23. Village survival – turning up in France.

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We were going on holiday! The suitcases were packed (attention burglars) my laptop was well hidden because I had no intention of taking it with us or doing any writing on my novel while we were away. We had decided to swap one parochial village for another – in France. Anna (local best friend) had recommended that we stay at her Uncle Nigel’s gite in St Helene near La Rochelle (disclaimer, nowhere bl**dy near La Rochelle). Lottie looked eagerly over my shoulder as I booked the accommodation online.

“What’s a git?” she exclaimed excitedly.

“It’s pronounced ‘jsheett’,” I informed her, which to be fair sounded a bit like a rude word  too. The accommodation looked perfect so we emailed Uncle Nigel and booked a week. The facilities included a pool/piscine (pronounced piss-in of course, lets hope there was no piss-in?) and an outdoor pizza oven within a grassy jardin all in a provincial setting. Sounded like a home from home apart from the swimming pool, pizza oven and grassy jardin (ours is 99% dandelions)….err so just the provincial setting then!!

After an uneventful flight we arrived at La Rochelle Airport where we were welcomed by dazzling sunshine and a cobalt blue cloudless sky. It was 30 degrees and a glorious dry heat. We waddled over to the car hire portacabins with all our baggage to look for the Renault Megane that I’d pre-booked. There were rows and rows of Renault and Peugeot. Car nepotism/patriotism – whatever – we’d have been merde out of luck if we had fancied hiring a Honda. I queued behind all the other Brits who were sweating profusely and fanning themselves ineffectually with their passports while Ted took the kids to find some shade. Eventually I arrived at the head of the queue ready to be served by Michel with his bright yellow polo shirt and bored disposition. I spoke to him in French, Michel eyed me up, and thought to himself….

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He had already sized up my inadequate French speaking abilities and he momentarily savoured his two choices. He could either continue speaking to me in French (speeded up of course) or switch to thickly accented but semi fluent English. He went French rapide, gabbling at me whilst flitting through the car hire form. He then marched me outside to view the vehicle and admire the shininess and complete lack of dents and scratches. On he gabbled, trilling away at me, of course by then My GCSE French had tapped me on the shoulder and said “Err non! I don’t think so love. You might have got a passable ‘B’ grade but let’s face it you were always crap at French Aural and what exactly does he want your credit card for?”  And so I had to revert to English shamefaced. Michel had won, he and I could smell his victory like Boursin on baguette (actually that was probably just his after-lunch breath). We packed up the Megane with all our baggage, it just wasn’t quite-big-enough but there was a complimentary air freshener (small wins). Anyway, to cut a long car hire story short, about twenty minutes down the autoroute we realised that…….

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By the time we reached the gite we had melted into the seats like lumps of odorous brie and were covered in a layer of grime from having to wind the windows down for the entire journey. The car Sat Nav had worked but only in French or Italian?? Again My GCSE French had had a strop –  but we just about managed….tournez a droite…what?…tournez?? – oh drat!!!  Ted was driving and I was distracted by the scenery. I was mesmerised by the fields and fields of delightful sunflowers and melons and other appetising delights. I couldn’t help wondering why people weren’t tempted to stop and pinch the odd melon or pick the occasional sunflower from the roadside and then I reminded myself…….

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We passed through St Helene, which was a pretty but sleepy medieval village (no shops, not even a Pharmacy) on the river Autize. On the outskirts we found the gite address, everything looked strangely quiet and the colourful shutters were firmly closed on the house as we pulled into the crunchy drive. We were just scraping ourselves out of the car seats when an elderly man came hobbling over from the house opposite. His name was Monsieur Fremont, a kindly old Frenchman with watery eyes and a front tooth missing. He explained that he kept a key to the gite and that he’d be on hand for our stay because Uncle Nigel (it seems that everybody called him that, perhaps he was a mafia boss or something) was holidaying in Barbados. Monsieur Fremont directed us around the house to the beautiful old barn which had been converted into the gite, and there we found the swimming pool, turquoise and glistening invitingly……

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Monsieur Fremont seemingly unfazed simply hoicked the lifeless bird out with an old broom. Nice. I was starting to wonder if we should have booked an all inclusive hotel in Nice. Old man Fremont chatted away in cheerful and thankfully slow diction (My GCSE French relaxed and chilled it’s arse a bit) and he gave us a welcome envelope of information.

The Rules: we were strictly forbidden to throw anything down the toilet except for loo paper and what came naturally but we were welcome to burn the place down by using the real pizza oven and rudimentary BBQ area. Inside, the gite had been recently done-up so everything was new and clean, the walls were horribly horribly white. The paint was probably called – Blanc de Snow Blindness – It was a potential parental nightmare. The kitchen glistened (hmmm, give Ted a couple of glasses of wine and a pot of bolognaise sauce) and the bathrooms were also white and pristine (give Toby and Lottie one bathtime). After Monsieur Fremont’s guided tour there was still a few hours of sunshine left so we unloaded the car, ransacked the cases for swimwear and pitched up poolside.

Le Van de Pain (or Pan Van) or indeed Le Pain in the Arse Van.

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pain van.pngdu pain, du van, du Boursin…..

Being in such a remote, peaceful and idyllic location (read- cut off from civilisation, and needing to drive miles to go anywhere or get anything) our information pack informed us about the Pain Van, it rhymes rather nicely Pan Van. Anyway, this rural service rattles around the local villages stopping here and there so that the residents can buy bread straight from the Pan Van Man! He had a distinctive klaxon hooter which alerted us to his arrival. The Pan Man, who went by the name of Henri had a neat moustache which moved like a hairy caterpillar on his upper lip and greasy hair slicked back with enough oil to pique the interest of fuel giant ESSO. 

So on our first morning I went in search of the Pan Van when I heard the sound of the  klaxon. My GCSE French was feeling confident, I was just buying bread so I dropped a casual “du pain s’il vous plait,” which of course was met with a barrage of colloquial french from Henri and from what I could decipher – which bread did I require? Like seriously they all looked like baguettes to me, a van full of identical baguettes? I panicked and pointed, hurriedly gesturing the quantity with my fingers. I don’t think I was appreciative enough of his Artisan Pain! Henri shot me a withering look…….

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Every morning after that I would go out and buy fresh bread, and the Pan Van Man never parked in the same flamin’ place twice?? So I had to listen hard for his hooter if I wanted to locate him. On one of the mornings when we wanted to spend the day at the gite and needed bread, I heard the familiar and distinctive call of the Pan Van and hurried to find my purse (which of course I couldn’t) so I grabbed some euros from Ted’s wallet and ran out towards the place where the Pan Van Man was last spotted. By the time I had found him, he had just finished serving the last basket-wielding local. I swear he saw me come running, waving my arms like a loon but he deemed it necessary to wheel spin off. “Oh gite!” We had no bread unless Ted or I made the 14 mile round shlep to Super U  – what a complete Pain in the arse.

