Advice for expectant mothers – aim to give birth in Pets at Home.

On Friday, I acquired a few new animals, namely 2 guinea pigs and 2 rescue hamsters. I was provided with a full kit to get me and the animals safely through the first few weeks of their lives. I even got booklets telling me exactly how I could expect these specific animals to behave, what to do in certain situations, and a helpline to call for assistance. Yesterday afternoon I received a call from Pets at Home checking how we were all getting on and that everyone was coping ok.

When I had a baby, or 4, I was discharged from hospital with a baby and a blanket which I had nicked marked ‘Do not remove. Property of RHCH’. There was no instruction manual for my baby.

I therefore suggest that you aim to deliver your newborn in Pets at Home. They will most likely bundle you into the car with a full starter kit, instruction manual, helpline, and they even have stickers with puppies on for your baby. They will call 2 days later to make sure all is ok. If it isn’t, just use the handy helpline. They even take returns.


Don’t sink on my account!

image imageSometimes I wonder if everyone finds life as bemusing as I do, or if I have been specially selected to go through a regular series of totally bizarre experiences, to see how I come out at the end.

Take today for example. I sail. Or at least that’s what I tell people. What I actually know about sailing would probably fill the back of a postage stamp, but no more. Don’t get me wrong, if you put me in a dinghy, I can make it go. My main difficulties are a lack of any sort of control at all over the direction the boat goes, or the speed at which it goes in that direction. Occasionally this can be dangerous, but most people at my club can spot my unique sailing style a mile off, and give me a wide berth. I have also learned a few select sailing phrases and the resulting  action I should take if they are yelled in my direction. For example, when sailing round a mark, if someone yells ‘water’ at me, this is not a polite request for a sip from my bottle of Evian. It actually means ‘get the hell out of my way or I will ram your boat because I am totally not going to lose this race just because you can’t sail’ or something like that.

Club rules require me to do 2 duties per year. For my second duty (you won’t be surprised to learn that my fist was bar duty!) I chose patrol boat assistant. This was on the basis that I would successfully persuade my dad to do my duty for me. Instead, he went on holiday. I also asked my husband, but let’s just say ‘guinea pig gate’ didn’t stand me in good stead. So, it was that I was stuck doing my own duty.

Aside from the cold, the wet, and the fact that there is no loo on board the rescue boat, there are good things to be said for this duty. The two main selling points are that there are no kids on board, and I get a free ride in a speedboat (I am still a kid in oh so many ways). The pre-requisites of a successful rescue duty are your own safety gear (warm stuff and life jacket), and a working rescue boat, known as a rib. Actual tasks are to lay the marks (big floaty things the boats race round), watch the boats, and if anyone gets into difficulty, perform a rescue. Doesn’t sound too tricky right?

Had it not been for the fact that I was still silently congratulating myself for so totally looking like I knew what I was doing launching the rib (i.e. I managed to avoid falling off the edge of the slipway under water), I might have noticed the water lapping almost up to my knees a little sooner. When I did notice it, initial thoughts went something like:

  1. Why does this kind of thing ALWAYS happen to me.
  2. OMG we are sinking.
  3. Am I the first person in the history of the club to need rescued by the dinghies that I am there to rescue. Oh wait, none of them are looking this way, so help not coming.
  4. What is the number for the coastguard.
  5. ok, let’s call the coastguard immediately. We are sinking.

Luckily for all concerned, I was assistant patrol boat driver not actual patrol boat driver. RodgerBrydges had the great fortune to be in charge on the first day in the history of Netley Sailing Club as I know it that the patrol boat was sinking. Rodger immediately reassured me and advised that the boat would not actually sink despite appearances to the contrary. I must not have appeared convinced as he went on to explain that he was a marine accident investigator and had direct experience of the sinkability or otherwise of a rib. I have to say, I was impressed. Further questioning revealed that a marine investigator does totally cool stuff. It’s a bit like a nautical James Bond role. Sensing a totally exciting new career option, I decided I should impress with my skills of ‘marine investigation’  so that the process of application and interview would be a mere formality should I choose to apply for such a job.

