Dream House #6: The One That Sold Itself

‘You know, we’ll miss you when you’re gone.’

NOT great words to here when you turn up for work. I mean, seriously, WHAAAAAT?!?!

‘Oh no. I mean when you move. You’re not being fired. I’ve said too much. You heard nothing.’

No, colleague, my dear. You – and everyone else – have clearly NOT SAID ENOUGH, because it seems that although I’m the ONE person in the office this is happening to I’m THE LAST TO KNOW!!!

Apparently our section (which consists of me, some new bloke who starts on Monday and whose name I can’t pronounce, and somebody they’ve yet to appoint) is moving around the corner…which is pretty damn spooky as some weeks ago – before the big big boss came rolling into town, changing everything – I had a dream that we would move to the street around the corner! Now all I need is Phil and Kirstie from Location Location Location to drive me round the market square and my dreams will have literally come true!!!

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Still, having that feeling that everyone is talking behind your back isn’t the best motivation for getting stuff done. But hey ho. I guess we’ll see what happens on Monday.

I wonder if I’ll get my very own desk? Exciting! And I suppose at least I won’t have to feel bad every time I see the two colleagues I’ve gazumped, who will now be in the less shiny world of lettings. The Christmas party might involve less getting drunk before lunch on champagne though, which is a shame as I was rather looking forward to that.

But anyway, onto the dream house. I’ve not posted any property porn for a while. But this one is worth the wait. It’s just a shame it’s not actually on the market any more as it’s

THE ONE I SOLD!!!

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Not that it took a lot of selling.

Applicant: Id like to make an offer.

Me: Are you sure wouldn’t like a second viewing?

Applicant: No. Sometimes you just walk into a place and you just know.

When I got to meet up with him and the vendors at the property last week I could see what he meant.

Absolutely one of the most gorgeous homes ever! It makes me sad that I don’t live here. Some houses have a vibe about them and this one just screams ‘WOW!’

There’s the pretty drive up to the electric gates (arriving home would feel even sweeter than ever!).

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In the house, light floods through the windows and skylights and highlights the Farrow & Ball palette. It’s all been done with no expense spared with quality written all over it: exposed beams, limestone kitchen floors, reclaimed oak in the living room, log-burning stove, £10,000 silk curtains!!!

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Then there’s the history of it being a 600-year manor house (or at least what’s left after a fire 200 years ago).

And the absolutely most gorgeous kitchen ever!!!

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(I swear, I could’ve cried at the sheer beauty of it!)

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It has absolutely everything you could need in a home… including gym in the 2-storey garage…

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…Which might be no bad thing for burning off a beer-belly as the local pub is actually attached to the property (very discretely, but with secret access too, which is beyond cool!).What could better than shouting your order over the wall, taking the secret shortcut and then having your drinks lined up at the bar? And you wouldn’t have any distance to stagger home after either!

It’s just glorious, inside…

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…and out.

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It helps too the vendors are just the loveliest, warmest people ever. And thankfully so are the purchasers.

Unfortunately I failed to marry a millionaire, so I shall never be able to call it home as they will. But as my first sale it will always have a place in my heart. And maybe I could use my commission to get myself some similar cushions. Although I’m going to have to sell an awful lot more homes before I can have that kitchen!

Family Days Out Are a Big Mistake #6: Collective Accountability

Collective thoughts of the Gluestick family earlier in the week: Oh bugger! We’ve frittered the summer holidays away working/lazing around in pjs all day waiting for some sun. Better squeeze some fun in now!

Which is how come yesterday we came to do BOTH the model village at Beaconsfield AND the Roald Dahl museum at Great Missenden. Both great family attractions and the museum would get us brownie points for being parents who go the extra mile Boo some brownie points at school for being the kid whose read ahead. BUT both in the same day? Was that wise? Not so, really.

But we were ALL to blame for the minor disasters of the day. (Still, at least at any family attraction you get to eavesdrop on the complaints and whinges, scoldings and under-the-breath-mutterings of other families, which is always a reassurance.)

• GRANDY

Whilst driving it’s possibly not the best idea to put the deaf member of the family in the back of the car thus defaulting childcare responsibilities to them.

Noodles: Juice. Juice.

Grandy:

Noodles: Juice! JUICE!

Grandy: Kindle?

