Monthly Archives: August 2005

We’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Hey, I like Bank Holiday Mondays!

Even though it’s in the middle of the summer holidays and thus not really any different from any other day right now, I feel totally justified sitting here at after ten o’clock in the morning, still in my nightie (with a dancing cow on the front – not sure what to make of that!) and having just finished my breakfast. Granted I was up at eight to get Dad up, but I haven’t really done anything since then….. and it’s lovely, it is. On the agenda for today, along with a whole lot of nothing very much, is planning my sermon for my trial service and finishing a long letter to a good friend. Perfect.

We’ve had a wonderful week – an absolute dream. And Dad managed to go – in fact, not only to go, but to thoroughly enjoy his week and be keen to go to the area again some time. I think my proudest moment was to see him stride determinedly across the castle forecourt, swinging his stick and looking so proud of his various progeny. (The hardest moment of the week was handing him over to the care of the airport staff and simply walking away as they put him into a wheelchair and wheeled him off).

The castle was the perfect venue for the wedding and the weather was absolutely perfect too. We met for aperitifs on the terrace and in the armoury before the wedding began – a perfect chance for mingling and getting to know the other side of the family-to-be as well as actually spending some quality time with our own somewhat-spread-out family. I had offered to video the wedding for my nephew and his bride – I was so pleased to be able to do that for them as they had requested no gifts (mainly because they don’t have a home yet and because they would have to transport everything back to the Cayman Islands) and this was a really personal way of giving them a gift I knew they would cherish. There were a few shaky moments when I was videoing with one hand and trying to stop Smudgelet walking in front of the camera with the other….. and a few even shakier moments when I just couldn’t get my hand in my pocket to retrieve my hanky! .. but apparently the video is just perfect – especially the magical moment when a movement caught my eye and I zoomed in on the castle to see the bride peeping out of an upper window to survey the scene.

The wedding itself was, I have to say, the most magical and true wedding I have ever been to, and I’ve been to some amazing weddings (haven’t I, Katie?). There wasn’t a dry eye in the house for the entire time, including the bride and groom and those invited to speak. The two sets of parents were each invited to light a candle together to symbolise the flame from which each of them came – a cause of great anxiety to my sister and brother-in-law who were not really confident of doing it right! – and then later in the ceremony the bride and groom each took the flame from their parents’ candles and joined it onto a candle of their own, signifying the two families becoming one. Their vows were beautiful, and they had included vows which we were to make as family and friends in supporting them as a couple. And in addition to the exchange of rings, the couple exchanged roses as their first gift to one another – a single rose, signifying love and faithfulness – and vowed to do the same on each anniversary, also vowing to understand if the other gave them a rose in order to say “sorry” or “I love you” when they couldn’t find the words. And just to be on the safe side, the minister gave them both the Bible used during the ceremony, with the date of the wedding written inside, just in case my nephew should.. heaven forbid… forget what date their anniversary is! Wow – what a wedding!

Not believing in “finger slices” of cake, they’d ordered a massive and utterly delicious wedding cake – sponge with lemon cream and pure white chocolate! MMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I am sure I won’t fit in my wedding clothes any more after fulfilling my auntly duties of helping them finish off the cake.

We got a free tour of the castle (highly recommended if you’re ever that way, though rather expensive if you have to pay)… including an embarrassing and frustrating and wonderful moment when the tour guide asked if anyone could play the piano and everyone pointed to me. I can’t play without music but my protestations fell on deaf ears as I was manoevred over to the most beautiful Bechstein grand piano and invited to play. As my fingers touched the very first key, I was enchanted by the beauty of its tone – but without the music in front of me, my rendition of Mozart petered out after the first half dozen bars… fortunately just before I hit the inevitable wrong note.

The whole week was wonderful. A tiny shepherd’s cottage in the middle of the countryside, with my family all around in cottages big enough for family reunions and joint meals. Meeting my new niece-in-law – possibly the most beautiful person I’ve met both in looks and in character; getting to know my middle nephew’s Kenyan girlfriend a bit better as she becomes more comfortable within the large family environment; sitting on the bed together with my youngest nephew’s partner when meeting her for the first time and sinking into a conversation as though we’ve known each other a lifetime; hugging tight my nephew from the Cayman’s whom I haven’t seen for four years; seeing my boys totally absorbed into this huge and loving family (and seeing Smudgelet fall head-over-heels in love with the bride!); and especially holding my new great-nieces and revelling in their specialness and tininess and sheer gorgeousness (even when crying non-stop!)