Mind the….

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That day the weather was blissfully and unrelentingly hot. I could feel the sun rays seep into my bones and we spent most of our time playing in the pool. Mid morning Madame Fremont popped over to introduce herself bearing a freshly made and delicious looking Tarte aux Pommes. She had her twin grand daughters Elise and Elodie in tow. They were a little older than Lottie and after initial shyness they stayed to play in the pool. To combat the language barrier the children just shouted loudly at each other in their own languages…seemed to work?!?! Ted helped Toby and the girls drag over a garden slide from the Fremont’s jardin and they spent the whole afternoon sliding down it into the pool. I’m not sure we adhered to health and safety guidelines but Ted and I lounged about in view of them reading a book (owners of toddlers don’t hate me, you’ll have tweenagers one day).

Later that same afternoon, we were invited over to the Fremonts for an aperitif.

“Are they alky-holics Mummy?” Lottie wanted to know. Luckily their English wasn’t too merde hot or they might have been offended. Monsieur Fremont offered to give us a tour of their small holding.  I knew the children would like this because they love nothing more than heavy petting pooey farm animals (and then giving themselves stomach upsets before I could get anywhere near them with the anti bac spray). We were introduced to the chickens, sheep and the goats and taken to the impressive orchard. Rows and rows of apple, pear and soft fruit trees filled the paddock and the air buzzed frenetically with wasps. Well it was August! But…it wasn’t just wasps (les guepes) – let me introduce you to the super wasp – Un Frelon (pronounced Fraylon for anyone remotely interested) this is like an uber wasp, a large hornet if you will. These beasts were about the size of a big thumb! Monsieur Fremont proudly showed us one of his impressive frelon traps, made simply with a cut up plastic bottle part filled with white wine and sugar syrup. Darned waste of good vin blanc if you ask me. Just as I was gazing with morbid curiosity at the freaky frantic frelons incarcerated in the plastic trap I heard a howl louder than the Pan Van klaxon. Ted, in his flimsy flip flops had stood on a fallen rotting apple…one that a Frelon was feasting on and now he was hopping and cursing in agony. “Oh gite”.

Other Multifarious Holiday Moments Before The Great Frelon Sting.

The time we were invited by Madame Fremont to the village Fete de Champignons de la region street party…”What? so we have to go and eat mushrooms in the road?” Toby wasn’t impressed at all.

The time Lottie spilt my favourite nail varnish (of course that colour is discontinued!) on our ensuite bathroom floor. I thought she had been gone a while inside the gite, eventually she appeared poolside to ‘fess up’. She had tried to clear the mess up and I only needed to wipe the floor tile over with some nail varnish remover. At least she hadn’t pebble dashed the arctic white paintwork with Savannah Sunset Rouge. No biggy…….

The time Ted returned from Super U suffering from low level post traumatic supermarket disorder. The first thing that hit him was the shop odour – a heady mix of BO and rancid meat. Ted’s understanding of French (he did Spanish at school) was non existent but he got through the bakery and wine sections relatively unscathed – only to be bamboozled by the overwhelming choice of cheese and yoghurts. Onto the fruit and veg section where all the produce seemed to come with clods of earth and half the bush it was grown on and Ted completely overlooked the electronic weighing scales!  When he came to pay there were no bags – now this is a good thing, too many placky bags in the world etc but I hadn’t had the forethought to pack our

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In order that he might collate his purchased goods Ted had to buy 2 jute effect Super U bags at an exorbitant price of €5 each – that’s 2 extra bottles of crap wine we could have had. The lady who served him at the till *Delphine* then gave him a good dressing down for having the temerity to bring the fruit and veg to the till unweighed. “Well, it certainly didn’t bring out the Super in U!” I quipped feebly on his return.

The time we had a good day out in La Rochelle. Anyone who had to study the Tricolore textbooks at school might remember learning that oh so useful phrase “Avez vous un depliant sur La Rochelle” – anybody? *Have you got a booklet about La Rochelle*.  Hah! I might finally get to use this seemingly useless phrase after all as I marched into the Office de Tourisme with purpose. Most thrillingly of all we ate out with the children near the historic harbour in what can only be described as an epic restaurant win. Toby and Lottie had – Steak Hache frites. A tasty slab of beef (we hoped) with fries served with neither salad nor any other form of vegetation, the children couldn’t believe it and when it was followed by an ice cream with no fruit components, they were over the moon. It was the stuff that kid’s food dreams are made of.

A slightly Septic Au Revoir 

The last evening of our holiday was spent in A&E! Ted’s Frelon sting had blown his foot up to Elephant Man proportions and it looked a little err….septic.  The nurses, who were very pleasant, tried conversing with us in french medical terms but My GCSE French soon stormed off in a right old huff.  The Doctor took one look at Ted’s grotesque foot and put him on strong antibiotics tout de suite. The following morning, after a fitful night’s sleep (Ted had moaned the duration) we were woken to loud protestations coming from the garden, I peered out of the window bleary eyed to witness Monsieur Fremont and another bloke talking heatedly over the bubbling septic tank.

It turns out that the other bloke was Uncle Nigel back from his holiday in Barbados and – “Oh gite!” – Lottie had bunged up the Fosse Septique with the hundred or so wet wipes (unbeknown to me) that she had flushed down the loo when she had helpfully cleared up nail-varnishgate. Let’s just say we didn’t receive a very warm greeting from Uncle Nigel. Thankfully we were leaving that day as the septic tank groaned and belched out some more gloops of unmentionables……

We packed and made a swift getaway, narrowly missing the Pan Van as we sped out of the village and arrived back at the airport in plenty of time for our flight. We found Michel at the car hire counter and handed him the keys to the not-quite-big enough Renault Megane  – complete with dysfunctional air conditioning. Thanks to Lottie I was wetwipe-less so I hoped he’d be pleased with the complimentary….

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More next time, back on Monday 5th September.

As you were!

PS, a big thank you must go out to Google Translate without which this holiday would not have been possible. And a also a mention to My GCSE French for at least having a go (mostly at me).

PPS, to the erroneous burglar who may be reading this – we’ve been away on holiday and come home now and this blog is fictional anyway you twerp.

PPPS This is not a review, I certainly don’t endorse shouting at the Pan Man “I’ll give you some French Stick,” when he wheel spinned off without selling me a baguette and I’m also not promoting Boursin, a creamy, garlicky, cheesy delight though it is. Have you tried stirring it into spaghetti – works quite well. Enough! No endorsements!

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Note to myself: The one about French Jsheetting!!

Also linked up with FRIDAY FROLICS,

and PROSE FOR THOUGHT – will add icons when I’m not having to blog on my iPad which is actually a bit of an arse (and other first world problems).

Rhyming with Wine

22. Village survival, gone crabbing!

 

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Crabbing!

