bracelets and allowed to choose the colour of our balls.  It was surprisingly good fun.  It’s amazing really, when you think about it, the activities in which we will participate in order to entertain our offspring when the weather is bad and all of their friends are away.

All of this fun, though, is not sufficiently distracting to camouflage a certain churning I feel deep in my stomach where pre-interview nerves reside and it’s all to do with the start of term.  I know that we are coming to the very end of something and the whole dynamic of our family is on the verge of big change.  Something intangible and a little nebulous but nevertheless very definite is hovering just out of sight over the horizon.



August 17, 2010

Last week our beach hosted an international fireworks festival, a competition between six different nations.

On Saturday night we decided to go and watch it and, as it had been a beautifully warm and sunny day, we took a blanket (for sitting on the sand) and two bottles of beer (to slake our thirst.)  Saturday was the turn of Germany to slug it out against the Netherlands; the first at 10.00 p.m. and the second, the host nation, at 11.00 p.m.  Each display lasted 15 minutes.  For various reasons that I won’t bother boring you with, we only managed to make it to the 11.00 showing, so parked up the bicycles and found ourselves a suitably romantic space on the sand.  The display was somewhat underwhelming in nature but I totally enjoyed the whole experience.

We have recently acquired a novel semi-independence which means that we can go out without planning and paying for the services of a baby sitter, all thanks to the fact that Fourteen-and-Three-Quarters has attained a suitable (and legal) maturity and is now tasked as resident child-carer.

It was wonderful to sit on the warm sand with the sounds of the sea beside us and the black sky all around us.  The fireworks were beautiful, though some would and did say, not spectacular but I found them quite magical all the same.  Some even burst outwards into heart-shaped cascades of red sparks.   Now that’s clever – how do you make an explosion heart-shaped?

The whole experience was lovely, mostly because it was an hour of Us-Time spent sitting on the beach together, chatting late into the evening, enjoying each other’s company.  That’s something we haven’t really done since pre-children days.

I’ve always dreaded the thought of our baby birds flying the coop and leaving us with a quiet, empty house.

Now I can appreciate that there might be a positive aspect.

A Jaded View

August 15, 2010

This is the view that greeted me each time I went running on holiday.

Nary a dog to be seen nor Dutch phlegm attack to be heard, and certainly no brown, steaming curls to step in and then trample around the house!

One day a car passed me.

By the end of our fortnight, the sunflowers had started to wither and lose their exuberance.  They must have known we were leaving.


August 10, 2010
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Something we all enjoy for lunch in the summer is moules marinieres but for the first time this year we noticed that a lot of them seemed to have been invaded.  Was the crab the mussel’s lunch or vice versa?

No matter, they all ended up on our plates, although the mussels harbouring guests were gingerly put to one side.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

August 7, 2010

Today’s post has for its theme the letter ‘B’.

This is because I have a bountiful supply of photo’s for you, all of which feature subjects beginning with that very letter.

First on the agenda is our sweet little Bat, who flew into our gite on the first night of our holiday.  Once we had managed to flap him out of the door,  a second one appeared.  He was dispatched in much the same way as the first, after which, a third appeared.  Perhaps they were all one and the same Bat, because this one was very tired and landed on the stairs in a perfect Batman logo shape, where he remained motionless.  I had a large glass ready to place over him in order to catch him but couldn’t do that whilst his wings were spread so wide so instead went to look for the camera.

‘Wife!!!’ pleaded husband from behind the sofa, ‘Please, just catch him and get the shot later.’   So I did and here it is.

Note the bubbly cork clearly visible through the glass!

The second ‘B’ item is another unusual creature: a Bloody Big Beetle.  This guy was out for an evening constitutional, actually just crossing the road, veritably strolling along.  He was very handsome and shiny.  A few nights later, whilst sitting outside enjoying the warm evening, another one of these carefree creatures suddenly landed with a kerthunk behind me on the ground and then proceeded to rear up onto his hind legs, spread his glossy carapace and fly upwards and forwards directly into the wall.  With a loud crash he tumbled to earth  like the clumsy and ungainly beast he was and spent the next half hour repeating the whole process.  He must have had such a headache.

We decided he was flying for the light on the wall beside the door but couldn’t make the steep angle of the incline.  He ended up scrabbling along the base of the wall until the found the door and spent the rest of the evening knocking into that trying to get in – all to no avail, thank you very much.  Just like with our friend the Bat, I don’t much fancy getting one of those caught in my hair!!!

The third ‘B’ on today’s agenda is Boat.

There’s not much explaining required for this one, just that those knees belong to Eleven and I love the water in this photo.  I thought something soothing might be a good idea for those of you with a low tolerance of the two previous pictures’ subjects!


August 6, 2010

They were a slightly recurrent theme during our French holiday which, I am afraid to say, means that I want to share their beauty with you!

I spotted this one on the way to Saintes, a pretty town not far from Cognac, which we were visiting for the day.  It caught my eye, alone and resplendent as it stood in the middle of a field, and on the way home I asked Husband if he would stop for me.  The sun was so bright that I actually could not see whether the tree was in the photo or not.

This amazing canopy of spider-like parachute trees is to be found in the centre of Saintes, in the park that flanks the river.  Standing straight and proud, like soldiers ready for inspection, they were obviously planted to provide shade f0r happy park perambulators.

Do you know what species they are?

And this is the road leading to the two donkey village that leads to the one donkey hamlet that was our home for the duration of our holiday.  Doesn’t it look magical?  This photo makes me think that at the bottom of the road, around the corner just out of the picture, is an enchanted castle.

My mother would call this Fairy Lane.

My World

August 5, 2010
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Making vinaigrette recently, I had put all the ingredients in the bowl ready to mix when I suddenly noticed what a beautiful arrangement they made.

The recipe was passed down from my French grandma and comprises:  red wine vinegar, peanut or sunflower oil, finely chopped spring onion, Dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground pepper.  It’s the real deal.  Delicious.

It looks other worldly, don’t you think?!