Monthly Archives: April 2007

My new babies

My new babies

Smudgie Towers is pleased to announce the arrival and installation of two new babies who are most welcome in the kitchen (must remember to do something about that little leak!) I am beginning to feel human again!

My life….

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

OK Dave, have you been spying on Smudgie Towers?

Not in any way wanting to disappoint the lovely people who sent it to me or the lovely people who put it in place and plumbed it in (Fear not – I will get someone in to look at it), I have sadly to report that my lovely new washing machine has kindly washed my kitchen floor for me.

Suspicious character…

This would be really funny except that it could have been really not very funny at all.

It was lovely waiting for Tiddles at the airport this morning. I’d arrived about an hour before his plane landed and was sitting quietly with a drink and a puzzle book, my mini-rucksack on the floor beside my foot, and just people-watching. I was surprised to see some young dogs cavorting round the airport, and realised quite quickly that they were trainee sniffer dogs and that the rather handsome t-shirted gentlemen accompanying them were dog handlers. It was really interesting to see how they trained these dogs – taking them round the airport as though playing a game. One handler had the dog on a lead and clearly did not know what they were looking for, one handler had a tennis ball which he threw to the dog as a reward, and sitting inconspicuously in the terminal was a stooge with a bag containing whatever it was the dog was being taught to sniff out. When the dog finally found her, the handler threw them the ball and gave them a lot of fuss.

I was thinking what fun it would be to be the stooge. I’d actually noticed her before they started tracking because she was sitting at the internet computers but not using them, just reading her newspaper instead. I had thought it was strange! When the first of the dogs tracked her down and started attacking her handbag, the penny dropped! Then that dog was rewarded and taken away and a new handler arrived in the terminal with his dog and the whole process started again.

The last dog (luckily) was a real beauty and quite a softie too. She was so sweet as she bounced her way excitedly around past my feet. Then she turned and came back. I was tempted to stroke her but thought it might not be the done thing. Then she went for my bag. She pushed it round and round with her nose, getting more and more excited. The handler came over and she signalled to him that she’d found something. I was very relieved to know she’d made a mistake, but wondered what on earth would happen, so I just waited patiently, letting her sit on my bag and waiting for the handler to sort it out – well aware he may need to search it but not too bothered. He asked if I had any money in my bag and I said I had quite a bit (still having some of the wightmeet money in there) and showed it to him. Apparently this little dog had a tendency to confuse the smell of money with the smell of drugs. They apologised and went on their way, the dog then running straight to the stooge and getting her reward.

I sat there smiling… until suddenly my heart hit my boots rather suddenly.

I had completely forgotten… two months ago I had placed in the hidden pocket in my bag a pack of loose tobacco I had confiscated, a pack the contents of which I was not too certain was just tobacco and had intended to ask someone to check. Needless to say, I am now a bit more certain of the contents and they have now been well and truly destroyed. The certainty of the matter is that if they had searched my bag they’d have found that pocket and I somehow don’t think we’d have been visiting any schools this afternoon…….

A bit scary, actually.

School

This morning I met Tiddles from the airport after his month’s sojourn in Scotland. He started to miss me by the end of the four weeks, despite a quick trip home mid-month… though this may have had a little more to do with the argument he had (and, needless to say, lost) with my brother. He’s home full of good intentions. It’s a balancing act – if I greet them with scepticism then that would be completely wrong and totally blow all chance of them succeeding, but there’s a big part of me that has to be realistic and protect myself from being sucked in too deeply until I see the evidence. It’s a fresh start where a line has been drawn underneath what’s gone before rather than simply erasing it all and pretending it didn’t happen.

Killing two birds with one stone, I bundled him into the car (after a hug and a kiss, of course) and we set off across country… or rather, would have done if I hadn’t taken a wrong turning out of the airport… we then set off again across country… and again… honestly, the sooner Tiddles learns to mapread properly the better. He starts off navigating and then loses interest so you say “What’s the number of the road I’m looking for?” and he replies “What? hmmm? Oh, the road? I dunno… which page is it on?”. But it was a beautiful day for a drive in the countryside and the route was absolutely gorgeous, so we couldn’t really complain. It did strike us both, though, how very far away from our little island we were driving – a thought that neither of us really liked to voice too specifically.

