Sobriety, pootling and starting the fight for Fin.


So, we are now eleven days into the hell that is the Cancer Research UK Dryathlon with only twenty one long, sober days to go.

But, is it really the ‘hell’ I thought it would be?

Well…no. In fact, I appear – at my ripe old age – to have turned something of a corner.

I feel brilliant. Seriously. I am sleeping so much better, I am waking refreshed (albeit with hazy memories of some truly bizarre and sometimes rather unsettling dreams) and ready to tackle a hour or so of home-schooling with the Child Made Entirely of Stroppiness And Playstation 2 Addiction (more about this below). The bags under my eyes large enough to bring home the weekly shop are vastly diminished, and I have lost weight. It’s probably water retention, I don’t care. I have discovered that my backside has ACTUALLY CHANGED SHAPE, my wobbly thighs are seeing an improvement in the cellulite (I’m really painting a glamorous picture of myself here, aren’t I?), and I actually did up a pair of size 10 hipster bell-bottom jeans without feeling as though I was about to pass out. It’s all good.

The biggest change, however, seems to be in my overall attitude to life and the little curve-balls it sometimes like to hurl at our heads. I am so much more chilled out about things that, a few weeks ago, would have irritated me to the point of me breaking out in hives, or sent me into paroxyms of indignant rage. Like having my wallet stolen last week, leaving the boys and I stranded in Hamilton until a wonderful friend heard my Facebook plea and came to our rescue; like the latest nonsense from Fin’s nursery; like the fact that I am still receiving eight or nine calls a day asking me about claiming back the PPI I have never, ever, taken out.

I like this new me. She’s rather nice. She’s calm, and collected, and laid-back. She’s stopped getting into pointless arguments on forums. She rather likes peace, and tranquility and reading. (I have just finished Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’, which was staggeringly good. I am now wading through Umberto Eco’s ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ which isn’t quite such an easy read, but oddly compelling, despite me not understanding half of it because it involves psychics and stuff). She likes walking, and being outdoors, and gets far more done in a day than she used to.

OK. I’ll shut up now. But remember you can donate to my Dryathlon sponsorship here.….or else I might keep wittering on about how bloody marvellous I am feeling each day for the next twenty one days.


My new-found energy resulting from the drop in bodily toxins plus some unseasonably mild weather has led to me ditching my old-lady afternoon nap in favour of a bit of old-fashioned pootling at the Community Garden. You know how much I like a good pootle. I thrive on it.

It’s still a little early to be sowing seeds with gay abandon unless you have access to heated cold-frames, particularly as reports suggest that we may be plunged into temperatures of minus 15 celsius by the weekend; and I am saving my seed catalogues for a particularly decadent evening; but there is always work to be done at the garden. Both the outdoor and indoor beds have been thoroughly cleared, weeded and given a dressing of Fish, Blood and Bone. I have left my miniscule sprouts and red cabbage in situ in the outdoor bed for now, by my reckoning they should be ready by 2016. Sadly, all my crop of leeks bolted, and were completely unsalvageable, so have been turned into compost.

I am now on a mission to tidy and clean Polytunnel 1. This is the one we use for sowing and growing on plants for the garden members to buy to plant in their beds, and also for the flowers we use to create hanging baskets and other displays for the village. It’s a busy little place during the season, and one of my favourite places in the World. Having been pretty much dormant for the past three months, it is in dire need of a good clear out; seed and plant trays need washing so we can recycle them for this coming season; and at some point we will need to blast the outside with a water-jet to remove some of the moss and detritus from the overhanging trees that affect the light levels within the polytunnel. I am making good head-way, and very much enjoying just pottering around at the garden. You know, whilst I can. Before we are under five foot of snow.

A group of us gardening, pootling types have set up a Facebook group called Gardening Shenanigans . If you are on Facebook, and fancy a blether about sowing, growing, potting, pootling and generally moaning about the weather, you are very welcome to join us. Just request to join (it’s a ‘Closed Group’ to avoid spammers and general ne’er do wells) and one of the gatekeepers will let you in.


As the children returned to school and nursery, it was time to get Fin back into the routine of working at home. Remember, this is the unruly, unco-operative child who ‘cannot do anything properly’, according to one (and I stress one) of his nursery teachers.

We have started slowly. I am aiming for just half an hour of activities at the kitchen table, anything that engages him for longer is a lovely bonus. The aim is to bring him up to speed with where he ought to be for his age, difficult though it is to find a definitive benchmark for what your average just-gone-four-year-old should be able to achieve without difficulty.

We have surpassed our thirty minute target every day. We have been mostly concentrating on drawing and making patterns, to aid Fin with his pencil control in preparation for starting to write. Just over the course of a week, I have seen improvements in his drawing, with his pictures now actually looking like more than a frustrated scribble. He is writing his own name confidently. I discovered, to my chagrin, that he knows how to type his name, and his brother’s name, and post it to Facebook. He has completed his maths workbook which is aimed at children up to the age of five. He seems happier about going into nursery – his speech at home, and with certain nursery friends, I feel, has also improved dramatically and he is now quite confidently speaking three or four sentences at a time – for the first time, we are hearing about what happened at nursery, about games he has been playing. His stories show a keen sense of humour, a beautiful sense of childish mischief that I do not wish to see stifled.