Noddles: *Howl!!!*

• NOODLES

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Noodles has at last realised that ice cream should be eaten, not just carried like some melting trophy. (Or dropped in deer poo.) But he also hasn’t quite figured out that just shoving your face in it whilst it melts isn’t the best idea. Cue ice-cream covered wailing when we try to sort him out and a t-shirt that later didn’t really fit in with the Great Missenden sartorial ethic. (To be honest, he looked like he’d had some misadventures in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory to such an extent other visitors were probably wondering where they’d hidden the exhibit!)

Baby wipes, however: Best. Invention. EVER.

Still, it could have been worse. I feared he’d not realise the importance of railings and would ransack through the tiny houses of the model village. Thankfully instead he chose to weld himself to one particular spot to watch the model railway trains.

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Apologies though to the little girl whom he had a bit of a scrap with when she wanted a look too. And to the family who got a shot of full-blast wailing when their son stood in Noodles’ spot.

• HUSBAND

When trying to squeeze two attractions into one day it’s always best to minimise travelling time. So why Husband preferred to guide us round the back roads of Buckinghamshire when he didn’t know where to go rather than let me use the sat-nav is beyond me.

Sweet moment of the day: him admitting defeat and me getting to turn the TomTom on. Guess who got us there better?

• ME

The model village had been on our summer holidays to do list from the beginning. The museum was a new addition to the list after Boo enjoyed a performance by them at the Lollibop festival. 2 for 1 tickets bolstered that incentive.

So, it wasn’t a great moment, at the admissions desk, to realise that although I’d definitely packed the discount voucher, I’d also unpacked it by taking my diary out of my bag (because I wouldn’t need it, so why carry it around all day?) with the slip inside of it. A loss of two admission fees and 10% off in the gift shop. Sorry, Husband.

• BOO

Ok, it had been a long day, but if you’re sat in an intimate food-themed poetry workshop presented by published kids’ author and all-round really nice chap, James Carter, it’s best not to sit there with a face that says ‘I want to go home.’ Even more so, best not to say ‘But Mummy, I want to go home,’ out loud!

That said, James won her over and she eagerly read out her poem and five-word story to the assembled collective at the end.

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Her food-based poetry:

I have a friend
Her name is Hollie.
Her favourite pud
Is rainbow lollies.

And:

The elephant’s stew was scrummy.

And my effort (based on the fact that James kept showing guinea pig photos whilst the poor boy from the museum was trying to do the ‘in event of a fire’ talk):

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Don’t put your guinea in a sandwich
As the Peruvians like to do.
They’re far too hairy
The claws are just scary
And there’s far too much to chew.

To be honest, both attractions were brilliant. But too much for one day. Next time we’ll be less ambitious, but also hopefully more organised too. Or maybe not. We are the Gluestick family after all. It’s always going to be sticky.

A Tale of D’oh

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Sod pride coming before a fall (although sometimes that’s true also). Sometimes, more accurately, eagerness comes before massive, sweat-inducing panic.

I had thought my luck had come in today. I’d sorted the works email nightmare. I’d remembered to buy nappies for Noodles on my way back from a viewing, thus saving me a drive out of town. (Get me, managing the multi-tasking mum thing!) I’d been offered full-time hours at work…and turned them down (because I’m not that good at multi-tasking to be able to do it all day every day, but I must be fooling someone somewhere well enough into thinking I’m vaguely competent at my job, as opposed to just vague and incompetent). And – and this had really got me excited! – I’d got a pair of salad servers for JUST £3.00 instead of £7, because they didn’t have a barcode, were the last on the display and I happened to ask for help from a pair of clueless teenage boys who didn’t know how to cope so just grabbed the cheapest similar item to hand and ran that through the till instead. Result!

I literally skipped out of the store, I can tell you.

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Except…

When I got home I straight away had to go out with Noodles on a chocolate button run (which turned into a chocolate, Disney Princess trading cards, Frozen stickers and Rio 2 DVD run after asking Boo if she wanted anything – never ask a 7-year-old if she wants anything! I’m surprised she didn’t add a trampoline and a pony to the list!). At the till, DISASTER! My card was MISSING!!!

Oh, *!?@#!!!

I tried to stay calm. I paid with a different card, went home and tipped my handbag out. Nope. I checked through the collection of receipts and loyalty cards that replace actual real money in my purse. Nu-uh. I emptied out the carrier bag containing my now-possibly-not-such-a-bargain-if-my-card-has-been-pinched-and-my-bank-account-ransacked salad servers. Obviously, nada. Niente. Diddly squat. My card had vanished.