The aim of our journey was to visit a boarding school. I think God has his finger in the pie – I woke one morning knowing precisely the kind of school Tiddles needed but also knowing that no such place would exist and that I’d never be able to track it down, even if it did. Discussing it with a friend in MSN, we meandered through a few websites and both fell upon this place at the same time. It’s perfect. Not your average “we prepare children for Oxbridge” school, not your “only the wealthy need apply” kind of place, but a practical experience aimed at helping children gain in self-esteem and responsibility first and encouraging their academic progress alongside it regardless of their starting point. It’s a bit basic there, but it’s perfect and we both fell in love with the place the minute we drove up the drive and heard the birds singing and saw the flowers. What it offers is ideal, if only Tiddles can seize the chance and make the most of it.

What was particularly impressive was that one of the pupils was given the job of giving us a guided tour. He was an incredible ambassador for the place. If Tiddles ends up like him, I’ll be well pleased.

Mind you, I must admit to getting the giggles when I saw a huge pile of clothes and towels under a notice which said “please name your lost property”. I couldn’t decide which was funniest, the mental image of someone saying “I name this towel Sir Percy, good luck to all who dry with it” or the fact that you couldn’t put your name in something you’d lost, it had to be found property before you could name it! Neither Tiddles nor our lovely guide could quite see what was amusing me so I just giggled quietly under my breath.

We have an application form to be filled in by Tiddles, myself, and… sharp intake of breath here… his previous school. If the head teacher thinks he has potential (oh please, please, Mr Headteacher, please think he has potential) then he will call me and Tiddles individually for interview.

Wightmeet

Hmm… I’ll do this one later, when I’m not waiting to go to bed.
And when I’ve checked out my photos to see if there’s any that can come anywhere near Auntie Doris and Rosamundi’s masterpieces.

Screwtape

I won’t describe in detail the latest of my household disasters as I have visitors coming tonight.
But certainly someone seems to have me targetted – shame it doesn’t work, isn’t it? 😉

My frantic cleaning and tidying ran out of steam this morning, aided by two long phone calls which rather disrupted my momentum, but I don’t mind too much as the bulk of it is done, the visitors who are arriving this evening will chip in and help out, and if all else fails I can always sit in the garden 🙂 Dad’s garage being almost empty has helped. Suffice to say, it is no longer almost empty. As long as it doesn’t rain over the weekend, we’re OK.

Smudgelet is enjoying his afternoon as I have let him play in the kitchen of the “bungalow next door which will soon belong to somebody else” and, with Tiddles back in bonnie Scotland, he has been able to set out his Hornby trainset in full. We have got to have our extension built if only so that he can play with his train set and not have to pack it away again. He’ll play happily for hours and hours with that – especially if there’s cleaning going on in another part of the house and he fears he may get roped in if he shows his face!

Now then, do you think I ought to do something about all this ironing? After all, the wightmeet wouldn’t be the wightmeet without a pile of ironing hidden away somewhere.

Amazing Grace

Like so many others, Honorary Auntie M and I went to see Amazing Grace last night.
It was fantastic – highly recommended.
So many thoughts, so many prayers, so many moments when I found myself laughing out loud, so many moments when I wished I’d remembered to take a handkerchief.
A thoroughly good film – and good to see one which portrays Christianity in such an honest and realistic light.
My favourite moment – when William Wilberforce is talking to his butler about his faith, and in particular his butler’s response. (Are you impressed – I was really careful not to give too much away!)

Perhaps the funniest moment, however, was when M and I got up to leave. She had been working at the church all day, serving lunches and refreshments to people who had gone to visit the Easter garden (including four take-aways for my lot), and I had been working non-stop all day with my brother and the boys trying to make my garden more like a garden and less like a timber-yard. Sciatica set in while we were sitting, and the two of us hobbled out of the cinema like ancient grannies, lurching from side to side, wincing at every twinge, and giggling like schoolgirls at the image. The giggling intensified when I suddenly remembered that I had left my brother to babysit but had “accidentally” locked the door to the lounge and he’d be stranded in the kitchen for the night!