Every summer holidays we go crabbing! We know the perfect spot in a Devon village which has a small shabby harbour. It isn’t particularly touristy; this is probably because of the murky water, the pervading odour of rotting fish, and the array of scrappy and dejected boats – which look like the discarded props from the last Jaws movie.

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It’s a bit like a boat graveyard and the crustiest, most decrepit crafts get bailed out regularly by old-git-locals, otherwise they sink with their noses poking out of the water in a sinister manner. Let’s just say I haven’t seen this harbour on any Devon picture postcards!

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For all your creepy boat needs!!

So last week, I arranged to pick up Anna (local best friend) and her 9 year old twins Miles and Marcus and we set off on our crabbing expedition with my kids Toby and Lottie. *Only* 106 are we nearly there yets, a whole packet of Werthers Originalsand 2 separate picnic wees in 2 seperate lay-bys later and we finally arrived (we had covered a total distance of about 12 miles or 35 mins in journey time for crysakes). I parked the car in a leafy, shaded spot in the church car park which would ensure a Jackson Pollock-esque splat effect of woodpigeon poo on the roof and bonnet upon our return – a kind of unrequested birdpooey pimp my ride. We noticed that the church was advertising ‘Cream Teas this week’ in the village hall and graveyard  (where they had put out a selection of colourful and rickety looking tables and chairs!?!?). More like ‘Scream Teas’, would you like one or two paranormal sightings with your pot of tea and scones……???

Crabbily!

 As we approached the harbour and the thin and shambolic jetty, I was quietly dismayed to see that there was already a large family crabbing in our preferred crabbing spot. Anna and I exchanged crabby looks. But hang on, it looked like they might be packing up to leave…..

Crabbier 

We drew level with the family as they were exiting the rickety wooden pier. The Dad spoke up as they approached.

“I think you’ll find we’ve already caught all the crabs!!” he announced pompously, in a knobby and self satisfied manner.

Anna and I exchanged further crabby looks. Were they going to take them all home? Maybe try and eat them? Surely not, the crabs didn’t get any bigger than the size of your hand (including all pincery extremities).

“Yeah, we caught 31 crabs,” bragged one of the younger tweenagery girls who was  waggling a wet and slimy net about. A quick glance at their buckets assured me that they hadn’t kept the crabs, ergo they weren’t going to boil them up for tasty sandwiches (or indeed a nasty case of food poisoning). Next it was the turn of the Mum to say something.

“We always come every holiday – best spot for crabbin’,” she chuckled into my face (such was our close proximity on the narrow jetty).

“That’s right love, it’s great cos there’s no tourists,” added the Dad.

Apart from you’re a tourist???? – obviously the irony was lost on himI grunted a pleasantry, thinking all the time – enough with the showy offy backstory, move along – this jetty is quite narrow and I don’t want to fall in. We continued to inch past them, managing to do so without dying of boredom as they banged on with some extra ‘crabbing advice’ and then threw in some random anecdotes about their caravanning holiday too. I wasn’t aware I’d bought front row tickets to the ‘Crabbing Family Monologues’. Eventually we reached the end of the jetty, and there – obscured by a large orange buoy was a huge mound of crabs! They hadn’t even bothered to throw them back – how lazy and shellfish…….dot dot dot.

Crabbiest!

The crabs were huddling together, desperately trying to stay camouflaged in a frightened mass. By now there were seagulls circling above like vultures and they were intermittently raining crap upon us. The gulls sounded like toddlers playing pass the parcel at a birthday party “mine! mine! mine! mine!” they shrieked. It was only our presence that was stopping them from divebombing the all you can eat crab buffet!

“We’d better get them back in the water or the gulls will get them,” observed Anna calmly, seemingly transfixed by the great writhing mound of crustaceans. Toby was by now squatting over them with the twins and probing the teeming pile with the other end of his net.

“We have to do something! We have to do something NOW!!” squawked Lottie over theatrically (so thrilled that her Stagecoach classes had paid off then!). Lottie’s concern galvanised us and we decided quicksmart that we should do something now! Without delay we began what can only be described as…….

Un-crabbing!

They were not the easiest of shellfish to herd because the wretched critters were so terrified, disorientated or possibly just dim. Anna helped the children because I reserved the right to remain quietly freaked out by the sheer number of crawly, skittery legs and pincers. The kids used their nets to gently extract each one and then plop it back in the water. Above, the gulls were still swooping and screeching for crab meat, every so often we had to wave our nets in the air (like we just didn’t care) to shoo them off.

One of the largest and feistiest looking crabs suddenly made a bolt for the water and in doing so unwittingly skittered over my flip-flop bedecked foot. I shrieked, jumped two feet in the air and performed a very amateur impression of Michael Flatley’s Riverdance –  all the while cringing from the crabby sensation. This was all a bit too much action for the old (rotten) jetty – which was groaning and creaking ominously under all our movements. If we all fell in and drowned, the locals wouldn’t notice for days such was the turbidity of the rank water and the boat graveyardy atmosphere. To make matters even worse we were then interrupted by a bevy of dastardly swans – the lanky necked ringleader seemed determined to thwart our rescue efforts by thrusting it’s beak at us aggressively and hissing in a proprietary manner.

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Oh swan off!

Crabby!

Again we had to wave our nets to ward off both the swans and the seagulls (it was not unlike the gory scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds!). Some of the remaining crabs looked very dejected with pincers missing and limbs hanging off and a handful of larger ones had begun infighting, throwing their scissory claws about – intent on canibalism. Slowly but surely with coaxing, shoving, herding, refereeing and netting we got the last crabs safely back in the water. After that we persuaded the kids that it would be (taking the piss) unfair to catch them all over again so we bribed them with sugar and we repaired to the village hall for a cream tea. Of course all the tables inside were taken by a coach load of senior citizens so we had to sit in the graveyard. However, even a ghoulishly macabre (s)cream tea made Anna and I feel a bit less crabby!

More next time.

As you were!

PS, If you have you got any crabbing/fishing fails, bird harassment anecdotes or unusual cream tea incidents – do tell in comments…..I love a good yarn me! x

Note to myself: The one about the birds! the birds! and going un-crabbing!

Only went and got the #chucklemums Pants- wettingly funny blog! – get me!

 

Rhyming with Wine

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

21. A weekend Roman in Bath and on Safari (Park).

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The weekend before last (as the school term was drawing to a close) I arranged a family weekend away. It felt like a good opportunity to skedaddle before the M5 resembled an airport car park and the A303 became a clusterf**k of Caravans – that’s the official collective term for caravans by the way. Only joking – no need to write in! Tourists welcome – one and all.
We decided to go to Bath and Longleat Safari Park so we booked a night in a Bavelbodge. I tried to book a cottagey B&B complete with arsy middle-aged & prissy proprietor, chintzy decor/eiderdowns circa 1974, ineffectual lace curtains and comp-plimentary tea making facilities but it’s not easy to find one with a family room and when I did (within a 30 mile radius of our destination) it was fully booked of course. Bavelbodge it was then! I’ve no beef with a Bavelbodge, you get what you pay for and it’s not their fault that we had to go to sleep at 9pm with our snoring/farting/bedrustling tweenagers albeit in a large (where’s the carpet?) 4 person bed cram.

