good mummy league

It’s rather strange being a physical mummy again. Of course you don’t ever stop being one – the worrying, the advice, the listening ear – but for about 4 months I have been a ‘virtual mum’ to our three children. Contactable only via Skype, Facebook or even What’s app… I have seen their faces on a computer screen, sometimes happy and excited, occasionally a bit stressed or worried, and often just wanting to catch-up, let me know all is well and for them to check-up on us.

Now there is someone asleep upstairs who calls me ‘mum’, amongst other strange names, and who lies in, waiting for me to take up a cup of tea in the morning. It is good to have him here, to share meals, jokes and talk face to face without worrying if the internet will give up or he will have to rush off somewhere.

Being a mum is something I’m still learning about. I’ve felt myself standing at the starting blocks as the other ‘mummy runners’ beside me have streaked ahead…from carrying the first newborn out of hospital and into the car feeling totally unqualified to look after the tiny human being in our care, to thinking what to put in a school lunchbox and how to organise interesting school holiday activities that didn’t involve putting on a Disney film! There are quite a few ‘hero mums’ that I have looked up to over the years, several of them army wives…

There’s the ‘enthusiast mum’, who has endless energy with her children and others for that matter. Struggling with flu symptoms, didn’t deter her from dosing up on paracetamol and organising a tea party for the children, while she cleaned the house at the same time. Everything was tackled with boundless enthusiasm and energy, and her patience when fights broke out or there were moans over food, seemed never ending. Taking the children to her house, meant I could sit back and enjoy the entertainment, trying not to feel inadequate.

‘Earth mother’ is another one I’ve admired. The whole house is dedicated to children and there are usually plenty of them. While she is breast feeding one on the settee, she will be supervising a huge Lego construction with the older two and reading to another cuddled in beside her. As for school lunch boxes, she is queen of these. There will be fruit and chunks of raw vegetables, homemade cookies and wait for it, little messages and jokes hidden inside…at this point I might as well resign and sign them up for school dinners. Not only does she excel at packed lunches, she also carries everything you could possibly need in her handbag, from glue and scissors, to spare pants, a packet of drink and little boxes of raisins ( Please note: not sweets). The garden is bound to have a sand pit and a den or even a tree house. We did succeed in having a tree house in one house, but this only revealed my lack of ‘good mummy’ qualifications, as one of them created a urinal made from an old Hoover tube, with unpleasant outcomes, while another child fell out and broke his arm…so much for healthy outdoor play.

There was also ‘education mummy’. She is not one to stand beside at the school gate. You can guarantee she will know telepathically when it’s going to rain and as the first spots start falling, she will pull out that fold away umbrella and two mini rain macs for her children as they run through the playground for shelter. Rather than mislaying the numerous school letters scattered all around the house, she will have noted all the relevant dates and deadlines in her diary and will remember to send the children with harvest donations on the correct day as well as ensuring they don’t wear uniform on mufti days. Unlike mine who frequently raced up the drive as school was starting shouting, “It’s mufti – I need a £1 too”, as they shot up the stairs to unearth clean jeans and a un-ironed top.

So, judging from ‘top mums’ I have known, I’m probably looking at a fail on organisation – my children were still quite young when they were forced to make their own packed lunches or starve! At one point I had letters for three different schools to contend with. I managed to find all the important dates a week after the event and arrived consistently late to anything from parent teacher meetings to Christmas concerts. As for enthusiastically organising extra curricular activities, I might have scraped a pass with making my own play dough and the odd baking afternoon, but that would be weighed against the amount of film quotes the children can now recite.

Still, pass or fail in the ‘good mum league’, I prefer ‘real’ mum to ‘virtual’ every time…roll on that January reunion with all three.

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cold showers and poison

My life has been under threat in two different ways over the past week. I was in danger of getting hypothermia and poisoning myself at the same time, but it’s all been for a good cause – in the name of saving money and reducing the household budget.

I’ve had my share of cold showers over the years, but the last few weeks have been stretching it a bit. You see we have solar power to warm the water here and most of the year that means piping hot showers all day. As the seasons change and the hours of sunlight are reduced the water is no longer hot in the morning and hot showers have to be grabbed in the afternoon, but not too late, or that tank on the roof has cooled off again. This is all very well, but what about the odd cloudy day? Of course there is no hot water. We do have an easy solution to the lack of sunshine though. It’s called an immersion heater. Switch it on and in half an hour you have lovely hot water again.

You might be wondering why I’ve been having cold showers. It isn’t because we don’t have an immersion heater, or that it has broken. It’s just that somebody – let’s call him Chicken Licken (CL) – is too stingy to use it and claims the cost of using it will be prohibitive and that ‘the sky will fall in’ when the next electricity bill arrives.

I’ve been patient about this for a while, humouring CL and doing my best to understand his ‘electricity bill’ phobia. However, this week it reached tipping point and after two or three days of shiver-inducing cold showers in the morning, I ran upstairs and flicked the switch, much to his distress, but we both enjoyed a hot shower for a few minutes. Although, there was sighing and nashing of teeth about the cost..

The problem is immersion heaters are not the only factor that may make ‘the sky fall in’…it seems paying for vegetables now comes into that category.

CL recently had a little windfall when two sacks of potatoes literally fell off the back of a lorry in front of him. Not wanting to waste them, they were bundled into the back of the car and brought home. Now Cyprus potatoes are the best and we’ve been enjoying them for months. They make amazing chips and are also delicious mashed or roasted. These didn’t look like the ones we’d been buying from the shops, they were smaller and there was a lack of red mud. But they were free and there were lots of them and more importantly, we weren’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I promptly peeled a few for that evening’s meal.  Later on the bags were stored in the shed and I continued cooking them for a few days.

The threat of rain meant the sacks were back in the kitchen within a week, and that was when we noticed some of the potatoes were sprouting roots. On closer examination the wording on the sacks seemed to indicate they were from Holland. Pausing, potato peeler in hand, I said.. “I hope they’re the edible kind of potatoes and not  just for planting… perhaps it doesn’t matter – aren’t all potatoes edible?”  A small portion of the smooth skinned spuds were bubbling away in a pot ready to be roasted later. “I wonder….” said CL and went off to google the name on the bags and the company where they were from. Munching on them later, we decided they tasted OK and hoped for the best.

The next day an email appeared from Holland, advising us that these were in fact ‘seed potatoes’ for planting and had been treated with various chemicals, so best not to eat them…oops! Bit late for that. CL reluctantly agreed to pass the sacks onto a friend with a bit of land who could use them for planting, rather than cooking and I went off to buy…yes purchase and pay for that is…a bag of Cyprus potatoes that would not poison us.

So, after a slow poisoning incident and too many cold showers, I am counting myself lucky to be alive!

The electricity bill hasn’t arrived yet, so not sure if the sky will fall in when it drops into our letter box. But we have now figured out how to use the gas boiler, which is a sheer delight. I can turn on the tap day or night and out pours hot water! Life is full of luxuries, like hot showers and poison-free potatoes.