I bet myself that in my bargain-elation is left it in the card reader at the store. I decided it would be wise to call the store – thank heavens for 24-hour opening! – and check before cancelling my card. It may be 24-hour opening, but that doesn’t mean 24-hour phone answering on customer service.

?#@*&%!!!

This meant I would have to confess to Husband. Not good. (Although it could have been worse; at least it wasn’t the card for our joint account. There wouldn’t be words if I ever lost that!) his reaction, lets say, wasn’t especially positive.

I decided with one last hope to drive back to the store – so much for being organised and saving time. Not so epic now, GSM. But if I could save myself from having to order a new card, that’d be good.

I found Clueless Boy #1 still on the checkout. He hadn’t seen my card. Great. I’d obviously been stalked by an opportunistic identity thief who at that very moment was surely wringing every last drop from my bank account. (Although I would thwart him with my limited spending potential. Ha! Being broke has never seemed so positive!)

Nevertheless, I tried customer services too. A cursory glance in the cupboard yielded no sign.

“Oh, ok. I’ll just have to order a new card. Thank you,” I said out loud.

“*!?@#!!!?#@*&%!!!” I thought to myself.

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I wandered out to the car park and glanced into my purse…

…and there it was, MY SODDING BANK CARD, sat in a slot in my PURSE, albeit on the opposite side to where I’d normally put it!!!

My first reaction: PHEW! Yet, WTF?!?! How had I NOT seen it?!?!

Needless to say, when I got home I had nothing but praise for the staff of Sainsbury’s for spotting my card so promptly and keeping it safe for me. 😉 Only you and I know the magnitude of my muppetry.

Just don’t tell Husband, hey?

Tech, NO!!!

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In all honesty, if you’re reading these words it will be some sort of a miracle. Because today technology has been a big, fat meanie to me. Like some gruesome clique in the playground technology has got itself together and rounded on me, making me feel small, stupid and bullied and ready to run into a dark room and cry. But unlike in the playground there’s no dinner lady to turn to, just tech support, who rather than giving technology 5 minutes in the naughty corner instead joins in with the slang that I don’t understand and makes me feel even more stupid, whilst simultaneously failing to resolve my problem.

First up, the email at work has decided to stitch me up. I can send them, but my inbox has been resolutely empty. Not good. Microsoft helpfully informed me that it was a 0x8004060C error. Well, of course, Microsoft. Now you’ve said that, it’s all become clear. NOT! Because when I said ‘helpfully’ I was lying.

Lying in much the same way as all the solutions to Error 0x8004060C lied that it was a simple thing to clear – I just needed to make space. In the tangible world, that’s great. When it comes to the ether though, things are less simple. Microsoft and I seem to have very different ways of counting. For every 20 emails I deleted it would reduce the tally by 1. Where did the other 19 go? Did they scamper back into another box to continue to clog the system? And what’s the betting the 1 email of 20 that DID permanently delete will be the one I’m asked to access tomorrow?

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Massive headache induced and lunch foregone, I somehow got through to home time. Great!

I’d not had a chance to physically go shopping for the remainder of Boo’s school uniform for next week. But never mind – I could do it online and have the clothes delivered to the store for the next day. Isn’t online shopping great?

Well, no, actually. Store 1 would only give me an option of ordering to home…and couldn’t deliver for 2 weeks. (One year I’ll be a hyper-ready mum with new uniform sorted before school breaks up…but not this year.) After jumping through the hoops of setting a new password (EVERY. TIME. The only person being kept from accessing my online accounts, it seems, is ME) Store 2 teased me with the option to deliver to store for FREE…and then (and I swear it did this on purpose just to make blood vessels burst for kicks) refused to let me click in the Confirm button for the store I wanted. I ended up picking an inconvenient home delivery option AND paid extra for the non-privilege.

(I WAS going to insert an appropriate funny image here but, appropriately enough, I can’t get it to upload. But of course.)

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Even my beloved WordPress has joined the tech bullies today.

But I did at least get to vent my frustration as I was invited to give feedback. Whoever has the task of reading my thoughts tomorrow, it’s nothing personal, but I was apoplectic at the time. If it’s any consolation, spewing my frustrations did make me feel better. Temporarily.

‘Temporarily’ because I then decided that it would be a good idea to upload some photos from my camera phone. My camera phone that I have to carry around separately to my normal phone because my iPhone’s capacity is full to bursting and I don’t understand my iCloud and how it works.