Day 1. Bath or Barth Spar (if you prefer).

Ted and I had had a couple of romantic weekends in Bath pre-children so my hazy and indulgent recollection of this beautiful city was of leisurely sightseeing, cosy independant eateries, and lie ins…..dot dot dot. Anyway here is my wishlist of events versus the cold hard reality. Guess which list won? (after a deciding arm wrestle).

Parking wishlist: Find the Park and Ride carpark and enjoy fun bus trip into Bath or glide into the city locating parking close to the centre for easy walk with *end of term tired* tweenagers.
Parking cold hard reality: “Oh shi* (the consonant ‘t’ was replaced of course with a p? n?) was that the turn off for the park and ride?”. A stomping argument ensued as Ted put a map app on my phone to find a car park in town. I couldn’t use the (swears) app (could I) and it kept dropping out. Cue shouting, gesticulating and sweatiness as we enjoyed a slow scenic tour of Bath in a very hot car trying to find parking (no need for the open top bus tour as we limped past ‘Pulteney Bridge’ and crept around ‘The Crescent’ completely accidentally). Finally we ended up in a multi story (at the very top) having only scraped the car three times on tight corners and twice on the pillar!

Sightseeing wishlist. Saunter around The Roman Baths, soak up the history and ancient atmosphere.

Baths

Sightseeing cold hard reality: We *enjoyed* the three Js. Being jostled, jockeyed and queue jumped left right and centre. Bath was busy – full to the Sally Gunnells with tourists and nowhere more so than at the star attraction – The Roman Baths. Every other person was taking a photo everywhere we went. We couldn’t help but ‘bomb’ international tourist’s holiday snaps  – I did try to do a different face in each one for variety! I’m currently appearing all over Facebook in Japan – gurning.  Anyway, we filtered around the monument, collecting elbow stab wounds as we went. Toby seemed to be taking the lead on pertinent questions – “what’s that floater?” he was rather perturbed by a large lump of something that kept bobbing up and below the surface of one of the baths. When explained it was just algae (type stuff) he was most disappointed that it wasn’t something more sinister (namely a dead animal or a poo – of course.)
floaterUnidentified and slightly unsavoury looking floater. Also available for children’s parties.  Is it just me or does it have a face?

The gift shop wishlist: Just walk through it (not hesitating at the tat fridge magnets) to the door and the light beyond……..

The gift shop cold hard reality: Lottie and I had reached the door (and ergo the light) unscathed and no fridge magnets had been purchased. I turned back and it was then that I witnessed Ted say to Toby, “If you’re not careful you’ll knock something off.” Within three seconds of this comment – Toby (who had giftshop wide-eyed mania) turned (nay- twirled around) and managed to knock off a nicknack – well actually more of a miniature Roman Amphora*souvenir. So Ted did the obvious thing – pretended to be Dutch and backed away from the shards of china quicksmart. No he didn’t! He went into auto British polite mode and duly trotted up to the shop assistant to blabbally (probably not a word) ‘fess up’. She was convinced enough by his contriteness to waiver the £9.95 recommended retail price! – lucky because as I’m sure you’ll know – gift shops don’t like a knocked off nicknack! Lottie and I were long gone and found two hours later trying on dresses in Zara (I wish!- we just waited outside cringing and pretending not to be related).

Eating out wishlist: Find an independent eating idyll, cosy, not too busy with a cool city vista and tweenager friendly food options ………

Eating out cold hard reality: So after an exhaustive (whingey/whiny) trawl around central Bath trying to find somewhere quaint to eat, we settled on a child friendly Italian chain  complete with children’s menu, colouring-in and activity sheet. A fist pump there for our independent restaurantal success. We had to sit outside because all the tables inside were taken. The family next to us promptly left (nothing personal I’m sure!!) leaving their table sky high in debris and left food. This was the point that a large seagull decided to swoop down. It slapped Ted and I on the back of our heads with it’s flappy wings and landed heavily next to us. The gull wobbled with the agility of a balance beam gymnast on the side of a bowl while it tucked into the leftover pasta flapping it’s wings theatrically. Great! – dinner and a show.  Being honorary Devonians, we’ve dealt with many wayward seagulls over the years but Lisa – our friendly waitress came out shrieking and shooed it off with a tea towel. She was happy to regale us with backstory about the galavanting gull. Apparently his name was Basil, he was ‘known’ to the restaurant for pasta pestering and could only be kept under control by Colin the hawk and his handler (name was seemingly unimportant) who were both employed to keep the centre of Bath bird-vermin free. Apparently Colin was on a tea break then! We’d be ready for him if he swooped again. Bring it Basil!!!

The morning after the night before at Bavelbodge. Because our chosen Bavelbodge wasn’t very large and didn’t have a restaurant we had to (well to be fair no one forced us but) have breakfast next door in another chain this time of the roadside eatery variety, let’s just call it Little Chafe for arguments sake! Naively, I thought that it might be a happy and fun experience for the children – pancakes and hot chocolate all the way. We ordered them a breakfast that involved one half pancakes and the other half ‘fry up’ (everyone’s a winner!). Wrong, the food was pallid, insufficient and wait for it…the eggs were slobbery! (no one likes a slobbery egg, no one) – so I ended up relinquishing my only slightly better looking breakfast to them. When my tea (finally) arrived (I’d selected Earl Grey – for breakfast? -don’t judge me) I was informed that it didn’t come with milk. This was the end of the conversation. The waitress was so formidably arsy and so surprised was I at said arsyness that I didn’t even challenge this milk disallowance…….. Little Chafe *rather an abrasive occurrence*.

Day 2. Longleat Safari Park.
The drive onto Longleat Estate was impressive as the great House came into view and stood proudly amongst the capacious grounds. Toby and Lottie both assumed that as soon as we drove down the ‘sweeping’ drive that we would start to see exotic animals. Small voices of alarm wafted through from the back seats, “Buffalo?! oh no they’re just cows!” and “Llamas?! but they look a lot like sheep.” Ted and I kept shtum (yes we were too busy shaking with silent laughter) until we had to fess up that we hadn’t got to the enclosures yet.