I think that was a week of memories that will never fade. Access to photos available to trusted friends on request, I’m afraid, but there’s two which are possible to share… one of the castle location at Culzean and one of the Bechstein.

Culzean castle from distance

Smudgie meets Bechstein

Almost…

Almost packed
Almost tidy
Almost ready to go!

Dad’s doing fine, the boys are excited and, to be honest, so am I.

Off to see the family – all the family – My two sisters and their husbands, my brother, my three nephews and their partner/girlfriend/bride (two of whom I’ve yet to meet) and my two tiny great nieces. I CAN’T WAIT 😀 😀 😀

As soon as I see Dad off onto the plane I shall be happy. Well, happier when I get the phone call from my brother to say they’ve arrived safely, but in the meantime I know they’ll be in good hands with the BA attendant who’s going to wheelchair them onto the plane and by then I’ll be heading up the motorway, tape blaring veggietales at full blast “On the road again… “

Yippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee !

Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedom

I have the house all to myself today. Granted it’s so that I can clean and tidy and pack in anticipation of our trip tomorrow, but nevertheless it’s rather nice. This, by the way, is my “have a bit of time to yourself while digesting your lunch” time, before you start to tut at my procrastination.

The absence of the Smudgelets – which may well have saved their lives after yesterday, when I learned once again the lesson that it’s not a good idea to ask children to help you in an attempt to get jobs done more quickly! – is due to a very good friend who heard about Dad’s increasing problems and promptly phoned me and asked “I am going to have the boys for the day – which day would suit you best?” Now that’s the sort of support that’s invaluable when you’re dashing here, there and everywhere for hospital appointments and barely having time to stop and think. Thank you M2!

Dad is out at the Priory today – It’s a delight to be off work and able to take him somewhere he so thoroughly loves going. I know he’d love me to stay there with him too, and I’d love to do it, but the time is just too precious today and I know the peace I’d get from being there would rapidly dissolve in the stress of having to get everything done this evening. But for today it’s nice to know he’s somewhere he loves and will be looked after, and that I can get on with all the jobs I want to do with no fear of interruption from man or boy. Hooray!!!

Dad had a good day yesterday at the hospice. They’ve persuaded him to go to their day centre on a weekly basis, and they will fit the treatment in (an infusion to increase his uptake of calcium) while he’s there. I don’t know – transport each way, three course meal, art and crafts, a communion service, games and puzzles to do, teas and coffees at will and a glass of something naughty before lunch… he’ll think his birthday’s come. But it will be really good to relax and know he’s in the best possible place each Wednesday, and they’re talking of increasing it to twice a week if he’s willing.

The only trouble yesterday was that I didn’t get rid of the boys!

Guilty secret

M and I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Saturday night…… without the children 😀
Oooh, now that was a treat! We indulged in a bar of chocolate each, of course.. though not the Nestle Wonka Bars because we do have some morals.

We told the children and the babysitter that we were going out to a nightclub to pick up a couple of blokes and get drunk and dance the night away… I think they were less shocked than they would have been by the truth! And all yesterday she and I had great fun making obscure references to the film that the children wouldn’t pick up on. Mwahahahahaha!

We did manage a trip out to Culver Cliff in the afternoon. Great fun sitting in the car watching the Smudgelets frantically try to get the kite flying. We decided, as an exercise in independence, not to give them any assistance as it was perfect kite-flying weather and up on the downs gives you an unsheltered environment just right for kites. If they couldn’t get it going there, they never would.

They didn’t.

Mind you, it probably didn ‘t help that at one point we observed Smudgelet running with the string flowing out behind him… and the wind at his back! Tiddles was running with the kite,…. in the same direction and just a little bit faster than Smudgelet!!! I suppose, given the wind direction, it might ultimately have worked once Tiddles overtook his brother 😀

Then back to a choice between the pub and the cafe for tea. It was just 5.15 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in a popular spot in the height of the tourist season… so of course, the pub was shut from 3 until 6.30. Not good. Next we tried the cafe. That closed at 5, of course… and they’d turned off all their cooking equipment too. They were very kind, though – they provided us with massive mugs of tea or coffee and toasted us some teacakes to keep us going until we could find somewhere open. We did find somewhere open – Smudgie Towers, where the kettle is always boiling and you can curl up in front of the muppet movie and eat mountains of toast and chocolate spread. MMMMMmmmmmm.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

….things were as expected at Dad’s trip to the hospital. Not good news, with secondaries appearing throughout the bone, but primarily in the right hip and thigh and in the humerus on both sides. Not very humerous, to tell the truth, but we seem to be coping well with it, all four of us.