I knelt down and identified the source of the gushing water (a big hole leading into the hull from the interior of the boat). I couldn’t find a plug (sorry, bung) for this hole. Apparently the solution was to drive really fast to get rid of the water, and radio shore to tell them about the problem. Radio didn’t work. Engine would not go fast (something to do with revs). I though my suggestion that perhaps there was too much water touching the engine wiring was a good one, but Rodger pointed out that being a boat, it was designed to get wet.  I think the point at which I lost any credibility as a potential marine accident investigator was when I checked for the third time and found the large hole in the boat hull leading to the sea. This obviously had quite a lot to do with the volume of water on board, and I had failed to find it the first two times. In my defence, it was under a lot of very cold water. To cut a long story short it seems that the last person to use the boat had totally filled the hull with water. We had taken it out filled, which was why it kept flowing into the boat. The hull was emptying into the boat, and so was the sea. The engine didn’t work as we had so much water onboard.

Luckily, at half time we resolved the problem. Rodger let me drive the boat in the afternoon (probably so I wouldn’t tell his boss he doesn’t know a rib has a plug) and we successfully rescued someone’s rudder and tiller. The only slight hitch came when Rodger told me to collect the inflatable buoys by driving straight at them. I think his exact words were “that will cause the buoy to run along one side of the boat or the other and  I will grab it”. It is totally not my fault that he didn’t say I should slow down or turn the engine off before I hit the buoy. I have a pram tyre puncture kit. It will be fine.

Anyway, I think I might be consigned to bar duty from here on in. It’s not such a bad life, eh Rodger? Your shout at the bar (boat plug and all that!).

This is Netley2 over and out.

As every magazine buying parent will know, the child’s desire for a particular magazine is generally dictated by how much they want the cheap tat stuck to the front of the magazine. You can imagine the reaction when we opened the ‘Sparkle World’ nail kit radioactively pink nail polish, to find this.


I can paint kids nails (not terribly well), but what the #### am I meant to do with a brush that looks like this?


Boris and Piglet!

The guinea pigs
The guinea pigs

I totally failed in my explanation of brainstorming for the kids. To quell the rising tide of screaming, hair pulling and milk pouring, I suggested that we brainstorm for names for the new guinea pigs. By way of example, simultaneously, I said ‘like Piglet’ and Mel said ‘like Boris’. Now we have guinea pigs named Piglet and Boris.

She’s not mine!

Even given my necessarily lax parenting standards (number of kids vs number of arms), I actually found myself so embarrassed by the behaviour of one of the twins today that I temporarily disowned her. The ‘event’ occurred during a garden centre visit to buy a plant. One single plant. At the time I was negotiating with the poorly five year old (yes, I know it is poor parenting to take a poorly child to a garden centre, but he had been given Calpol and frankly, he was going to cry and moan wherever he was so I thought he might as well do it while I did something useful). Anyway, he had persuaded me to increase from 2 to 3 chocolate coins as the price for him to watch the twins feed their snacks to the goats for just five minutes while I chose my Chrysanthamum. 3 chocolate coins is a very high price by my standards. He is a good negotiator.

As we finalised the deal, I heard a little voice say “I need a wee!”. I turned round to find another shopper looking in horror at the twin who had ditched the tights and knickers, pulled up her skirt, and was in the process of peeing in between the reduced plants and goat pen. I looked at her, looked at Mel, and looked disgusted (all genuine). Then, for the first time ever in the history of my being a parent, I looked at Mel and said “How dreadful! I wonder where that disgusting child’s parents are. Imagine leaving her alone like that to wee in a garden centre. Let’s go and tell the staff.” Then we legged it out of sight round the corner until the horrified customer left. We then ran back, and grabbed a twin and older child each and ran for the exit. I was slower as I still had to re-dress said twin but we got out with no-one else seeing (I think). image

I love Saturday mornings…

The results of the twins early morning science experiment can now be released. Apparently it takes one slightly deranged mummy 12 tea towels and 20 minutes to clean up four pints of milk poured over the kitchen table while mummy went to the loo. An incidental finding is that if you pour four pints of milk over two sets of wireless headphones, they stop working.

The dollshouse, the Guineau pig and the dwarf hamsters.

As a generally slightly frazzled mother of 4 I don’t expect to be able to predict how my days will turn out with any great accuracy. However, every now and again a day goes so awry that I find myself wondering what just happened. 

Today at school drop off someone mentioned it was harvest mass and soup lunch at the school today. Not having read the newsletter for the last week…possibly fortnight…yet, I cancelled story sack (with a secret sigh of delight – eat all you like hungry caterpillar), packed a lunch for the 3 smalls, and went to church. Mass was survived with only two or three moments of significant embarrassment, such as a twin fox howl during an otherwise quiet prayer. I miraculously managed to retrieve the plastic cow which the



twins had posted down the back of the church piano just before it disappeared from sight. Even lunch in the classroom went better than could be expected, with the only significant issue being the twins eating another child’s lunch. I gave her a chocolate coin, and she promised not to tell. 