Our first stop was the African Village, where we could ‘walk through’ some smaller animal enclosures and have a final toilet stop before the Safari Drive or more importantly where I could get a #latte. Lottie was taking the lead today on pertinent questions with, “how come the Lemurs get such a good adventure playground?” thou shalt not covet a Lemur’s adventure playground!  Onto the giraffe and Zebra ‘field’ which was like a jurassic park moment, suddenly we were just feet away from several giant and majestic giraffes with a herd of zebra beyond. Lottie rather spoilt my quiet moment of reverence with her widely audible “I’ve never seen so much poo!”referring to the dung heap in the corner of epic proportions.

giraffeGiraffe Selfie (or Giralffie)

We went back to the car and set off on Safari (not before checking the car windows and central locking system were in full working order). There were many highlights to this tour, particularly braving the Rhesus Macaque Monkey enclosure and watching the Honda CRV in front being stripped back to it’s basic bodywork. All the time wondering how much depreciation was occurring on to our own car……..dot dot dot.

monkeyThe Lions were awe-inspiring, they looked so magnificent as they lounged about gnawing on beef steak or perhaps people whose electric windows didn’t work, but mostly lazing with their backs to us.lions x2                          Take a photo of my arse!                                     Beyond majestic!

But when one female got up and lumbered over, knowing that there was just a fairly thin piece of car metal between us was undoubtedly life affirming!
We carried on (still following the Honda CRV which was by now rattling and larger car parts were falling off.) I feared for their safety as we passed through the Tigers enclosure and then the Wolf Wood. We weren’t lucky enough to see the Cheetahs because as anyone who has watched a safari documentary will know, they are shy and evasive but it’s ok we didn’t feel cheetahed because over lunch we were treated to a ‘Sparrow Show’ in full technicolour (mostly browns actually). Spencer Sparrow (as we named him/her) flapped about on our table flauntingly and was happy to be snapped in any position for a few crumbs of burger bun or panini.

sparrowSpencer Sparrow: will do anything for your lunch!

More next week.
As you were.

I’m going to bang on about Mumsnet Blogging Awards again – much like the Rhesus Macaque Monkeys you can bypass this next bit by taking the slip road. Still with me? ok, if I’ve given you cause to howl(er monkey) or laugh like a hyena with my bloggingness – I would love nominations for the category ‘Best Comic Writer’. My URL is https://turningupindevon.com Thank you!

PS. This isn’t a review – obvs I love Bath with it’s impressive Roman Baths and anything that went ‘down’ including the miniature amphora souvenir was our bad. Longleat Safari Park is bloomin’ marvellous – this comprehensive and investigative reportage was brought to you by *Turning Up In Devon Destinations* (a new travel division – situated on the top floor next to the complaints department, probably not really….).

*Amphora – a Roman wine vessel.

Note to myself: The one about going away to Bath and Longleat Safari Park.

Rhyming with Wine
Mumzilla

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

 

20. Village survival, the Post Office!

 

postoffice copy

 

I needed to make a trip to the Post Office. The thing is that I had to steel myself to do so. Vertonbridge Post Office and Stores was conveniently placed at just a three minute walk from our cottage and yet I avoided the Post Officy bit in favour of the one in Exeter. I didn’t mind patronising the Stores for some exorbitantly priced chutney, an emergency tube of sour cream pringles or indeed some crap-brand milk, but the Post Office Countery bit was another matter. The proprietor and Post Mistress Miriam Ledgworth was all for chatting. Chit chat chit chat. She’s a nice enough old bird but jaze doesn’t she ever go on!
The reason for my urgent trip to the PO was that my new Literary Agent had finally sent through two copies of my contract and I needed to send a signed one back to her pronto. It meant braving Miriam because I didn’t have time for the shlep into town. When I arrived at the Post Office there was a hefty queue which wasn’t surprising because Miriam was ear bashing everyone and the line was moving very slowly. It was also Pensions day and ‘senior citizens’ were dying of old age in the queue, keeling over, and younger fresher faced customers were stepping over them, rubbing their hands together, thinking they’d get served bit quicker. I decided to pass some time by taking a little look at the ‘trash mags’ in the newspaper section, so I picked up a gaudy copy of  – C.loser and sifted through it. I felt it was important to know which craplist celeb had got themselves bikini body ready and then been spotted (and papped) face down in a (go large) Big Mac meal at Warrington MacDonalds six times in the last week – it was imperative reading. Luckily Miriam couldn’t see me scanning C.loser with no intention of buying it because she has been known to shout across the shop floor unceremoniously, “Are you going to buy that magazine or are you just fingering it?” Unsavoury.

Anyway by the time I had wandered about, eyed up a few pretentious photographic birthday cards (blank for your own trite/humorous/insincere message) and felt up a couple of cling-filmed ‘handmade’ Victoria Sponges (for freshness you see, and then not actually bought one) the queue had gone down so I lined up.

 