I await my next meeting with his teacher (the one that feels he cannot do anything properly) with a certain degree of trepidation. She is not happy that I am working with him at home, as she feels that ‘undermines’ what they are doing with him at nursery. It would appear that, to her, learning to write is more important than, first, learning to sit still and concentrate. He is clearly not working to her timescale, and therefore he is a write-off, despite being extremely good at arithmetic, noticing patterns, and anything computer based. (Yes, I hear the screams of ‘autism’ from here – I hear them. She doesn’t. She thinks he is just a ‘bad child’. For the record, I believe he has a degree of Attention Deficit Disorder). It has obviously not dawned on her that he may need to learn to sit quietly and hold his pencil before he can manage the beginnings of cursive writing. I have suggested that she is expecting him to run before he can walk. She fixed me with that supercillious ‘I have a teaching qualification and you don’t’ smile. It would appear that being a child’s parent counts for very little these days. How DARE I profess to know my own child better than she does?

I always want him to know that he is, indeed, smarter than he thinks. I honestly believe he may be smarter than anyone thinks. When it comes to his future, I intend to be braver, and stronger, than I think.

I will be silenced no more.

There will be a more detailed post about Fin next week, I hope, once the Health Visitor has come around for his ‘review’. Next week is a busy week for me, involving the forementioned visit from the HV; my eye-test; my sale of a kidney to pay for the glasses I dare say I need;  my haemotology appointment where I discover whether my bone-marrow is still confounding medical science; and an interview with a lovely St Andrews Undergraduate who is studying the role of community gardens in today’s society.

Honestly, I feel like a grown-up.


Fings wot start wiv F, and other reasons for blog-writing tardiness

OK, I’ve procrastinated enough this week. Every day I have sat down with the full intention of writing something only to suffer from an attack of ADOS – ‘Attention Defici…Oooooh, shiny’ and before I have had a chance to drag myself back on course it has been time to retreat to the bedroom with some diabolical reality TV and a bottle of Co-Op’s finest Vino Collapso.

The wonderful, hilarious and annoyingly talented @betamother suggested (via Twitter, because we are dahn wiv deh kidz and all that), with her usual brilliance, that I blog about the five reasons why I have not written my blog this week. OK, she said ten. She’s wordier than I am. And not half so lazy. I have officially ‘misread’ her tweet as five reasons. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. I highly expect this to become a recurrent theme.

(Speaking of themes, this most definitely needs accompaniment, click here for the perfect soundtrack.)

Number 5

Crafting. Yes, you read that right. ‘Crafting’. I’ve gone all Kirstie Allsopp again in an attempt to save a bit of money this Christmas, and have lovingly botched presents for my sister, my mum and my dad. Obviously, I can’t show you pictures of my divine creations as my crafting skills would leave you so jealous of my talents that you’d never read my blog again, and also because I don’t want to shatter their belief in Father Christmas.

Number 4

Panicking about Christmas.

This is self explanatory. I’ve done it every year since I became an adult. It started off as a mild wibble around mid November which was quickly calmed with an afternoon of grabbing random items off shelves in John Lewis. Since having the children, however, the panic starts to rise around the first week of July, at roughly the same time as I realise we’re not going to have a summer again. It means that I have plenty of rainy summer days to browse Amazon and buy gifts in a thoughtful and financially sensible manner. You know, like a rational person. OK, a rational person who is allergic to real shops.

This year, somehow, I woke up in the middle of October and realised that it was no longer July, nor had it been July for quite a few months. A quick check of the bank balance then had me trying to work out how to split £2.73 twelve ways. Believe me, it’s not easy.

See this? This is Dante's seventh circle of Hell.

See this? This is Dante’s seventh circle of Hell.

It’s getting there. I completed a ten minute smash-and-grab for the children last Saturday whilst I tried to block out the terrible knowledge that their dad had taken them to McDonalds (as it was cheaper than Sainsburys cafe, AND THEY GET A TOY). Needs must when the devil drives, and all that.

Number 3

Trying to knock some form of education into Captain Calamity

At least this has been great fun. All things considered, we’ve had an excellent week, despite an intial frustrating setback when I discovered that his speech and language therapy will stop next week (after just five sessions), and he will get added to another list for another block, with a different therapist as his adored Kelly is leaving the clinic. Add to this the fact that his keyworker at nursery is on sick-leave for the foreseeable future and he currently has two part-time temporary keyworkers; and you will see why I have really decided to take things into my own hands as far as some of the things he struggles with are concerned.

We are concentrating primarily on ‘maths’ (which he is great at, but I’m including it as a way of helping him gain confidence), literacy, communication and fine motor skills. This involves copious amounts of plasticine, glue, scrap paper, magazines, board games, flour and patience.

What we did this week.

What we did this week.

This week we have been talking about Winter, and Christmas. We have been on a squirrel-spotting nature walk, trips to the shops on the bus, and to the library. We have baked biscuits and washed up. We have fed, and watched, the birds. We have danced and sung songs. We have done mazes, and dot-to-dots, and counting, and made our family from plasticine. We have collected and stuck things (or photos of things) beginning with F (for Fin, of course) onto cardboard. We have been Gruffalo children, and aliens, and fish in the sea, and dogs, and Dr Finlay and his patient. For a while, my right leg was the door to Fin’s fire engine.

We’ve had fun.

Number 2

Masterchef: The Professionals, and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

There is no excuse for this. At all. None whatsoever. But it does give me the perfect excuse to post this.

Number 1

Wine. (Deserved. Really. No…really…)


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