Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Mary and Bright


Ding Dong Merrily on High! In a change to recent posts I am on a wave of happiness and good feeling. Even the magpies have changed their tune - I am now seeing far more couples and only the odd, ominous singleton. It may well be that I am seeing the same two magpies over and over again as I walk in a circle around the same streets day after day after day but even so, they are giving me a jolly boost with their promise of joy. And so far they are being true to their word.

Ted has had two good days at nursery with his behaviour which is fantastic news. Normally, I pick him up and ask the dreaded question 'how has he been?' to which they pull a face and the older, more forgiving woman says 'he definitely tried today' whereas the other, younger woman says 'not the best' and then goes on to list his major crimes. However on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week they both concurred that he had been very well behaved! The first time in about a month or longer if you include 'going in well' and not screaming. His behaviour at home has been marginally improved - sometimes outstanding and sometimes hideous. He is the only three year old I have had who decided to give the newly installed 'non-drop ' (HA BLOODY HA) Christmas tree a thorough hair cut or take pleasure in writing on the sofa and walls in felt tip on a weekly basis but he isn't waking at 5am every day now and is far less violent so I shall take the good where I can. I even had a break from him as K took him to his mother'son Sunday. He is far easier to love in his absence.

As well as magpies the streets have given me plenty to be happy about - I seem to be on a bit of a role with finding great stuff people have thrown out. So far I have acquired a £50 micro scooter, a mamas and papas baby walker in excellent condition and a fantastic baby Einstein activity centre which only needed a quick once over with dettol. These kind of things make me fantastically happy. Things for free (and I hasten to add there was either a sign saying 'please take' or they were quite clearly left on the pavement to be taken - I promise I didn't just swipe them whilst the owner was loading their car and had momentarily left their belongings) is like winning a competition. A lot of the things in our house were free at the point of consumption. Sofas, cupboards, radiator covers, chairs and an awful lot of toys. I'm not as bad as the old folks over the road who couldn't quite cope when their late friend's house next door was having a complete renovation by the new owners and removed the carpet and underlay from the skip as well as blinds and light fittings etc. I was exceptionally grateful that they were on holiday when the loo made an appearance on top of the skip. They didn't even need the carpet and underlay but pulled up their own carpet to put the underlay underneath just to 'make use of it'. I am not that bad but I do love a good freebie. (And yes I briefly flirted with Freecycle and got involved but I never managed to get anything I wanted as I was always too late and ended up with an awful lot of stuff that I really didn't need, sometimes travelling to great lengths to get it so I weaned myself off the email updates pretty quickly.)  In further free stuff excitement I have also completed my Christmas shopping for the children, largely thanks to our Tesco vouchers. I saved them all year (as did my mother) and doubled them in the exchange scheme and yet again I have received £200 worth of plastic excitement for absolutely nothing. I was almost giddy with glee. New stuff for free is even better than old stuff for free.

Thursday morning was a slight misery due to a ridiculously early start but yet again the magpies delivered and as I stumbled in to playgroup tripping over Ted and lugging the great fat Cybil in her car seat on my arm, the Rev made a beeline for me and proclaimed that 'I had the perfect holy family' and 'would I be a Virgin Mary?'. Well my heart clear leaped - it may shock you to know but I have never, ever (ever) been asked to be a Virgin Mary. I hate being the centre of attention (again this is shocking) and so I make a pretty terrible actress (seriously I can't even lie convincingly) and only ever had background parts in school productions. It could also be because in one Nativity production at my primary school, I was so busy looking out at the audience for my mother, I forgot to look for the gap between the main stage and the steps leading up to it and so fell sharply down it. As an adult I can see how funny it must have been, to see a small child in a white sheet and a tinsel halo disappear down an unseen hole right in front of you but as the child concerned it was a. painful and b. hideously embarrassing as I saw every single person in the packed hall wet themselves with laughter. It has scared me for life. There was one notable exception when I was about 10 and I played Good King Wenceslas for a Christmas concert and got to walk around the stage for the entirety of the song with a crown and mum's fur coat on, holding a brace of dead pheasants. Other than that I have been very much a background actress and so, you can imagine my pure joy at finally being asked to be the MAIN PART at the grand old age of 34. I looked down at my 34yr old body and wondered if it was my heaving bosom or my matronly girth that finally made me the perfect Virgin Mary but alas, it was just that I had given birth recently so had a ready made Jesus and I had a boy child who would 'do' as Joseph. I was only Virginal enough due to my prolific procreation. Oh the irony. So, happiness restored, I set about informing all the mothers that I would finally be playing the part I was born to play, when some party pooper reminded me that my grand performance clashed with G's carol singing/non-nativity production at the school. GUTTED. I briefly and desperately tried to work out a way in which I could do both and perhaps see the singing/non-nativity on the Friday - but that clashed with Ted's nursery Christmas party. I didn't think I could miss either (even though the odds are that G won't actually sing a bloody thing) just so that I could finally fulfil my calling on the acting front. Plus, although the lovely Reverend Carol had instructed me to 'dress up' and asked that Ted didn't come dressed as Superman, Spiderman or indeed a Witch on this occasion, it really is just a brief run through of the 'main event' before the children sing Away in a Manger and not a particularly formal 'production' of the Nativity, and so it would be particularly inappropriate to miss either of the boys' Christmas events just so that I could enjoy a few minutes of playgroup fame sitting on a chair in front of the collected group of children and carers dresssed as the Virgin Mary. Actually, my sacrifice is particularly seasonal - Jesus and I clearly have an awful lot in common.