Devon scene copy
“Ahh Hillie, how are you? Haven’t seen you for ages,” said Miriam enthusiastically, when I finally reached the head of the queue.
Yes because I’ll use any other Post Office within a 50 mile radius rather than this one!
“Fine thanks, and you?” Adopt brace position for verbal enslaught.
“Oh you know, not too bad. Course, my Jim’s been in hospital for his bunions and my sciatica’s been playing up, it’s all this wet weather we’ve been getting. Call this a summer, huh, it’s not like the summers of my youth I can tell you. Blah blah blah…drone drone drone…blah blah blah…but I mustn’t grumble,” I had glazed over and was staring zombie like at her blurry hand-knitted jerkin bedecked outline I’m afraid.
Miriam drew said hand knitted jerkin/waistcoat/gilet/whatever about her, placed her bifocals on her nose and continued to prattle on.
“I liked your piece on the scarecrow competition in the Parish Mag, have you thought about taking up writing professionally?” I’m not sure if she was taking the piss or not but I chose not to rise to it. Having ‘posed’ the question (no reply required) she continued her monologue  – barely pausing for breath.
“Mind you, I can’t believe my Janet (her daughter) didn’t win with her Queen and Corgis scarecrows, marvellous they were, the dogs were very lifelike.” They were categorically crap,  not at all canine like and a total scarecrow cliche, but other than that they were great!
“Anyway, what can I do for yourself today?” Miriam continued brightly.
“I’d like to send this Special Delivery thanks.” I displayed an A4 envelope on the counter, with some trepidation, like I was twelve again and passing a crap school report to my parents. Miriam eyed it up suspiciously over her bifocals. Her chin went up, her eyes narrowed and after a slight pause she said, “Hmm Special Delivery you say?” she looked both perplexed and wary in equal measure – as if I’d said “I’d like to send this by your speediest carrier pigeon please.”
“Yes Special please,” Would you just process it – sans prattle!
“Are you absolutely sure? It’s quite an expensive way of doing it!” Do I look like I can’t make a responsible postal service decision? “Quite sure thanks.”
“Now then, is it being sent within the British Isles?”
‘Yes.”
“Where’s it going?”
“Err…London,” Come on, blatant nosiness now, what was her problem, I wasn’t asking her to personally hand deliver it or escort the Mail Coach through muddy cart ruts across Devon and through the Home Counties up to the Capital was I!
“Does it really need to be signed for?” Jeepers I was starting to feel mild panic and self doubt was creeping over me.
“Yes….( I think)….yes, yes it does,” I must not falter in the face of adversity, I must stay resolute.
“Because first class is very good these days, much more reliable than it has been in the past. It’ll probably be there by tomorrow and would only cost ..…let’s see…. £1.85 for yourself”.
“It’s ok, I need it signed for.” Perhaps I look strapped for cash? Had she noticed the duct tape on my car’s wheel arches? Then it dawned on me. She did witness my furtive trash magazine fingering and cake fondling after all. She can scarcely believe I’d got my priorities so badly wrong. If I’d only curb my postage excesses I could afford to splash out on a fresh sponge and treat myself to C.Loser.
“If you’re sure?” Super sure, like night follows day sure…..for the love of god.
“Yes thanks”.
“Ok then,” she sounded disdainful and sighed heavily. Miriam made it blatantly obvious that she was very disappointed with my ‘no need – in her opinion’ postal service selection. “Pop it on the scales for yourself,” she added officiously.
I ‘popped’ it on the old-school scales (for myself) and let the weighing needle take about another 2 minutes to settle on the final weight.
“Hmm that’s coming up at £5.35, now are you sure you’re happy with that?” she looked up with ‘I told you it would be expensive’ mock concern from her half moon glasses on a gaudy string.
Bloody delighted with that I am! Over the frigging moon. “That’s fine thanks.”
“Does the contents have any value?” Value? Oh god, that was a curveball question. Had to think for a moment. How do I quantify that? I don’t know? Probably not, but maybe? No? I’ll go with no – it’ll be quicker?
“No, no value.”
“What none at all?”
OH For Fudge Sake, calmly I explained, “no, I don’t think so – it’s just a document that could be redone if it got lost in the post,”or was hopelessly delayed on a mail train, engulfed in a sorting office inferno or dropped off the back of a speeding mail van???? “A document you say?” said Miriam sagely, she cocked an eyebrow knowingly, “perhaps one that could have been folded in two thus affording you the use of an A5 envelope and saving yourself a pretty penny on postage in the process!” She really enjoyed herself. Oh you have your moment of postal smuggery glory! Take it! Why not do a victory twirl in your hand knitted jerkin. Though it made no sense to me, she certainly wasn’t upselling the services of the Post Office and if her pay was perfomance related surely she was only diddling herself out of a bonus – ergo a week in the Peak District and a stack of knit your own jerkin patterns?                                                                                           “Can you pass it through the parcel hatch please,” she added primly.
I duly passed the parcel (no shrieky party-going kids required).
“How would you like to pay?” asked Miriam. So concerned was she about the cost I half expected her to offer me an interest free weekly payment plan.
Cash! Cash, might stop her bleating on so I gave her £6.
“£6 thank you and here’s your change – 65 pence and your receipt for yourself,” she made a great show of ‘starring’ something on the receipt.
“And here’s your code number so you can track your parcel at all times and find out when it’s delivered and who signs for it up in ‘The Big Smoke’.” Miriam continued. “Any problems, speak to head office because we don’t handle complaints in branch and we certainly don’t have the time to be discussing postal issues at the counter. Anything else for yourself today?”
Just the last 20 minutes of my life back (for myself) please!

The same conversation in other Post Offices:
“Hello”.
“hello, can I send this special delivery please”.
“That’ll be £5.35 please,” money changes hands. The parcel is passed through the hatch!
“Thanks,” goodbyes are exchanged – end of conversation.

 

More next week.

As you were!

PS. It’s the Mumsnet Blogging Awards. If I’ve given you cause to snigger, chortle, giggle, titter or indeed LOL with my bloggingness – I would love nominations for the category ‘Best Comic Writer’. My URL is https://turningupindevon.com Thank you! Every person who nominates me will get a walk on part in this blog (probably not, as I can now see that this is blatant bribery&corruption which I could go to prison for). Ta, mwah xx

Note to myself (for myself): The one about the Post Office conversation.

Rhyming with Wine
Mumzilla
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Prose for Thought

19.Village survival, the Scarecrow Competition!

scarecrow comp copy

I had just finished writing a rather ‘steamy’ chapter in my novel Twelve Days and the Thatcher and was reading over what I had written, when the landline rang! It was a local number which I foolishly answered without thinking. I soon regretted it because it was Meryl Watson – editor and chief of the Vertonbridge Parish Mag! Without too much preamble Meryl asked me to do a write up of the local Scarecrow Competition (a double page spread – no less) because she was going ‘in’ to have her varicose veins ‘done’ and would therefore be laid up for a while. She thought I might be up to the job – what with me being a journalist (in the past) and a writer – oh the honour and joy….must update my CV with this one.

So the Vertonbridge Valley Gazette (local newspaper, not the parish mag, keep up) organises the Annual scarecrow competition which encompasses all the villages in the ‘valley’. The paper likes to promote it heavily and in doing so whip the villagers up into a lather of inter-village competiveness. You’d think that the prize for best scarecrow would match the hype right? – no! The prize was a pair of full blooming luxury hanging baskets from the local Nursery. My track record with ‘caring ‘ for hanging baskets meant that this was enough for me to want to move house to a sophisticated city. Exeter was calling………..dot dot dot.

You may remember from my post when we took part in the village ‘Open Gardens’ that we already had a homemade scarecrow, but because of the recent wet weather ‘Donald Trump’ had not faired too well (he was currently lying facedown and flaccid over our slug eaten lettuces – where he probably belonged) and the real Donald Trump (atishoootosser – there goes my hay fever again) had had enough air time frankly. So I decided that the children and I should start from scratch and make a new one (obviously a rubbish one so we didn’t have a hope in hell of winning the hanging baskets). But who/what should we do? Could we do Mr Bygraves the headmaster who was quite scary? Deirdre Snellon from the Vertonbridge Horticultural club (Dictatorship) who was cat’s-bum-mouth scary? On deciding that we didn’t want to be expelled from school or indeed the village we settled on ‘Gru’ from Despicable Me!!  Lottie (aged 6 and always up for ‘crafting’) and Toby (aged 9, more of a Minecrafter than a crafter) actually had ‘fun’ making him. We had a go at the old blow up a balloon and slap papier mache on it for his head, then we stuffed an ancient anorak with screwed up magazines and Anna (local best friend) lent us the striped scarf which basically pulled our shoddy effort all together – along with some borrowed blow up Minions. Does that mean I can tick off crafting until at least Christmas? 2018.

gru

Despicable scarecrow alert: ‘Gru’ and two of his Minions!

Anyway, here’s my piece of local (award winning – probably not really) hard hitting investigative journalism that went into the Vertonbridge Parish Mag! Anything in italics got cut out like Meryl’s varicose veins unfortunately!

Parish Mag1

Parish Mag copy2.png

More next week.

As you were!