We have no clear prognosis, but they’re talking about operating in a month or so to put a pin down the length of his thigh and then use radiotherapy to blast the cancer cells and thus reduce the pain he’s experiencing there. They may also do his arms, though obviously not at the same time. He’s also been referred to the hospice for treatment – we’re off there tomorrow. Needless to say, the radiotherapy will be done on the mainland, just after the council have decided to make cancer patients start paying their own transport costs!!! At £11 per crossing, before you add in the cost of a taxi on the other side, that could prove pretty stressful at a very stressful time already. I feel an angry letter-writing session coming on.

But first we’ve got to ensure he’s well enough for the operation. Would you believe it? For years now I’ve been condemned to reading every label on every tin or packet I purchase in the supermarket because, with Dad’s diabetes and Angina, he was told to avoid sugar and salt in his meals. He has even refused to eat many ready-meals and I’ve had to cook at the most inconvenient times because ready-meals generally contain too much salt. Then what happens? They do a blood test and discover that Dad’s sodium levels are really too low for a general anaesthetic!!! I bought him a big bag of crisps and am now thinking of stealing a salt-lick from the nearest field of cows and installing it in a corner of the lounge for him to take a lick at every so often! Still, at least he’s now eating ready-meals again, so every cloud has a silver lining.

I have survived the ordeal of telling the children, on a gentler level, what is happening with grandad and they’ve taken it well. I didn’t tell Smudgelet quite as much as I told Tiddles, but he’s guessed it anyway and we had a long and detailed talk about life, death and heaven. He concluded: “So, if you think about it mummy, everyone dies sometimes but it should be the last thing on your mind because it’s the last thing you do… and you have to make sure you really get the most out of living, don’t you? You have to make life here really good because life in heaven’s going to be even better, so the better earth life is, the better heaven will be. Except, how will they manage in heaven without a TV to see what’s happening on earth? But it is going to be sad and lonely when grandad’s not around.”

Mind you, it didn’t stop him refusing to get up to kiss grandad goodnight because he was too engrossed in the Muppet Movie video last night. He waved goodbye from his seat on the floor and said “sorry grandad, that’ll have to do!”

At last I’ve finished the holiday washing

So, we’re home and just about starting to catch up with ourselves again (before heading off to the frozen north on Friday!). It’s been all go since we got home. First of all the friends who’d been here to housesit stayed a couple of extra nights so we could actually get to see them before their return home. Then another couple of friends arrived to spend three days and two nights with us on their touring holiday. Oh, and a service to take and the children to deliver to holiday club every morning this week – it’s been a veritable excess of fun interspersed with mountains of washing!

The holiday was, as you’ve probably guessed from my previous post, an utter success. Apart from one slightly stressy day when I realised there was absolutely no way we could fit into our week all the things we each wanted to do AND get some relaxation as well! But a friend helped out by taking Smudgelet off for the day to the one place he was desperate to visit again and I really wanted a year off from!

Best day of the week, as agreed by all of us, was Friday when we made our way to Lyme Regis for the second time…. this time determined to arrive there in time to go on the fossil walk (as we had had a wonderful relaxing afternoon on the beach on Wednesday after arriving with only half an hour to have lunch and find the starting point for the fossil walk). It was led by Dr Colin Dawes, your real archetypal palaentologist (however you spell it) who was so bubbling with enthusiasm for his subject that it was impossible not to get drawn in. Tiddles was in his element.. and the two of them (Dr Dawes and Tiddles) were inseperable as they huddled over a pile of rocks, fossil hammer at the ready, as if the rest of the world were a mere inconvenience. And what was amazing was how easy it was! We collected so many fossils that I had to sacrifice Tiddles’ new school rucksack to carry them all home.

I think my favourite find was two 200,000,000 year old scalloped shells which were first fossilised and then gained a coating of iron pyrites which outlined each of the raised ridges along the top of the shell in gold, leaving the lower layers black, though I also found loads of amonites or all shapes and sizes, including a fairly rare one. Tiddles found a host of belamites (?) too, including a fairly rare complete one, while Smudgelet was more captivated by the abundance of crystals of all shapes and sizes and was most disappointed when I declined to carry half a dozen huge rocks home. Dr Dawes came to the rescue with his fossil hammer, much to Smudgelet’s delight… especially as he’d nearly spent all his pocket money on fools gold in the fossil shop before we set out and here he was with a bagful of it for free!