I then spent an hour researching dolls houses as I wanted to get the girls really big old fashioned one like the ones I used to play with. I was left feeling a bit shell shocked by the starting eBay prices of the properly large houses (about £300). 

Coffee and dolls house research done, I got everyone dressed as witches, obviously, and we piled into the car for the afternoons ‘move and groove’ class. Half way there, I realised that I had got the time wrong, and we had missed the class. Being generally slightly frazzled, this type of thing happens. I do not panic any more, I just re-plan. Having got the smalls dressed and into the car, there was no way we were just going home so we went to the emmaus shop to ditch the 200 pairs of shoes the kids have grown out of in the last year or so. This was when things turned really bizarre.

I got out, ditched the shoes turned around and found myself facing a huge and totally perfect dollshouse at £15. Three stories high, wallpaper, carpets, the lot. I grabbed it (not literally as I couldn’t actually lift it) and paid. As they put it into my car, I turned and saw another for £10. Fearing I was participating in a new ‘Jeremy Beadle’ style show I checked around. Seeing no evidence of cameras or other conspiracies, I bought it as well. It took 2 trips to get them home. When I picked up the second one, they threw in a full gerbil kit – cage, bowls, bottles, wheel, everything you need to own a gerbil. We don’t own a gerbil.

I confess that I was feeling generally quite bemused by this stage. I took my dollshouse along with gerbil kit and rushed back for school pick up. In a moment of rash decision making which I will probably, no undoubtedly, come to regret, I found myself saying to the kids, “well hey, why don’t we go now and buy a couple of gerbils for this cage”. 

Pets at home politely explained that this was not a gerbil cage, but a hamster cage. Apparently it would take a couple of gerbils no more than an hour to eat their way out of my ‘gerbil cage’.  They looked at the rabble of kids and, to give the staff total respect for the deadpan presentation, suggested that something larger and more robust like a Guineau pig might be a better pet for my family. Now I felt torn. I had the kit for a hamster, but was being told to buy a Guineau pig, which meant a whole new kit. 

I am not sure exactly how it came about. I may have been distracted by one twin running around with a box of live crickets shrieking with delight while the girls tested each of the squeaky dog toys by chewing on them, and the eldest used the fishing nets to try and catch the fish in the tropical tanks, but somehow I left the shop with a Guineau pig kit complete with two male Guineau pigs and two rescue Russian dwarf hamsters to go in the cage I was given at Emmaus. 

I had a suspicion that my long suffering husband might not be so happy with the new additions to our family, not least given that I spent last weekend muttering about never having anything further come into our home that would in any way be dependant on me. The plan was to get everything set up, make them look cute and hassle free, and it would all be fine. I was advised that the Guineau pigs would just hide at first so I reckoned that would be good. I am not sure I had actually even seen the rescue hamsters at that stage as they had sort of been ushered into boxes and bundled into my car by the helpful staff. 

As we have established, today was anti-plan day. You won’t be surprised to hear that my husband came home early and just as I was standing covered in sawdust holding one to demonstrate how tame the lovely rescue dwarf Russian Hamsters were, the little sod bit me, drawing blood. I think I am beginning to see why they were up for adoption!

So anyway, now we are a family with 4 kids, 4 chickens, 2 dogs, 2 Guineau pigs and 2 dwarf Russian hamsters…where’s the wine please…

Story sack vs court hearing

Dear Royal Courts of Justice,

Tomorrow is Friday, you know, my day off. You routinely list hearings on my cases on Fridays. This means that I drive the kids and the nanny to story sack at a local children’s centre where they spend an hour studying books such as Aliens Love Underpants and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  During that time I sit in the Headmistresses office conducting the telephone hearings.

You have omitted to give me a last minute hearing for tomorrow. While it is entirely my prerogative to complain about working on my day off, it is equally my prerogative to complain about the fact that instead of conducting a court hearing tomorrow at 10.30 am I will be spending an hour studying ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, making butterfly paintings and salt dough caterpillars. Between you and me, I hate ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. It is mainly about food. I like food, and it makes me think about food like cake and watermelon. I have just joined my department slimming club, so spending Friday morning thinking about food is bad, very bad. Weigh in is on Tuesday so I need not to think about food all of Friday morning.  Please send me a court hearing. NOW!