I thought I was onto a winner. I had the right attachments to connect my camera phone onto the creaking, whirring, slow laptop that Indy donated to me, her creaking, whirring, slow mother. But a cable isn’t enough. I need an admin password AND the internet. I had neither.

We’ll draw that one as a blank too.

And then, the straw that broke the camel’s back, Noodles wanted to watch Despicable Me 2 on DVD. He’d watched it in Boo’s room the night before, but she needed to get ready for bed. I offered to put it on in my room. Even though I have to swap cables around (annoying enough) and Husband has managed to lose the remote (additional annoyance) even I can manage to stick a DVD on.

Except, no.

‘BAD DISC’ the DVD player informed me.

What??! It wasn’t a bad disc last night. How can it be a bad disc, just because I touched it?!?!

Still, it’s ok, because an insert in the DVD box stated that I could stream the film to computer, phone or tablet for free. Another round of password creation and according to Flixster I OWNEDDespicable Me 2. Except…I also owned the actual, physical DVD, but just like the actual, physical DVD, owning it wasn’t the same as BEING ABLE TO PLAY it. I could only access the trailer!!!

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But never mind, because instead Noodles just grabbed the tablet and started tapping away with a technological proficiency that has alluded his inept mum all day.

I’m not sure what the moral here is? Don’t mix a Gluestick with technology – it just gets sticky? Pre-schoolers make the best Tech Support, although you’ve still no chance of understanding them?

All I know is that if I could get this guy round, I’d probably feel a whole lot better:

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But so to bed. Consider me Unplugged.

Grown-Up Kicks

Today is Husband’s and my 10th wedding anniversary. To celebrate we fled from work and the kids and headed to the bright lights of London.

When everything’s been about working and parenting, chores and not getting enough sleep by half, having a full 24 hours alone together and one of the world’s best cities at our feet was bliss, but guilt-inducing, an abundance of options, but a desire just to crash. Not really being able to drink solidly for a complete day and night and no distraction of the kids, would we have enough to talk about?

The guilt didn’t last long. About as long as it took to step across the threshold of Room 11 of the Zetter Townhouse, funnily enough. I swear luxury hotel rooms have magical properties. I suspect it may have something to do with marshmallow-soft pillows and pristine bathrooms.

Things to love about a city escape:

• A different view.

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Looking out across the city, The Shard in the distance. The city at our feet. But the ability to do as much or as little as we want. Too exciting.

• The ability to visit the grown-up attractions.

Not that I necessarily always understand them, mind you. But we opted for some culture at Somerset House.

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A fireplace of cushions may not have been Husband’s thing (he doesn’t understand the need for cushions on a sofa after all, let alone spilling across the floor as art)…

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…but the Return of the Rudeboy exhibition was amazing.

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• Getting dressed up

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• Dining out

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A Wednesday night is instantly transformed into fabulous when it includes a champagne.

• Cocktails

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Just bring on the booze!

• A blissful night’s sleep

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I actually slept so deeply and well I’d recharged by 4am. Still, just being cocooned in crisp, clean cotton was heavenly.

• Breakfast in bed

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Particularly as I rarely get breakfast let alone combined with a lie-in.

• Wallowing in a tub

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Although why are the baths increasingly put in the bedroom? What’s that about? Maybe it’s sexy when it involves young, nubile, lithe bodies…but when middle-age is creeping up, better to keep it behind a closed door.

• REN miniatures

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And yes, I did snaffle them into my suitcase. Obviously.

• Taxidermy boxing kangaroo in the hotel’s dining room

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Ok, that was maybe a little odd.

And, as ever, it was all Husband’s fault. But in a good way this time. Miracles can happen. I blame the hotel room. Literally magical, I tell you.

Funnily enough, with a tiny, or as I prefer, ‘select’ readership, I was in no way bribed to share my enjoyment of the Zetter Townhouse. All opinions are my own. HOWEVER, I’m not above bribery if any luxury hotels ever fancy giving me a freebie stay in return for flattering comments.

Squeaky Floorboard

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Felix is 2 years and 8 months old today. By my calculations, that’s 942 days old.

If we say he’s woken up on average twice a night, I’ve crept out of his room approximately 1884 times over that time.

So how come I still haven’t worked out how to get past the squeaky floorboard on the landing outside his room?!?!

Let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep last night.

