Tuesday 25 September 2012

High after the Low

"That doorbell is INSANE!", proclaimed the chap from Virgin who came to sort my cables out this week. He was the owner of a rather impressive bedhead full of sun-bleached surfer-style hair and the typical dazed/confused look that so many beach bums have in this town. But he snapped out of it when he rang the bell.

The doorbell is the original Victorian one that came with the house. It jingles merrily whenever anyone comes to the front door, it's cool. The Virgin bloke was pretty impressed it seemed.

Yes the bell. Our bell. We live on the other side of the bell which of course means WE ARE IN! We have moved. Hopefully not moving again now for a very long time.

My dad worked out that the Husband and I have moved seven times in ten years. It has been insane, a bit like our door bell.

The last year has been a complete rollercoaster ride, right from when our landlord in Berkshire suddenly announced he was selling the house last autumn. We have had a crazy time of it, it has to be said, and the last few months have been stressful. But, things are calming down. And we feel happy. Very happy.

The move itself was horrendous. But then these things are never pleasant!

We planned to move ourselves but decided that was just adding to the stress so booked a local firm who had great reviews on Check A Trade.

Hmmmmm. On the day we moved (my birthday...oh the glamour), we were expecting the lorry at 7.30am. We waited and waited and were then told three removal men had phoned in sick (one had our lorry) so they were waiting for another van to get through its MOT before it could move us. Oh the joy.

I spy the Blanket of Glory! Look, no mattress protection. Tut tut men.

So things started late, a couple of things got damaged (which they are dealing with) and things didn't finish until 8.30pm. ON MY BIRTHDAY. Grrrr. But then we all scoffed fish and chips and then I opened lots of gorgeous presents and cards and we put the children to bed and cracked open a bottle of Champagne and breathed a deep sigh of relief that we were in.

Gifts galore!

Getting cosy with the Husband

The vibes feel right too. There was something about this house that we loved right back when we first viewed it last October. It waited for us all this time. It was meant to be!

It's in a great location, school for the Princess is a ten minutes walk and its round the corner from the Prince's pre-school and the first school which he starts next year. It just all feels right.

It's not right beside the sea, but I figured you can't have it all. We are only a seven minute drive to the beach and I would much rather have an easier school run on balance. We nearly bought a 1930s semi much closer to the sea but I realised how much hassle the school run would be and I feel we've made the right decision. This house also suits us better. It's only an extra ten minute walk to the sea from where we rented. So fear not, I shall still be updating you all on the shenanigans of fit kitesurfers.

The neighbours are lovely too (and anyone who knows me personally know we had bad luck with neighbours a few years back so this was a welcome relief). They came round the other night with wine, homemade biscuits and a card. And she's invited me over for a coffee tomorrow which I am looking forward to.

It's still chaos here at the moment but we have unpacked a lot of boxes and my headache is clearing. We still have one room piled up with boxes and "stuff" which is worrying as we always have major clearouts every time we move, but we will slowly plough through it.

This house will be a project, it needs decorating throughout but we are going to take our time and do it slowly, getting a feel for each room as we go.

We have already done the Princess's room. The Husband and the Father in Law decorated it two days before we moved in. It was dark terracotta mottled wallpaper with a dark green border - nice. It's now pretty pink with Laura Ashley wallpaper and she loves it. She gets a brand new cream carpet in the next few weeks too. One room done already! Check.

In between moving and unpacking, I've taken myself off to chill out in the cherry tree shops.

The manager of Scope kindly let me hang out behind the scenes for a bit and I picked up these beauties for 50p each. I also came away with an application form to volunteer in the shop, but I shall put it on the backburner until we are sorted.

My brother in law and his wife sent me some lovely flowers for my birthday so that was a gorgeous surprise.

And then I came across these M&S Pastel range mugs from Scope this week. I got all four for £2!

The chintzy crockery above the mugs came from Oxfam last year. 

Note to self, must strip that wallpaper!

The children are settling in well and we are all sleeping like logs. Here they are playing on their go-cart (or "Oat Car" according to the Prince) which the lovely next door neighbours at our rental property gave us when we moved last week.

The Husband worked on Saturday and we knew it would be a fine day so the children and I spent plenty of time on the beach, fully aware that we would be stuck indoors on Sunday which is when I broke the back of the unpacking.

9.30am on Saturday

A rest after a mental week

And so that is me updated. It's time to go - I have more boxes to unpack before nipping to pick up the Princess from choir.

Sunday 16 September 2012

(Thirty) Seventh Heaven (and Hell)

Tomorrow is September 17th.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I am going to be 37.

Flipping heck, yes, 37. Three years off the big one. I remember my dad's 40th.....jeez this life is flying.

I can't quite believe it. I remember my sixth birthday - I had a disco at home and I wore denim dungarees. I remember my 13th birthday. My parents threw a massive disco for me in a village hall. I danced to Salt 'n' Pepa's Push It (still my favourite ever song) and wore huge silver treble clef shaped earrings from Tammy Girl.

