Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sleep in Heavenly Peace?

It's been a bit of a mad weekend here. Yesterday the great Christmas Tree hunt; disappointingly no small trees at our first stop so we had to travel to the more expensive place where, after I'd handed over wodges of cash, the chap manning the needle netting machine informed me the tree needed an inch sawing off the bottom in order to survive the next two weeks but that his saw was broken. Joy.

Home, lunch, and then we went postal. 91 leaflets to deliver to the 91 houses in our road - disconcerting as the highest number is 110. A mixture of memories; as a teenager I had the paper round for this road (and for another 300 houses. For the 390 houses I was paid £3 a week. A few years later my brother took over the round; his round was half the size of mine and he was paid double. But I'm not bitter. Not at all), and some of the letter boxes greeted me as old friends.See now this letter box is, to my mind, the perfect one (just as well really, since it's my own). It's medium height, the right way up, on a gentle spring so easy to push leaflets through but closes itself without leaving nasty draughts. Oh, and there's a ramp up to it so Little Fish could post the leaflet through - the only leaflet she delivered herself.

And so I remembered my letterbox classification system. There are the boringly normal letterboxes like this one. Kind, compassionate householders, clearly doing their best to make post delivery as easy as possible.

Then there are the sadists and those who like to amuse themselves at others' expense. In its mildest form, this creates a letterbox with a flap which opens outwards rather than inwards, making posting leaflets a two handed job. It can manifest in a letterbox cunningly disguised as a pillar or door panel, causing the poster to hunt fruitlessly until the owner of the house walks past and points. Or, more viciously, it means a letterbox with a spring so violent it skins your knuckles and requires the occasional sacrifice of a nail.

Then there are the mathematically challenged. These householders provide a letter box not more than three inches long, necessitating a gentle roll and fold maneuver in order to insert a leaflet. I remember these letterboxes from my papergirl experiences; with a bit of practice the free paper could be folded into 4 and rammed through, but only if the householders had no interest in the headlines or classifieds. Always a relief when the "no free papers here" sign appeared.

Next, householders overly interested in your own personal habits. This will generally be demonstrated by a clear glass panelled front door, and a letter box sited at the very top of the door. For a short papergirl to reach the slot, she must press herself up against the glass and raise her arms to the fullest extent. In winter these were the ripped underarm sleeve checkers; in summer they became the RightGuard police.

And finally, those with illusions of grandeur. The "I kiss thy feet, oh master of this house" letterboxes. These you will find a mere 2 inches off the ground, and generally with an extremely stiff spring to ensure you remain kneeling until you have gained a proper sense of humility.

Mixed in with the old friends was a new one; a Swiss Post mailbox mounted on the wall. Now if only I'd noticed that before battling my way through the several gates barring my access to the front door...

Home, and a deadline - chocolate truffles to be made for a Christmas Party. So, as the girls defrosted themselves nicely watching Mary Poppins I stood over a large mixing bowl in the kitchen, grating cake and mashing butter, and forgetting that the above recipe is already doubled from the original recipe, so doubling it again and providing quite ridiculous numbers of truffles.

Back to the girls and the always wonderful discovery that Little Fish had found the glitter and sequins and created rainbow snow in the sitting room.


Awake early this morning, with a nagging sensation of something forgotten. I ironed the girls' party dresses, located tights and even found something vaguely smarter than usual for myself. Wrestled with the cats, debated doing more ironing before sanity prevailed, and then remembered I needed to find the girls' Angel outfits for the Carol Service. No problem, they're definitely in Mog's wardrobe.

Except of course that they aren't. And as she sleeps on, I ferret through every shelf in the wardrobe, turning the place upside down. I find our Christmas decorations, much tinsel, a rather nasty sticky patch of ancient kitten urine, approximately 147 disposable aprons, and eventually just one angel outfit. Searching through the scattered remains of the wardrobe I locate a white skirt, and then another, and several white tops, and as I muse that Mog has too many clothes I try to work out which one will be most acceptable to Little Fish. And then I remember the second tabard is in the sewing room and tear that apart in an attempt to find it.

Two hours later, our carer is just about due, Little Fish is calling to get dressed, the iron is overheating, and I just about have some clothes on. I have cleaned up copious quantities of kitten poo and am preparing to do the same for a flucloxacillined child.

The carol service is, as always, excellent. Hordes of angels and shepherds on the carpet abiding; there's something about being lined up facing the many adults in the congregation which seemed to somewhat silence the general chat and mayhem which accompanies our family services. Although whoever decided sticking large pointy stars onto long pointy sticks and handing them out to the children too young to sit on the carpet needs to spend 30 minutes sitting surrounded by children thus armed.