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And breathe…

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It’s been a long few days.  A busy few days.  Busy weeks even.  I thought summer holidays were about lazy days and fun?  Only if you’re in the school system I guess.  Otherwise it’s so much more than normal, but with additional guilt for not making the most of the time the kids have got off school.  Bad mum, working, leaving them to laze in their pjs and zone out on various tablets (of the technological sort, that is – drugging my kids as I go off to work would make me a REALLY bad mum – although the effect is pretty much the same, I guess, only with less intervention from social services).

I feel I’ve deserted you too, my lovely Pressers (is that what we are?) and I promise to catch up with you soon.  But for the moment sleep is my precious and there’s little enough of it to go round.  Only a couple of ,more weeks and things will go back to normal.  Well, normal for the Gluestick house, which is probably not normal by others’ standards.

But I do want to catch up on a few things before you fear I’ve cashed in my Mum Points (I’m not sure I’ve written about my Mum Points before – one for my To Blog list) and headed off for the call of a child/Husband-free life spent in a hammock overlooking the ocean/been committed (which is probably more likely to happen than the hammock thing to be honest).

FAMILY DAYS OUT CAN BE A GOOD IDEA – JUST DON’T TAKE HUSBAND

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Our second Mr Bloom encounter of the summer.

Not wanting to jinx things, but it seems Noodles may be coming out of the Tunnel of Toddler Hell  This summer we’ve had not one, but TWO days out that haven’t resulted in him a) having an epic, ear-shattering meltdown or b) just wanting to potter around the outskirts of wherever we’re at, playing in the dirt.  And actually I managed to spend a day at a festival without a) having an epic meltdown or b) just wanting to potter round the outskirts avoiding the dirt.  But it was a kids’ festival (festival-lite) – Lollibop at Hatfield House – and our genetically strong bladders meant we didn’t have to use the portaloos, but it was a genuinely fantastic day.  Boo and Noodles got to see their favourite kids’ TV presenters (Mr Bloom possibly now thinks we’re stalking him…or Noodles now thinks Mr Bloom is stalking us!) they got involved in wand-making, story-telling, pom-pom creating and fleecing Husband and I out of extortionate amounts of cash for chips and ice cream.  

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It was just a shame Husband was the stick-in-the-mud.  Leaving home for a festival that’s a 2 hours’ drive away three minutes before the gates opened meant that we missed a chunk that included Boo’s very VERY favourite TV characters, because a) apparently I’m the only person out of Husband and I who can wrangle the kids, getting them dressed and fed and packing up everything in the world and b) no matter what time we’re due to go anywhere he will always make us wait to leave the house whilst he has a last minute poo!!!  Could he not manage the poo at the same time I’m sorting out everything else?!?!  (OK, it would only have saved us minutes, but it’s EVERY. TIME. and it makes me want to roar at him, which is not the best atmosphere for kicking off a nice family day out.)

And then, once we’re there, he has to flit about, changing our collective plans every second.  ‘Let’s got to the story tent!…Oh, let’s do some craft activities on the way!…Actually, shall we get some candyfloss?’  And if there’s one thing that gets Boo in a tizzy it’s the flitting.  For the sake of saving tears if the original idea is to go to the story tent, then let’s go to the story tent, then do some crafts and then get candyfloss.

And on the topic of food, it’s surely not nice to abandon your wife with the kids under the auspices of getting Noodles a second cone of chips and coming back with lunch for yourself, but nothing for your wife and THEN declaring on the way home that we needn’t stop for anything to eat because YOU’VE eaten already.  

But apart from that, it was a lovely day.  Next time I shall be tempted to leave Husband behind though.

LET’S PAAAAAAARRRRRTY!!! (SECOND TIME LUCKY)

IMG_5592So, the British summer can be sunny, albeit with a spattering of rain, just to elevate the tension as we all sat down to our picnic lunch.  But thankfully the second attempt at Boo’s birthday party was a success and everyone had a great time, not least of all Boo (no tears until the end of the party is a MAJOR step forward!).  OK, I had to make all the sandwiches and cakes all over again (…whilst Husband lazed in until 11 o’clock, because it was a Sunday), I had to organise the party bags for a second time and I exhausted myself entertaining a clutch of children for a couple of hours AGAIN (I can only thank whoever decided that parachutes made great play equipment from the bottom of my heart)…and I think I managed to re-break my toe (tip: if you have a recovering broken toe, chasing after small children whilst wearing flip flops is NOT a good idea – I swear I heard it crunch!).  But the smile on Boo’s face was worth the time, the energy, the money…and the pain.