I remember having afternoon tea at The Ritz with my family a few birthdays ago. The pianist played Happy Birthday while I scoffed dainty sandwiches and little cakes. Bliss!

I love birthdays. Every year without fail, all my family phone me separately and sing down the phone (in an operatic/choral voice) as soon as they wake up. This year though, I've told them to wait until the evening cos we are busy all day long on my birthday.

We move house at 7.30am tomorrow morning. It's been one hell of a weekend but we've had the most amazing help from both sets of parents and today, the Husband and I counted our lucky stars. Both sets of folks have given up their busy days to travel to us and help us out with packing, cleaning, scrubbing etc. Our new home is now gleaming, as shiny as a new pin, just waiting for us to move in and give it a new lease of life.

Tomorrow night, the Husband and I will be sitting in our new home. OUR new home (except it isn't new, it's old!) with fish and chips and Champagne, to toast my birthday, our 10th wedding anniversary (again...we keep toasting it!) and our new home. It's been a long time coming, all this!

My dad calculated that we have moved seven times in ten years. I hope now that we can stay put for a while. Put down roots as strong as oak trees, as one of my friends told me.

I have some cherry tree goodies to show you, but seeing that I have packed up the kitchen, it will have to wait. But I've made friends with the manager of a cherry tree shop and she let me go back stage - yes, behind the scenes. It was heavenly!

But more on that next time.

Til my next blog post (which may not be for a while until I am sorted and unpacked), let me show you a few photos:

The dear Prince started pre school for the first time ever.

Day one, wonderful. Day two, a few tears. Day three, more tears. Now he refuses to go. The photo above was day two. Then he started to miss me and wanted to come home.

The Princess started her big middle school. She amazes me, she is taking it all in her stride, bless her.

She also went to her first roller disco...

The Prince went to the barber for the first time ever.

I ate a massive ice cream during a break from packing and cleaning.

 Oh yeah, the packing. Oh it's been a right pain...

Two hours ago. We move tomorrow. Not good.

Him Indoors

That is a doll, not a human. This doll causes problems if left in the car...
So there we are. I am off for a while, I may check in but won't blog again now until I come up for air. I am so flipping excited for tomorrow, I don't think I will sleep, even though I am dog tired.

Please note my photos are crap because my camera has broken. I don't own a smart phone. I own an old phone. It takes poor photos. That's my weak excuse anyway!

Tuesday 4 September 2012


(Warning. Only read this if you are bored and the only other thing you could be doing is watching Celebrity Big Brother.)

Ooh la la! Sixteen glorious nights in the South of France. Oh my heart could weep at the thought of it all being over, but alas it is and I am back, mes amies! Missed me? What do you mean, "non"...

What a grape time we had (sorry...)
We went to the Charente region which is about half an hour from Limoges.

May I point out that this post isn't about my cherry tree shop purchases because they don't seem to have any in France (zut alors).

The weather hit 40 degrees and we had a long drive down to the gite. My lovely parents treated us to the fortnight (along with my sister and her hubby). Sadly my brother and his wife live in Chicago and it was too far for them to come. Still, I managed to scoff the croissants they would have enjoyed, so every cloud...

We were the first to arrive (we did the Euro Tunnel), swiftly followed by my parents (who went on the ferry) and then my sister Anna and Danny (who flew).

The gite was incredible. It slept about a billion people and the space was divine. I needed a map to find my bedroom the first couple of nights (those who know me know that I have the worst sense of direction in the world, like ever!)

Straight away we felt at home.

Part of the front of the gite

View of the gite from the side
 It was a massive rustic farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Vines laden with grapes were growing just over the other side of the lane and cows at the foot of the garden. Bliss.

At night we could hear cicadas churping, a warm breeze would sweep its way through the balmy nights and the pond full of frogs would become a concert of croaking creatures all trying to find a mate. The frogs would often leap out of the pond and wandered up to us. A bit freaky at first, especially when a toad-like amphibian jumps right up to your plates of meat, practically breathing on your big toe. But we soon became firm friends.

The garden was glorious and there was a herd of cows at the bottom of the garden who would come up every evening to watch the children on the trampoline.

Although I've just noticed there are NO cows in this pic. There are later!

The inside of the gite was just as lush - and it had five bathrooms which is probably why things were so calm!

I spy my little sis on the trampoline

There she goes again with the Prince. Like Tigger.

I think everyone was happy!

We found some dear little kittens with their mother who regularly visited us:

The pond, filled with the loveliest frogs I could ever hope to meet. 

We breakfasted on the patio every single morning.

My mum's amazing homemade granola

And the odd naughty bit of croissant too of course!

We were inland but there was an amazing swimming lake with beach that we went to most days.

The Princess made friends with two brothers who were English (and by some bizarre coincidence, used to live in my home town, although we didn't know them) and they had moved to France seven years ago. The threesome became firm friends for the fortnight.

Look at her, trying to play it well cool.

They taught her French (they are bilingual) and they spent their days floating on the inflatable croc we bought (which the Princess lovingly named Austin).

Austin took up most of our car so my dad offered to transport him to the lake daily. By the end of the fortnight, Dad was gagging to pop Austin.

