Keep Calm and Remain Stationary…

I don’t need my iPhone display to tell me that September is upon us. You can feel it, see it and even smell it in the air.

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If July and August were all about shell collecting for me, then September brings the conker harvest. Memories of going to school with a carrier bag full of conkers and chucking the contents across the playground with an accompanied, “SCRAMBLE!!” (Wouldn’t happen today – the bags are 5p…)

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Of all the seasons, Autumn is my favourite as it reminds me of walking to synagogue with my dad to celebrate the start of the Jewish New Year. On our journey, we would look at the change in scenery, spot figs on a neighbour’s tree and I would collect conkers, storing them in his prayer bag to add to my collection at home. (Conkers, not prayer bags…)

You can just ‘smell’ autumn in the air – if I was cryogenically frozen a la Woody Allen’s ‘Sleeper’, I could easily sniff out Autumn.

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A futuristic conker

It may also be because there is another distinct smell in the air – that of parental relief that the kids are going back to school, quickly followed by the whiff of panic that a lengthy list of items needs to be bought from the uniform shop and stationers.

With a queue to rival that of ‘Thunder Railroad’, including ticketing and barriers, unfortunately the uniform shop ain’t no Disneyland. And there’s definitely no option to buy fast passes. (I would if I could.) Everyone is treated equally and there is no favouritism.

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There is a method of course…

Step 1 – Make a fucking list

Seriously – it’s uniform shopping 101. You have a line of bored, angry, frustrated, irritable people, many of them who would choose the returns queue at Zara over this shit. Make a list and make your time in the shop as quick and painless as possible.

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During a quiet period

 

Step 2 – Muster up lots of patience

As Axl Rose once sang, this patience needs to be doled out in bucketloads.954d455cd24bfa8eeac06c668042940d.jpgPatience with your kids, for other hapless parents and also for the poor staff dealing with your precious darlings who are arguing over the length of their skirt, itchiness of their jumper and the ridiculously oversized track suit.

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“It’s fine. You’ll grow into it.”

However, my patience wears thin when you consider that the usual staff count will have been bolstered with ‘holiday staff’. Under normal circumstances, I’m fully willing to give people a chance, but not the uniform shop. I have no shame in offering up the risky-looking temp staff member to the person behind me in the queue. I would much rather wait another few minutes for an experienced member of staff.

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The above rule also applies when it comes to buying school shoes. My youngest is ‘full of personality’ when it comes to shoe shopping and only one staff member will be able to fit her with minimal fuss. (She knows who she is.)

Armed with a supply of coppers to keep them occupied at the swirly-whirly helter-skelter charity box, I patiently wait until I get ‘my person’. Job done in just a few minutes.

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‘The Money Spinner’. (Trademark name fact fans)

 

Step 3 – Choose your branding wisely

Whether you go for sew-in, stick-in, stamp-in or reckless Sharpie daubing, the choice is yours when it comes to labelling it all. I have one friend who goes supersized on her sew-in labels, meaning her kids’ items can be identified from Mars.

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Personally, I opt for a mixture of all the possibilities listed above, but just know that I have it on good authority from a teacher friend of mine, that they’re more likely to hand back the easily identifiable stuff, than a biro scribble that has faded in the wash.

There is just so much to do, and we haven’t even covered my favourite part of it all – the stationery.

Much like new toiletries for holiday, there is nothing like filling a new pencil-case with smelly pencils, ridiculous rubbers and highlighter pens that never seem to be used for highlighting anything, just drawing emojis.

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I take it as a time to replenish my own home-stock – new sticky tape, glue, pens, post- its…all of which have depleted over the holiday with the amount of arts, craft and the slime factory which was shut down months ago, but I believe is still operating via an underground cell.

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The joy of throwing out the pencils that no matter how many times you try to sharpen them, the lead gets stuck in the sharpener. Or the pen that has no lid and has inked up the entire inside of the pencil-case. Colouring pencils that are down to the nub.

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And if you were ever in doubt of the correct spelling of the word ‘stationery’…

Stationery – it has an ‘e‘.. as in ‘envelope’. Which is a form of stationery.

(And yes, the use of ‘a’ in the word ‘stationary’ in the blog title is deliberate.)

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And proud of it

Good luck to everyone starting new schools. (Particularly those with correctly labelled stuff.) xxx

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Holiday Romance

We were only away for ten days but the washing pile to rival Mount Everest tells a very different story. I know it makes more work for me but I respond well to instructions so if it says ‘wash separately’, I’m abiding by the label’s rules.

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I can’t take credit for this mountain

Swimwear is hand-washed, kids’ toy bunnies/penguins are boil-washed and everyone has a thorough shower and hair wash to rid us of ‘plane smell’.

I managed three films plus half a ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm‘ outbound. Husband watched seven hours of the ‘where our plane is’ channel, mixed with an hour of ‘chatting’ (having therapy) to a pilot who happened to be a passenger. (To be fair on husband, even the crew were told to take their seats because the turbulence was so bad.)

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Are we there yet?

Flying and turbulence doesn’t phase me – maybe that’s why I don’t have a problem with rollercoasters, but I have lots of friends who fear plane journeys. Many of their trips have been booked and then cancelled last-minute because they can’t face the reality of having to board a plane.

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I admit I do have one ritual before boarding the plane – I like to pat it. (The plane. what else did you think I meant?) After boarding at the furthest gate* from the terminal possible, I walk the jetway and casually touch the plane’s exterior as I step aboard. I don’t know why, but I like knowing the ‘bit’ I touched will make contact with the clouds. (I know rayyyt?)

*Briefly back to the gate bit. I just need some reassurance that no-one’s gate is ever within a 2 minute walk from wherever they’re been sitting. And there are always stairs. Or escalators that don’t work. 