And then we rush to the Special Kids Christmas Party. Slightly too rushed perhaps; I turn the corner onto the main road and the beautifully arranged truffles leave the tray and leave their casings and pitter patter pitter patter themselves elsewhere. They're still beautiful, just no longer quite so delicately arranged. Good times.

I am in the middle of complacently telling a friend that no, my girls aren't particularly bothered about Father Christmas, when in he walks, and Little Fish is silent, tugging on my arm and pointing in utter disbelief. Mog too saves her only spontaneous smile of the afternoon for the big man in the red suit. Laura, your bright yellow socks double nicely as a slightly slipped halo; we didn't bother changing out of angel outfits for the party but decided we'd be nicely festive.

More food than we could conceivably consume, so we gather a doggy bag to keep us going on the long journey home. I exit the carpark, brake, and crisps, sandwiches, sausage rolls and chocolate biscuits hit the windscreen. Oops. I decide against the super expensive Surrey garage prices, and regret this when a new (to me) orange light shines on the dashboard begging me please to find Deisel anywhere, any price. £80 later the tank is full and I wonder just how empty it was. Little Fish memorises the route home and persists in checking whether we are now on the M40 or the A40. I wish she wouldn't; every time she asks I have to check myself.

And then we are home, and I open the front door. And am hit by the stench of stale cat urine. Pushing the girls into the sitting room I mop puddles, empty overflowing litter trays, and scrape turns from under chairs. A blast of air freshener and we're no longer breathing ammonia, but it's safe to say the party spirit has evaporated. The cats have stripped my poinsettia bare; I wonder whether it is poisonous to them and then find myself wondering whether I'd prefer it was as at least I'd not come back to quite such devastation. They've also taken the contents of Mog's wardrobe and generously redistributed them around the house, gathered the rainbow snow and chased it into crevices, and performed long and complicated stress tests (I can only assume) on my clean laundry.

It is at this point I remember Little Fish is supposed to be bringing six homemade fairy cakes to school with her tomorrow for her Christmas party. No time to buy them in the morning and pass them off as homemade; I will just have to set to and bake them. I have a kit; bought for Little Fish to do with a carer one afternoon but marginally quicker than assembling the necessaries myself, so I rip open the sachet of powder and discover I should be mixing it with oil. My only oil extra virgin olive oil, I add 6 tablespoonsful and watch as the mix turns a delicate green shade. Tasty. Next up, one egg; I open the 'fridge and remember we have run out. Consoling myself with the thought that no one ever actually eats the cakes at a child's party (and why would you when you could simply lick off the icing and leave the rest), I add water instead of egg and hope for the best. One last stir before putting the batter into cake cases, and with a gentle slip of the fingers I pour half the mixture down my jeans and across the floor. Muttering quite loudly now I scrape the remaining mix into the cases and shove them into the oven, where in due time they do indeed turn a beautiful pale golden brown, although they are distinctly flatter than the average fairy cake. Once cooled they turn out to be rather crisper and heavier too, but hey ho. Much icing to compensate for the inevitable taste and texture deficiencies, chocolate buttons as a further apology, and finally six biscuitty cakes are assembled and placed on top of the 'fridge - hopefully a cat proof location.

I toss the bowl and spoon into the sink, gather the rest of the washing up and then decide in the sink is just about as good as washed up and shiny, and retreat to the sitting room to try to blitz it.
It appears to be the case that an epic battle has been fought for posession of this cardboard box. Now you might think that Gotcha above here has won the battle. But closer investigation reveals that he is merely sitting on Grolly's head, and , once she has gathered strength, he is duly evicted.
And after a short wash, Grolly decides the box is no longer to her taste either, and insists I remove it from her hot water pipe. All three cats now approach, wishing to discuss the catering arrangements and keen to implement a better system for any future days when room service will be absent.

I open another couple of sachets of the good food, squeeze it out into newly cleaned cat bowls, and retire, defeated, to my armchair in the sitting room. And then I remember Little Fish needs to take a packed lunch in the morning as the kitchen is busy cooking Christmas Dinner for the senior pupils.

Stale bread, no eggs, and healthy eating in school rules meaning no crisps, chocolate or drinks other than water. That'll be ham, banana and a yoghurt then. I truly am a domestic goddess.

And now it must be bedtime.


Anonymous said...

Try delivering the Sunday Times to an 3 inch letter box, 2 inches of the ground...


Doorless said...

What adorable pics with father Christmas. You are so clever and how you manage to cram so much into one day amazes me.

sarah bess said...

so entertaining!


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