Interview with a Smudge

I will blog, doubtless, about the fantastic holiday and other events chez Smudge in the next few days, but for now I must content myself with responding to Jack’s questions because,, quite simply, she says I have to. I may experience some difficulty typing this correctly as some recent visitors maliciously bought me a new keyboard… one which actually has the letters on the keys! It doesn’t half confuse you when you’re used to blankness!

So, here goes (and the perfect excuse to be verbose)

1. What was your most embarrassing moment ever? Don’t leave out a single detail 😀
Strange to say, I really can’t think of any. I am not sure whether this is because I have lived a pure life, because I am not easily embarrassed, or because I just have a dreadful – or very helpful – memory and have blotted them all out. Lots of miniature embarrassing moments, of course.. like when I was doing a car maintenance course and was in the car on the hydraulic lift trying to work out why my instructor, who was operating the lift, was gesturing frantically……. and only later realised I’d left the headlights on on main beam…. or when I handed my postgrad dissertation in for marking and discovered that the typist had misread the German word for “tradition” as the German word for “prostitute”…… or when one of the panel members on the adoption panel proposed to me… or on that note, when a good friend started to pronounce his love for me and my reaction was to throw up…… or when I was playing the accordion solo in an orchestra and discovered when I went to play the first bar that I had put the accordion on upside down…. or… or… or….

2. What are the best and worst things about being a mum?
Worst things – never having a moment to myself, even when in the toilet; no longer being able to read books or write letters; being called in to school to discuss bad behaviour and running out of things to say; being torn between more than one person; having to ask people to babysit rather than them simply offer; feeling guilty

Best things – watching their faces when they master something new or see something absolutely wonderful like a circus or a waterfall or a centipede; curling up under the duvet and reading a story together; a Smudgelet curled into my body like two pieces of a jigsaw nestling together; getting to read children’s books and watch videos such as Ice Age and Toy Story with an easy conscience; when they say “I love you” or “I’m so glad it was you who adopted me” or, best of all, “Would you like one of my chocolates?”

3. Apart from the Isle of Wight, if you could live anywhere else in the world where would it be and why? I spent a year in Austria as part of my degree and really loved living there, although I have to admit that I wouldn’t really like being so far from my family unless I could afford frequent air tickets. There’s something about Ireland, too, which has an appeal, although I’m not sure I would move there for the same reason. Truth to tell, I really love living where I do. I’d love more chance to travel, especially with the children (I think), but the thought of living anywhere away from my beloved Island is hard to imagine. I expect ultimately we’ll end up on the mainland, in which case I’d want to be somewhere in the country and fairly near to the sea, and nearer to my siblings… somewhere with character, I think.

4. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Weird. As a young child I knew precisely what I wanted to do… be a mum. I wanted five children, believe it or not – three of my own and two adopted. I can’t believe now that I actually dreamed then of having adopted children – I’d actually forgotten all about that until someone reminded me a year or so ago. I also had a burning ambition to be a translator, despite all the careers advisors at school trying to push me into teaching. I actually trained to translate and absolutely loved it, and only ended up in teaching because God played a trick on me. I felt called to be a missionary and completed teacher training in order to achieve it. Then I realised that I hadn’t the strength to go into missionary work in China, which was what I was selected for, and decided to continue my training so’s to have a profession I could combine more easily with motherhood. And what do you know, I love it so much that I can’t bring myself to go back to translating, even though I miss it… and even though it’d be far less stressful and pay far more money! (Though I am not sure Euty would agree) And it’s just perfect for doing a different type of missionary work which I was definitely called to do.

5. I know you’re very fond of Internet word games (can’t think how I know that 😉 ). Please tell us 3 or 4 of the highlights of your most recent holiday, but following the rules of Everlasting Sentences.
The greatest highlight of my holiday was simply being on holiday and having chance to relax. Lax though I’ve been in describing my week on my wiblog, this is something I intend to remedy once my stream of visitors has departed. Part educational and part theatrical, the medaeval jousting at Powderham Castle was a definite favourite with both the boys and me, though possibly for different reasons. Sons liked the fighting and weapons and horses, of course, while I was more interested in admiring the Knights. Nights at Sidmouth were fairly quiet as I had to stay in the bedroom while the boys settled to sleep and often ended up staying there, but the advantage of this was another highlight of my holiday – the chance to read complete books without interruption. On the final day we had our most exciting adventure but this I will describe to you in a separate post in a few days’ time. I’m ever so glad we went to Sidmouth and we’ve already booked up for next year.

Tada (as Smudgelet would say)