PS. Thanks for ‘bearing with’ this post because I appreciate that for some, scarecrows are of the same ilk as clowns and therefore fairly creepy/unsavoury/repugnant. You did well to get through it. X

PPS. It’s the Mumsnet Blogging Awards. If I’ve given you cause to snigger, chortle, giggle or even LOL with my bloggingness – I would love nominations for the category ‘Best Comic Writer’. My URL is https://turningupindevon.com Thank you! Every person who nominates me will get a mention in the Vertonbridge Parish Mag (probably not really). Ta

Note to myself: the one about the Scarecrow Competition.

Rhyming with Wine

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Prose for Thought

 

Post Comment Love

18. Village survival, a colourful (parental) visit.

palette

Hillie: small village survival expert, mum and writer – currently working on her novel ‘Twelve Days and the Thatcher’- a gritty tale of forbidden love with a hunky Thatcher hero!  Had a modicum of success ten years ago with her – Miss Nadderbanks Investigates series (ahem, nothing published since the kids came along).

Ted, Toby (aged 8) and Lottie (aged6): Hillie’s husband and children.
Deirdre Snellon: Chair of the Vertonbridge Horticultural Club (dictatorship).
Helen and Martin Richens: Hillie’s parents. Grannie-Helen and Granddad. Retired Librarian and Accountant.GREYIt had been raining for bloody days and yet still there was a (passive aggressive) reminder in the July Parish Mag to water our hanging baskets to avoid aridity! Avoid aridity, for crysakes, it had been the wettest June since records began! The Vertonbridge Village Horticultural Club and it’s bossy Chair Deirdre Snellon were expecting a visit from the Village in Flower Competition Judges any day now and no one was privvy to exactly when? They were like Ofsted but for floral performance. Would Vertonbridge Village be awarded outstanding, good, satisfactory or perhaps special measures? Well, my hanging baskets were woefully lacking with their wilting begonias (no hanging gardens of Babylon to see here, move along). And at best could be classed as ‘satisfactory’ but Deirdre’s ‘county show standard’ Fuchsias (upright and trailing) might well drag the whole village up to outstandingly outstanding. Struggling to care? So am I, but if Vertonbridge won the Village in Flower Competition it might just wipe that sour look (cat’s bum mouth) off of Deirdre’s face (have been waiting for my opportunity to write ‘off of’, sorry, I won’t do it again!).pinkAnyway I didn’t have all day to fuss about my bloomin’ (not really) hanging baskets! It was Friday morning and I was in a hurry to get to Exeter St Davids Train Station to pick up my parents – who were coming to stay for the weekend. Yes, it had been several months since we’d seen them and they were travelling down from Herefordshire to brave/slum it in our not very fancy spare room. It’s an unloved and damp space where I hang the laundry and the wardrobe bulges with hatboxes (from all the weddings I went to in the numerous-nuptials-noughties). The walls are grubby magnolia because, as you might already know, I still haven’t got round to painting them Elephants Breath by Farrow and Ball (perhaps if I keep mentioning them I’ll get a free tin – Farrow and Ball, Farrow and Ball and if you will – Farrow and Ball!). Anyway Anna (local best friend) tells me that Arsenic Green and Rectory Red are the new go to F&B paints now… but I’m no slave to fashion – paint or otherwise, so I won’t get emulsional about it (soz). I’ll just gloss over that last bit (sorry again!).
I was always pleased to see my parents – my inner 5 year old excitement couldn’t be assuaged – but probably because there were such long time lapses between visits and I haplessly forgot how annoying they could be until they arrived. I was then reminded within 10 minutes! A bit like stupidly forgetting about the pain of giving birth the first time and then wrenching the midwife’s arm bawling -“GET ME AN EPIDURAL FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!”.

Before any visit from my parents I could be sure (and I mean sure sure – like that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west sure) that the following would happen:-

The state of….list.

1.The state of my car would be mentioned.
2.The state of my children’s eating habits would be mentioned.
3.The state of the spare room would be mentioned. Are you sensing a theme here?
4.The state of my writing career would be mentioned.
5.The state of my husband….actually my Mother loves Ted, she likes to fawn round him and even flirt a little #inappropriate. He was unlikely to come under any ‘grey bashing’. 
6.The state of my shabby (and not in a chic way!) sofa.
7.Oh and because of the time of year – the state of my hanging baskets would be mentioned. Guaranteed!

My mother was standing outside the train station with Dad in what can only be described as lurid peacock on steroids green/blue ensemble? She always looks well coiffed (smart grey bob) and relatively glamourous. Mum also aspires to a little french sophistication with her attire. She was probably (disclaimer – I can neither confirm or deny) wearing a Jacques Vert suit with coordinating shoes and handbag with a pashmina. She was just missing a fascinator for the full Mother of the Bride look. My Dad, in contrast, was sporting his trusty ‘Regatta’ Mac and comfy cords and was struggling with all their luggage.peacock“Darling, you’re late!”my Mother trilled out as I walked towards them.
“Yes, we’ve been standing here a whole 2 minutes,” said Dad, mocking my Mum and eye rolling at me.
“Don’t you two start ganging up on me the moment we set eyes on each other,” she said, tutting and dragging me in for a couple of air kisses. She smelt familiarly like talcum powder (the type you win in a crap raffle).
I helped Dad with their numerous bags while Mum wafted her pashmina about ineffectually.
“Goodness gracious! Is that duct tape on your wheel arch?”. My mother sounded horrified as we reached my car. Boom – and there it was no 1 – the state of my car. My orange Mini was old – it wasn’t old enough to be vintagey-cool and it wasn’t young enough to look flash anymore.
“Just a bit of rust on the bodywork,” I said batting the comment off.
“It looks more like an old baked bean can every time we see you,” she added, pulling a face and then making a great big fuss about having to bend in double (with her hips) to get into the back seat. Dad was all for forcing the baggage in….no not my mother – the two overnight bags they had brought, so I jiggled them about and finally shut the boot.orangeOnce we had arrived at home, Dad couldn’t get out of the car quickly enough. A keen gardener – he was at my hanging baskets like a rat up a drainpipe.

“I’ll have to sort them out for you,’ he said, sounding resigned, like I’d brought shame upon the family, “perhaps run the hosepipe on them – they look a bit parched, the rain water just runs off you know – and I think they need feeding. Don’t worry I’ve brought some gel plant food.” Oh thank god! I hardly had a wink of sleep last night for worrying that my hanging baskets might be hungry??…..and bish bosh there was no.7.- the state of my hanging baskets!