Typically she already has plans for next year: a vintage garden tea party…again in the park!  I’m putting my order in for sunny weather NOW!  (Anyone know what sacrifices I need to make?  Maybe I should consult Indy. I don’t suppose I could sacrifice Husband rather than a goat, could I?)

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

I sold a house today!  My first!  BOOM! But more of that tomorrow, I think.  I really need to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Hiding Behind the Sofa: Freaky 80s Kids’ TV

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With the sad passing of Robin Williams, Eve, her boyfriend and I were reminiscing about our earliest RW memories. For Eve’s boyfriend it was Mrs Doubtfire for Eve, the genie in Aladdin. And for me, and here I’m showing my age, it was Mork and Mindy.

Not that I particularly ever understood it. When he’d go off to talk to his alien boss it all went over my head. I just liked the funny bits.

But, although I’ve liked a lot of Robin Williams’ work – the Genie in Aladdin, his stand-up, the darker One Hour PhotoMork and Mindy sort of scarred my childhood. I was never 100% comfortable watching it. And, to be honest, I think it was the combination of Mork’s very tight top and excessive body hair. I think somewhere in my mind I kept thinking of that awful sensation when hair gets caught up and it made me cringe. So, for me, it was less ‘Nanu nanu,’ more ‘No no, no no!’

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But Mork and Mindy wasn’t the only show to freak me out, whether due to its aesthetics or the personalities involved. I spent a lot of time cringing and wishing to hide behind the sofa.

DOCTOR WHO – TOM BAKER ERA.

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Doctor Who was a programme whose sole aim seemed to be to have kids cowering behind the sofa. But for me it wasn’t about the monsters and aliens (even if the daleks were properly scary, despite their inability to climb stairs) so much as The Doctor himself. Tom Baker was just a bit too manic and wild-eyed for my delicate sensibilities. It was a massive relief when he morphed into the far more civilised Peter Davison.

ROD HULL AND EMU

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Again, more mania.

My sister and I would love singing ‘There’s somebody at the door, there’s somebody at the door,’ as Grotbags inevitably went to visit Rod in his big pink windmill. (And I still find myself singing it in my head when someone calls round.) But Rod Hull, through the medium of Emu, always took things too far.

I have the utmost respect for Michael Parkinson for laughing through his Emu attack. Had it been me, I’d have been compelled to punch Rod Hull in the face.

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WORZEL GUMMIDGE

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Another grubby old man, put on TV to entertain kids. What was wrong with TV executives in the 1980s? Was the intention to have characters that would make kids recoil so as to make Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris seem like nice people in comparison?

Ok, Worzel Gummidge was a scarecrow, but still, he was just so dirty. And that was before he’d take his head off and swap it for an even more odious character.

The only part I’d like was trying to predict which way he’d fall on his post at the end.

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FENELLA THE WITCH – CHORLTON AND THE WHEELIES

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This one seems fairly innocuous now, but at the time she freaked me out. Mind you, I was only 4 at most. And Fenella was mean. I’ve never liked mean people.

NOSEYBONK – JIGSAW

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Now, this character was so freakin’ scary I’d all but repressed his existence until my Google search for Fenella the Witch threw up an image. AAAAARGH!

How anyone thought he was an appropriate character for kids’ TV is beyond me. Anyone whose appearance is obviously influenced by the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange is just plain WRONG!

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ZELDA – TERRAHAWKS

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Even when she wasn’t bathed in green light, I literally couldn’t stand the sight of Zelda. Terrahawks was my own personal terror, ensuring the TV would immediately be switched off.

My aversion to Zelda is still within me today – my Google image search hasn’t been a pleasant experience. It may explain why I can’t warm to the character of Shirley in EastEnders either.

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Maybe it was all a ploy to get us kids to stop watching too much telly and follow more wholesome pursuits instead. Well, either that or they wanted to give us collective nightmares. I reckon I shall be having some freaky dreams tonight.

And so, to alleviate the childhood images I’ve now scorched onto your retinas, I’ll leave you with this adorable image of Teddy instead:

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In the words of Nick Ross on Crimewatch: ‘Don’t have nightmares.’

It’s Your Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To

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Boo turned 7 at the weekend. Like 7-year-olds should be, she was more than a tad excited about her party, which had been in the planning (in her head) since the day after her 6th party.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t in on the plans…not great considering the plan was for a mass of children to have fairy and pirate fun and games.