So, free stuff, Christmas shopping and nearly-a-Virgin again all set me up nicely for a Seasonal weekend.  The school had their Christmas Fair on Friday night which was even better as I didn't have to attend thanks to C as an excuse - it is far too crowded and busy to get a buggy around and she hates the baby carrier and so do I as she is so heavy - so I sent Bea with a friend and G with K who had to leave work early - but it was worth all their sacrifice as I luxuriated at home awaiting the cake I had ordered K to buy. Cake is an important yard stick of how your school is doing by the way. I have a 'Three C' policy to tell if your local state school is 'up and coming'. The first C is cake. When Bea first started at the school, the cake sales were small and the cakes on offer were mainly shop bought cheap ones that were sold off for 5 or 10p with a few notable exceptions from enthusiastic mothers who had put time and effort in to making some fabulous cakes that were sold off for the princely sum of 20p. Three years on and the cake sales now span across two to three tressle tables, you can't buy anything for less than 50p and everything is home made - mostly from a Nigella book and signposted to tell you so and the Brownies are made with Green and Black's chocolate. It is the stuff of a cake addict's dream. I spent over £5 at the last sale. (I went back on three separate occassions so as not to arouse suspicion or unfavourable views from the mothers on selling duty). So the first C is cake - good Nigella cake is a sure sign that the yummy mummy middle classes have moved in to the area in their droves. The Second C is for coats. I have a particular weakness for buying childrens' coats and therefore am able to spot a Joules/Boden/Cyrillus/Monsoon coat at fifty paces. If you can see a good splattering of middle class coats on the children going in to school then your school is definitely 'up and coming'.  The last C is for Cars. I don't mean judging them for their price tag - this is a state school, not a private school where such things matter. At an up-and-coming state school you need children dropped off in their beautiful Boden coats either on foot/scooter or on a bike. Being eco-friendly is very middle class. I once went to a school where the entire 'No Parking' yellow zig zag area outside the school was covered with cars, parked directly underneath the signs pleading with them to 'show you care, park elsewhere' - clearly NOT up and coming.  You see how it works? Middle class parents 'care'. In fact, at a state school around here, seeing a new shiny Range Rover Sport or BMW X5 is not a good sign, the fewer you see of these outside the school gates, the better. (I have gone in to brackets here as I don't want to be chastised by anyone but come on - everyone knows these are the favoured cars of  drug dealers - don't shoot me for pointing it out).  So, there you have it, my Three C's to judging if your local state school is good enough for your precious offspring. Cake, Coats and Cars. I should charge for such wisdom - you are very lucky to get such gems for free.

I should actually confess that the other reason I was pleased not to go to the Christmas fair (I did buy raffle tickets in advance and donate half the contents of our playroom to the cause just in case you thought badly of me) was that I was a little bit pissed. I know. It's not something I wear as a badge of honour, more of total bemusement. I have been a little 'merry' before after a Ladies lunch but I am ashamed to say I was a little beyond a little merry after ACTUAL champagne and not Cava was served at Blonde Bombshell's lunch. It was thrown in honour of her youngest's fourth birthday and I had tried to cut back on what I ate in the lead up to the lunch so the first few glasses of bubbly made contact with an empty stomach and therefore went straight to my head. The rest were consumed sitting down and I lost count of the number of times her or her husband 'topped up' my glass. By the time I stood up to go I realised that the lunch hadn't gone nearly far enough in soaking up the liquid and I was a bit squiffy. I had to work incredibly hard to force my brain in to sober mode as I picked up the children from school (including the extra child which I feel particularly guilty about - it would be terrible if my drinking caused any harm to come to my own children let alone one that wasn't mine and whose parents had assumed I would be sober at pick up time). By the time I made it back with them all, the concentrating on acting sober had given me a substantial headache and I suddently found the floor appealing so I lay down on it and asked G to look after C whilst Ted laid down with me, sharing my pillow. I told them I had drunk too much and needed to lie down for a bit. G asked if i was drunk. I didn't answer. It is hard to explain the difference between drunk and squiffy to a 6 year old. I definitely wasn't drunk. The great think about drinking too much at lunch though, is that the hangover comes whilst you are asleep and by the following morning I was feeling an awful lot better and was ready to welcome the arrival of our Christmas Tree with open arms. (FYI Cybil seemed to show no ill effect from the drinking - I don't think everything I drink goes straight down my throat and in to hers via the boob - I'm pretty sure it is all quite separate thanks to the stomach and digestive system etc and the boobs themselves producing the milk, not my stomach).

So the tree arrived, was swiftly erected by K who, for once, knew exactly where the tree stand was and, for once, was not still holding the old Christmas tree within it outside in the garden. The Christmas decorations were retrieved from the loft, a light up train was dropped off from a friend and now the living room has a very pleasing 'grotto' theme. There are an awful lot of flashing lights and it smells delightfully of 'tree'. And most importantly there are four stockings hanging up this year. I am SO over excited. I can't wait to see their faces. I have done particularly well with my shopping and I can't wait for Ted's reaction in particular - he may be the hardest to look after but he also the most enthusiastic when receiving gifts and I have gone spectacularly Spider-man-tastic so he should be the happiest he has ever been. AND we are, for the first time ever, planning to enjoy a Christmas Eve family celebration at Newly Married Sister's posh flat in North London. I really am a tad too excited for someone of my age about the whole thing. I will go before I gush anymore. It must be the hormones - I am normally far more cynical about the whole thing. K and I aren't even exchanging gifts this year due to budget restrictions, and I am still excited. I am so like that boy from the John Lewis advert last year.

Ooh, Tesco is here I have to go. He brings with him more happiness in the shape of Diet Coke, Wine and chocolate biscuits. It is hard to imagine life getting any better.

                                           Photo by aliciatindall