Too nice to slave over a hot stove

This was my decision as we arrived home from church on Sunday. So lunch was scrapped and we set off on an alternative Easter hunt… though not for chocolate eggs. Amazon World is a local attraction which we love, being based on a Rainforest conservation theme and with loads of free-flying birds and well-cared-for animals amongst the most amazing of plants in a greenhouse complex which you can walk around as though in the middle of the Rainforest – all the time learning about the horrors of deforestation. They decided against doing an Easter Egg hunt because of the environmental impact of forests being cut down to grow cocoa beans for chocolate and the additional implications of so much foil and packaging being discarded onto landfill sites. So their hunt was slightly different.

The children were told there’d been a disaster at Amazon World and that loads of recycleable “rubbish” had been littered around. There was a competition for children to count how many items they could find as they went around. Smudgelet got really into it – It was impossible to get through to him that the challenge did not include random bits of litter dropped by visitors (amazing though it was to think that anyone would drop litter there) and we also suddenly realised that some of the things that he’d counted were actually part of the electrics or feeders etc. So in the end we just had to guess. But it was quite a meaningful lesson regardless.

The statistics we read there were mind-blowing. The population of the world, or rather of the “developed” part of the world, is mad in the degree of mindless damage done to the environment every day.

I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite photos from the day. The little ground-level birds with the tuft are a type of partridge – can’t remember the name, alas – who follow each other round everywhere. There were loads of pairs there (they mate for life) and they were absolutely lovely, and so tame they almost walked over your feet at times, but as soon as the camera went anywhere near pointing in their direction they were off!

toucan play at that gameSnoozingMy favourites - one of

This cushion's a bit hardGotcha!best I could do

First birdPeepo

And this one’s just for Jack the Lass 😀

Hairy

Crack of dawn

Yes, we were there. At the crack of dawn. On the recreation ground.

It was a real experience – a silvery half moon greeted us as we arrived, to have its place taken by the most beautiful sunrise. As we stood in silence, soaking in the sound of the dawn chorus greeting the day, from behind the line of trees and over the sea suddenly appeared a ball of gold, rising before our very eyes right on cue. It was truly awe-inspiring. As the worship leader said, creation proclaiming that He is risen indeed. Halleluia!

Though small in number, we were in good voice and the sunrise service was just perfect. The quality of the music deteriorated, mind, as the accordionist’s fingers succumbed to the numbing cold of the frost and gradually all feeling disappeared, and with it all capacity to work out where on earth the chord buttons were! But we persevered and managed some rousing music. Wonder if the neighbours appreciated it :o)

Thence back to church for a scrummy breakfast and to witness yet again the amazing transformation of the Easter Garden.

The stone is rolled away

The dawn chorus

From breakfast we raced home to get changed for church and to check whether the Easter bunny had been. For those of you who enquired, the tent is a “Smudgie-Towers” invention. The first year I had Tiddles he liked to play at making a tent from a clothes horse and a blanket and just happened to have made one in his room Easter weekend. It occured to me that it’d be rather fun to hide his Easter basket in there on Sunday morning and just wait to see when he found it. It proved such fun that the following year he asked if he could make the Easter bunny a tent again. And so it has continued for eight years’ worth of Easters. Sometimes a plain tent (as this year), sometimes far more ornate, depending on the time available… but the contents always quite exciting. And amazingly the Easter Bunny also left something rather nice for me!

The easter tent

The Easter tree is a tradition I brought home after spending a year in Austria, and which made an impact upon Tiddles when we visited my friends out there at Easter time too. We use willow branches from the tree in our garden and decorate them with ornamental eggs and bunnies and the like.

Easter tree

Sadly Tiddles decided to grace the day with a massive tantrum just as we were setting out for church. The less said about that the better. But it meant that we forgot to take the Easter hats we’d made. Mine isn’t in the picture as it’s not as exciting as the Smudgelets’ ones.

Easter hats He is risen indeed - halleluia

The tantrum was definitely the lowlight of my Easter this year (his too, methinks) but the highlight came from my other son. Normally quite shy, he has suddenly discovered a love of singing and has become more confident of his lovely little voice. This has generally come about through his singing with the choir – but he won’t even sing in the back of the car for me because he’s too lacking in confidence. But after the concert last week he asked if he could have singing lessons. And in anticipation of this, Honorary Auntie M who was taking the service at our church asked him if he would be willing to sing a solo. He stood in front of a packed church, held his head high and sang – so beautifully – “Good Joseph had a garden”. And me? I cried.