I had thought maybe turning to the professionals would help and bought Pippa Middleton’s party book. I just didn’t quite get around to actually reading it in detail. Let’s compare and contrast shall we? Gluestick Mum: once again making the mistakes so you don’t have to.

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It’s All In The Planning

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Eight weeks in the planning? Pah! Boo knew what she wanted to do for her party since the day after her last party! A big party in the park. And it was an idea she stuck to.

Mind you, Pipa may be right, because plans can get bigger and bigger over a 12-month period. At points I wasn’t do sure whether she had a birthday arty in mind or a big fat gypsy wedding.

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‘But, Mummy, those bridesmaids dresses would’ve matched the TinkerBell theme perfectly.’

The invites were out 3 weeks ahead on the dot. I did also put an RSVP date on the invites. Not that everyone did RSVP. Tsk. Pippa doesn’t mention what to do under those circumstances. Do you discount them and risk running short of food and favours if they turn up? Or figure they’re likely to show up and possibly waste money on sandwiches and plastic tut?

Oh, and I also thought I was doing well ordering party supplies a week in advance. Until I found out that 5 working days wasn’t long enough to guarantee delivery from just about everywhere. Not without paying extortionate postage fees. Receiving an email with an estimated delivery date that’s after the party is NOT a welcome sight. Receiving said email from each and every Amazon seller is a one-way ticket to a nervous breakdown! Thankfully each and every package arrived in good time, but it was a tense wait.

More on the rest later. This far I was getting a bit twitchy.

Numbers

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That bit about ‘with your child’s input’ – not such a great idea. In my mind: maybe 10 friends. In Boo’s mind: every single child she’d ever met, even if she didn’t know their name.

And what about brothers and sisters? For my sanity I wanted parents to stay – we were going to be in the park after all. I didn’t want parents turning up at the end only to discover that their child had slipped off unnoticed. Siblings were going to have to be invited too.

The compromise was a guest list of 30. That’s a class size. Having taught in the past, I could handle that. Just as long as it didn’t rain.

Plan B

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The Sunday on/after Boo’s birthday, every year for the past 7 years has been gloriously sunny. The ONE YEAR I didn’t have a robust wet-weather contingency plan Hurricane Bertha’s impact could be felt on British shores. But of course.

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And so on Thursday I had a little panic and postponed the party until the 17th.

Except, obviously, it wasn’t that easy. In these days of mobile technology and social media I still didn’t have any way of contacting some of the parents. Unless they called me (I had had the sense to put my number on the invitations) there was no way to put them off. The only solution would be to hold a mini indoor party on the original date and a second for most kids a week later (when space at home wouldn’t need to be an issue – hopefully!)

But it was now getting complicated. The fact that my text wasn’t immediately clear as to exactly what I meant wasn’t a help. Some were ok with the change. Some had other plans. (Including me one friend reminded me! Oops!) Some got confused. And some just didn’t reply. At this point I wanted to cry. The party on the 10th could have anywhere between 5 guests and 16! That’s some margin of error to plan around.

Now, back to that schedule…

Two days ahead I should have a lot of the food sorted and the cake made. In theory. Not happening when in actuality I was driving across the country, back from my sister’s house, in thunderstorms…

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…and then going out for a boozy meal with my dancing friends.

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No party preparation was happening on the Friday.

Worse, the day ahead, when I should have been on it in terms of being organised and pre-prepared, I had a mad dash into town looking for party favours before heading to my cousin’s baby shower. Sitting in the sunshine cooing at teeny tiny baby shoes may have been lovely, but it didn’t help with my own party prep.

Once again I really could have done with a duplication machine.

In the end I sat up until 3am making cakes of various shapes and sizes, filling party bags and drawing a pile of treasure maps by hand, because technology never does as it should in our house and I didn’t have the know-how or patience to set the scanner up to the laptop without throwing something (possibly myself) out of the window in rage. Still, the maps looked ok.

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The cupcakes seriously sunk in the middle however, but could possibly be rescued with shrewd icing in the morning. No way was I going to tackle a piping bag at 3am though. It only would’ve ended in tears and I’d already had a Bake Off moment when I realised I’d forgotten to add a third of the flour to the main cake. (As it turns out, it’s ok to add it 10 minutes after the batter’s gone in the oven, although the resulting bubbling can look a bit worrying. Eve commented on how light the cake was though when she ate her slice, so maybe, actually, I’ve stumbled on something, although I wouldn’t recommend it.)