I served up quiche and salad for lunch (the quiche was shop-bought, which was duly noted) but it wasn’t mentioned which means it would come back to haunt me. “Your father and I are thinking of going on a cruise,” Mum exclaimed during the meal.
“But you said you’d never ever go on a cruise!” I countered, surprised.
“Yes but Sylvia and Graham Blacksmith-Jones, you know from ‘Bridge’ have just got back from cruising the Rhine. A luxury ship of course! Wine tasting in Mainz and site seeing in Cologne. Quite a civilised affair by all accounts.”
You’ll hate it! #frittering my inheritance.beigeMy parents wanted to unpack after lunch and ‘settle’ into their room before school pick up and the onslaught of two overexcited children.“I see you haven’t got round to painting the walls in Hippopotumus Pant, or whatever the colour was? Farrow and Ball wasn’t it?”observed my mother. Well, that was no.3 ticked off nicely, the state of the spare room!
“Yes,” I said, “Farrow and Ball but I think you mean Elephant’s Breath!”
Farrow and Ball you say,” added Dad, “I’m more of a Dulux man myself!”
I’m more of a – ‘let an interior decorator worry about the paint’. But that’s in my lovely parallel life where I am a multi million book selling author who is permanantly at the top of the Times bestsellers list! And I own an award winning vineyard and a second home in Barbados where Tom Hiddleston is my pool boy…..but hey I digress.Hippo greyNext, my Mother moved seamlessly onto – no.5 the state of my writing career.
“And darling, how’s your new romance book coming along – ‘A Thatcher for a fortnight’… or something isn’t it?

Twelve days and the Thatcher,” I corrected her, “but I’d say it was more of a gritty love story than a ‘romance’.”

“So nothing like Miss Nadderbanks Investigates? “asked Dad, referring to the series of books that I had had published before the children were born..

“Oh yes, I always thought she was such a hoot!” Mum smirked, “anyway,” she continued, “as I’ve always said – you’re very talented and you’ve seen success with the Miss Nadderbanks series, so I’m sure your new novel will be brilliant,” she finished reverently. She smiled and held my gaze – almost long enough for me to have a warm and fuzzy but no………..
“And anyway I want something to brag about at Bridge! Did I tell you that Sylvia Blacksmith-Jones’ son is now with the Royal Shakespeare Company – she never stops banging on about it and of course her daughter is a very successful ‘down there’ Doctor in London,” my mother also found it necessary to gesticulate ‘down there’.
“I think you mean Consultant Urologist dear,” explained Dad wearily.
“Well anyway, let me know when you’ve written it, I’ll take a look at the manuscript for you,” she added officiously.
“You might find it a bit…errr,” I grappled for the right word “risque?” I said, slightly embarrassed.
“Oh you younger generations – you’re so pompous ! Anyone would think you invented sexual intercourse! How do you think your father and I did it – immaculate conception? A turkey baster, horse syringe?”.
MAKE IT STOP! #cringeathon. TMTI (too much to imagine) on an epic scale.

I sent my parents off to pick the children up from school (why have a dog and bark yourself). They arrived home far too quickly. I was hoping they’d spend at least an hour on the Village Green because I had just sat down with Devon Life and a cup of tea for a couple of minutes peace! They burst in noisily. Lottie has a cringy habit of asking my parents (usually the first thing she says) “When is your train home?” and this is not because she wants them to bugger off  – she merely likes to get a handle on how long they are staying because she enjoys their company. My mother likes to take pretend umbridge, she enjoys taking her um to the bridge!
“Poor old Grannie Helen and Granddad! We’ve only just got here!” she said mock  theatrically. Grannie Helen is a self styled name because my mother thinks that ‘Grannie’ on its own makes her sound old and unglamorous. So inevitably the children just call her Grannie to wind her up!

In fairness to my parents – they were jolly good at board games and seemed to have infinite patience to play them. Toby and Lottie busied themselves in the ‘games’ cupboard pulling out all manner of table top classics. Usually after school my children like to make a big fat fuss about what they can have for a snack. I try to dispatch something to eat fairly quickly so that no one gets hurt. They usually settle on some kind of cake-age or biscuitry.

“I’m sure we didn’t have such ‘snacking’ when you were a child! They won’t eat their dinner if they’re full of cake!” my mother chided, “I shan’t be eating anything until suppertime,” she added nobly. And tah dah – there’s no.2 the state of my children’s eating habits mentioned.

“Oh that’s a shame,” I said, “because actually I thought I’d make us all a cream tea!” This of course made the children whoop (the little Devonians).

“Shop bought scones like the quiche?” my mother enquired raising an eyebrow at the same time. Told you the shop bought quiche would bite me on the arse!

“Oh yes, fresh from the farm shop, baked this morning!!” I replied smugly.

My mother loves a jammy scone as much as me. Whenever she comes to Devon she feels it’s her touristic rite of passage to indulge in a proper Devonshire Cream Tea. A flash of panic passed over her features at the thought of missing out.

“I’d love a cream tea!” Dad said brightly, who always enjoyed our little exchanges and was smirking to himself as he let Toby beat him in a game of Connect 4.

“Perhaps I will have a cream tea after all, seems rude not to when you’re going to all that trouble,” my Mother blustered.

 

straw redI was relieved when Ted (my husband) came home from work, he was a great way of distracting my mother who went into auto-fawning mode. She fixed him a gin and tonic and then plumped up a cushion for him – 1952 salutes you! Had he had a good day at work she enquired? How was work what with the political instability? Did he want his G&T refreshed! Dad wondered into the kitchen to escape the scattergun spray of smarming and offered to prepare the vegetables for dinner. I could hear my Mother still schmoozing my poor ‘friday knackered’ husband. But luckily for him he wasn’t required to participate in the ‘conversation’ anyway. “You shouldn’t have to sit on a sofa like this Ted, especially after a long day at work. It’s so uncomfortable. Put your foot down and tell Hillie you want a new one.” She was referring to our old leather sofa which had been cool when I’d bought it as a twenty something and now it was battered, ageing, sagging and sporting a plethora of stains and the word ‘bum’ written in small letters on one of the arm rests courtesy of Toby. Et voila – no.6 the state of my shabby (not chic) sofa.She had managed to nail the full ‘list’ in one day and we still had the rest of the weekend to get through!brown“I can hear her slagging off my sofa again!” I told Dad.
“Oh well, you know your Mother – she’s never been one to couch her opinions!” he said, snickering*.

More next week!
As you were!
PS Just because I mention Farrow and Ball (Elephants breath), fuchsia (upright and trailing) hanging baskets and cruises up the Rhine it does not mean I endorse them (unless I get a free one of course! – please don’t send me any frigging hanging baskets! Or a cruise up the Rhine but any Caribbean cruises will be gratefully accepted!)

*snickering – (lesser known definition) to consume a chocolatey and perhaps nutty bar of confectionary in the bathroom while your toddler is banging on the locked door with a Bob the Builder hammer or decapitated baby Annabel.

PPS It’s the Mumsnet Blogging Awards. If I’ve given you cause to snigger, chortle, giggle or even LOL with my bloggingness – I would love nominations for the category ‘Best Comic Writer’. My URL is https://turningupindevon.com  Thank you! Every person who nominates me will be sent a dried out (but gel fed) hanging basket (probably not really). Ta x

Note to myself: The one when my parent’s visit.

Very chuffed to be a featured blogger on Friday Frolics🙂 x

Life Love and Dirty Dishes
Rhyming with Wine

Writing Bubble

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Prose for Thought
Life Love and Dirty Dishes