We actually used Austin to re-enact the famous scene from Crocodile Dundee early one morning (you know, the bit with the skimpy thong, the lake and the croc) which was a silly idea I cooked up one evening. Sadly it can't ever end up on You Tube as everyone banned me from doing so, but let me tell you, the Husband is a very good sport and that's all I can say...

Ho hum, moving on. (Is anyone actually still reading this? Maybe Celeb Big Bro has been hotting up).

Happy as Larry as long as there is a lolly in hand

Perfect for the bairns

Fifty Shades of Mahogany
Sneaking in another cocktail with me sis (terribly stressful)
Oh go on then darlin', just one more
(it would be rude not to, huh!)

En famille (Rob, you were WELL missed)
Danny and the Princess "chillin'"
Lazing around en famille, why can't life always be like this?!

I used plenty of this:

Don't fret, I used factor 30 too!

We had a bit of a laugh for the duration of our time together, it has to be said.

The Princess with her Auntie Anna, being silly, as always.
Men being men. Barbecuing MEAT (said in manly voice)

 Anna cooking some nosh

Eat your heart out Nigella

The early evening visitors
View from our garden

Which one of you will read me my bedtime story?
"And then one of us jumped over the moooon..."

Thank GAWD we didn't have steak on the barbie....

They were so gorgeous. Don't mention the horseradish...

Excuse me pinny, I was being all domestic, like.

We spent a day in a wonderful place with its own fairytale castle. We ate, shopped and watched a wedding (the bride was stunning and the guests were tres chic).

Look and learn, Malory Towers, look and learn.

Eat your heart out Hogwarts
 You could dress up at the top of the castle:

The Princess was in her element. 

The Husband. Yes I know. Very worrying.

I spy ma and pa

My favourite couple in the world
Oh get a room, already!
Everything was devoured. We had to order more. Oh dear!
Proof. What pigs. Cochons!

We went on the Velo Rail. An old disused railway line which you can now cycle along, on a weird sort of wagon. You all go off individually and need to keep 50m distance between each wagon. Two of you cycle at the same time and it was flipping fab!

Bradley Wiggins, hereth I cycleth. Look at the bairns!

See, you all start in a row, waiting for the others to join behind.

Then you split. There's my family in front, Anna, Danny, Mum and Dad. 
Gotta love the baguette when you stop the Velo Rail for lunch

We went out for some lovely meals. My kids ate snails!!! FACT!

This is the Princess's  "new" cherry tree dress.
It's lush, will show case it properly another time

Anna and Danny - AKA Danna
 The Husband and I attempted to go out for a romantic meal together to the gorgeous town below but guess what, everything was shut (this happens a lot in France!) but still, I loved the view. 

It was wonderful to spend so much time with my parents. They've been married a very long time (38 years) and I feel very blessed to have had such a brill holiday with them both.

I think this pic was taken just after we gorged ourselves silly on patisseries at the lake
They are an inspiration to me. It was our tenth wedding anniversary while we were in France (thanks so much for your lovely messages/cards/emails, it meant a lot as it's a bit of a milestone). It was lovely to spend it all together, reminiscing about our big day.

The husband and I spent time alone enjoying cocktail sessions and in sunflower fields (my favourite flower - although I didn't have them at my wedding as it clashed with me colour scheme!). The south of France and sunflower fields go together like Kylie and Jason, biscuits and cheese, me and the Husband.

It almost looks fake!

Yo! (what a coy pose!)

Happy Anniversary, Flower (ooh cherry tree cardie alert)

Then unfortunately we began to notice a change in the Prince. Normally a cheerful chap, he went stroppy.

Look at that lip...

And grumpy. And subdued.

No he isn't wearing Rimmel mascara.....

Then his temperature went up to 40 degrees. So we nipped to a lovely doctor, I spoke my best French (i.e. crap) and after a couple of days (and forty gallons of Calpol) the boy perked up and we were back on track for more larks.

And finally...

There is one highly important piece of advice I picked up on this holiday.

When in France...

One egg is always an oeuf...


 So now we are home. The Princess starts a massive brand new middle school tomorrow which we are all excited about and the Prince starts preschool for the first time next Tuesday. I find that more daunting. He is rarely away from my side. I go to hang out the washing, he follows. I go to the loo, I don't go alone. He is my shadow and I shall miss him very much. It's the end of an era. The Princess is more outgoing and I know she will be fine, she is very excited.

And if that wasn't all mad enough. Guess what?

We move house in the next week or two!!! We've gone and bought ourselves a little house and all being well, we complete next week. It's been a crazy and stressful time but the holiday was our saviour and we now feel rejuvenated and ready for a chaotic few weeks.

We certainly don't do things by half in this family!

*Bof! is the title of this blog post because it's the only word spoken by a French character called Claud that my sister has invented. She does a great sketch of Claud smoking and drinking on his own in some French bar and at the end of this five minute sketch, he just waves a hand in the air and says "Bof!", in the aloof way the French carry off so well.

PS If you did read this to the end, crikey, go give yourself a high five. I truly salute you.