Needless to say, on the day itself I was behind. I iced the cakes. The fairy cupcakes actually looked all right.

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The main cake looked a little more (not in a good way) ‘special’, although I swear it was to Boo’s specifications.

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The rest of the morning was spent making sandwiches, chopping salad and doing a very very last minute dash to the out-of-town supermarket for donuts and helium. Juggling a sandwich on the move with trying to get hold of a friend who was being particularly needy, I ended up running out of time to blow the balloons up with the helium. Oh well. The giant TinkerBell poster made up for a lack of balloons. (Although that may not be such a good thing as the way Husband has nailed it to the living room wall I can see it being a feature wall at least until Christmas.)

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Helpers

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Knowing that Husband is pretty much a chocolate teapot when it comes to all matters relating to parties, I knew that I was pretty much going to do it all single-handed. However, due to the change of location and the inability to let all the guests know about it, I needed someone to head over to the park to round anyone who arrived bemused at a lack of party. Funnily enough, no one was overly keen to attempt to approach strangers in a park. Nevertheless, the task fell to Husband as the person least likely to need a CRB check in the future, so being suspicious in the park was less of a risk for him. I suspect however that he may have just hidden out in the pub, sending only one family our way.

Total guests for the party, not including family: 4. That’s quite a difference from 16, let alone 30!

Party Games

Now, having been a party entertainer in the past, here I’m ok. Still with a stash of equipment and an ability to twist a game to fit a theme I felt confident.

Except…
– Having only 6 children in total a lot of the games became a bit trickier. Especially when three of the six were toddlers without a clear appreciation of rules.
– Noodles freaked out at the parachute games, thus taking the numbers from six to five.

Still, the others enjoyed themselves. Handing out lots of tiny prizes and not eliminating kids from games seemed to do the trick.

Food

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Here I was with Pippa. Lunchboxes seemed like the way forward when it came to the food. Easy!

But Pinterest had tempted me with TinkerBell-themed edible treats. Who wouldn’t want to tuck into marshmallow and apple toadstools…

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…or Jumbo Acorns?

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Except time, money and ability restraints meant that instead our little guests got a sandwich, Babybel cheese, crisps, crudités bag and mini donuts. It seems Boo isn’t the only one who can dream big, only for reality to end up being far more mundane. Maybe when I’ve got that duplication machine I can duplicate Mary Berry and Martha Stewart. Or maybe I should change my name to something beginning with ‘M’ and I’d instantly become a homemaking, baking creations marvel.

The prospect of a fridge-full of leftover delights would have been a lot more tempting than 10 individually-wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches too.

Party Bags

A year in the planning, prep into the early hours and more money spent than I intended, after two hours the party was over.

Just one last issue: the handing out of party bags. Guest and weather issues aside, what to put in the party bags gives me the biggest headache, not helped by Pinterest having gorgeous ideas like these:

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But which I can’t then source. And I’m buggered if I’m going to spend most of the party budget on things that end up in the bin. When planning for 30 kids, that racks up far too quickly.

Not least when you think you’ve scored a result in Claire’s Accessories buying two stacks of glitter (or in our world ‘pixie dust’) only to realise the lid of one pot was the base of the pot on top if it. Truthfully the parents should thank me for my mistake/their near-miss as the glitter has been all over our house since.

I guess it’s easier when your parents own a party supplies company (as Pippa Middleton’s do). But for all the frustration and faffing on my part, everyone had a good time, not least of all Boo, who actually copes better in small numbers, rather than large groups.

And I think I’ve just about recovered…except I’ve got to do it all over again on Sunday! I really just hope it doesn’t rain! The forecast has literally just changed from ‘sunny’ to ‘cloudy’, so I can but keep my fingers crossed.

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And next year I’m definitely making sure I have everyone’s phone number. Or at least not holding the damn thing outdoors!

Edit:
What makes Pippa Middleton such an expert at throwing kids’ parties? I’m not sure, but her appearance in Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby! by Martha Mumford has to be the best representation of her ever:

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Shopping Haul

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The Trafford Centre, Manchester: setting of today’s temptation.

Our debit card, who art in thy wallet
Generous by thy limit.
Thy kingdom come,
The mall will be done
In Zara as much as Hamley’s.
Give us this day our shopping fix
And forgive us our overspending
As we forgive those who overspend with us.
And deliver us not into Primark.
For the mall is our kingdom.
Bargains be our glory.
Forever and ever
Amex.