This year, my family holidayed in America and aside from the ‘Ice Breakers’, clothing and essential US-drugstore purchases, we came back with something else this year. New numbers in our phones.

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We made friends.

Unheard of. Absurd. Unthinkable.

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What he said

Unless the outbound journey is purposefully taken with another family, we tend to be fairly unsociable on holiday. But this year was different.

Maybe it was because the first part of our trip was to Disney. That part required regimented schedules, timings and finite planning. Not the kind of thing easily done with others. It was all about us – the team. We were in the parks most days by 7am and in bed with delirium by 9pm.

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“Hello, Room Service?”

After four days of (exhausting) fun we were ready to relax in Miami. Maybe it was jet lag? Maybe our guards were down from all the rides and 3D craziness? Before you could say ‘have a nice day’ we were breakfasting, lunching and even ‘dinnering’ with this other family.

It was all moving so fast, so of course there were moments of doubt. Like waiting in reception to go for dinner one night and no sign on of them at the agreed departure time. Perhaps they were bored of us? Maybe their Uber had left for the restaurant already? Were they ‘late types’? We were confused and bewildered.

“You call.”

“No. You call.”

Like the pivotal end scene from a John Hughes movie, they appeared from the lobby. (Cue 80s soundtrack, like Starship or something equally as powerful and uplifting.)

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“He showed.” (Yay Andrew McCarthy for turning up for the date)

Our friends had an early riser in their ranks in the form of a five-year-old, so we were on slightly different morning schedules. We usually passed them just as they were leaving breakfast, but were delighted to hear “got you four sunbeds”. Well, if Carlsberg made holiday friends, I tell you…

The space allowed us to politely nod and chat to other guests getting their morning fill of the great American breakfast. (Mostly Jews getting their fill of bacon. Talking of which…)

My friend’s in-laws were in the same hotel as us and I bumped into the dad by the hot food one sunny morning. I politely chatted whilst he munched crispy sticks of applewood bacon ‘on-the-go’.

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The heroin of bacon

“Wow,” I thought, “he really must love bacon that he can’t even wait until he sits down to eat it.”

I headed out to the terrace and saw the wife, who ushered me over with a big smile. I said how I’d just been chatting to her husband over his plate of treif. The smile disappeared. She was livid and had no idea he was ‘on the bacon’. Whoops…

Me and my new mates even took our new friendship outside of the hotel, heading off on adventures like lifelong buddies.

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On tour

 

So delightfully in tune we were, that a nod and a wink was all that was required to understand that easily pilfered items like bagels, cookies and mini breakfast cereal packets were to be lifted for ‘daytime sustenance’.

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Frosted Flakes were super popular

Oh the fun we had. We created ‘in’ jokes and hashtags and social media’d the crap out of the holiday.

But after all’s said and done and the cases have been put back in the loft, is it ever really the same once you’re back on home ground?

Of course not.

For a start they’re called ‘Frosties’ and we don’t eat bacon at home.

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They’re grrrrrreat!

Happy New Year. x x x

 

 

 

Hotel, Motel, Whatcha Gonna Do Today?

All of a sudden it’s nearing the close of 2016 and I’m in full-on packing mode, casually ignoring the husband’s jeers of ‘#early panic’ and sticking with ‘#organised’.

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Not my actual case. I would NEVER put it on my bed

In any case, I spy him opening his airline app to see if he can check in online yet.

“Kids! Come here!”

“What is it, Daddy?”

“Look! These are our seats on the plane. It’s called an ‘A380’.”

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Kids just want to know who gets the window seat

This ‘checking’ thing is coupled with regular monitoring of ‘Flight Radar 24‘, a plane tracking app. He and his mate (the only two known subscribers) have spent many an evening verifying a particular plane coming in to land.

But enough about the flight, I’m all about the hotel. No cooking, no cleaning, no washing, no bed-making. Did I mention no cooking?

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For me, it’s the hotel smell upon arrival. I love that foyer ‘whiff’ you get – fresh flowers, furniture polish and the aroma of 24-hour efficiency that wafts around the place.

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Reej. Bev. Wilt. It really is. (Never been, but love to)

We choose our accommodation carefully based on the three R’s:

  • RESEARCH
  • RECOMMENDATION
  • REALLY BIG BEDS
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RIP Andrew Sachs

I married a man whose nickname could be Hightower (‘Police Academy’) and whilst he isn’t black (couldn’t be further skin-toned from it), he is very tall. Therefore, at home I sleep in the lap of super-king luxury, so if the hotel hasn’t got super-king or queen or whatever the local equivalent is, I’m not taking this shit lying down.

Call me a snob, but I’m a very light sleeper and I’m hoping for more than forty winks on holiday.

After years of experience, I have learned not to unpack once shown to our room. It’s all very ‘end of the Sound of Music’ where kids and I must remain silent and almost out of sight, leaving husband to shake his head in mock-disappointment at the original room they offer us.

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Stay quiet children…

I used to get embarrassed, but now I let him get on with it if it means a free upgrade from the original room opposite the lift. He blags well:

Disney World – fourth time on The Haunted Mansion:

“Mate, help us out, we came here this morning for our fast-pass slot but the ride was closed for maintenance. We’re flying back this evening and it’s the only ride we’ve not yet done.” (All aboard for the fifth time.)

Driving aimlessly round Manchester Square, London

Very late for dinner with friends and nowhere to park. Drops me off at restaurant. Arrives at restaurant 3 minutes later.

“Where on earth did you manage to park?”

“Don’t worry about it, Doll.”

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There was actually a film crew. He put this on the windscreen

Once finally in the room, I check ‘hanger quality’. I’m not a fan of hole-in-the-rod ones (as if I’d steal them?) or fiddly clamp ones.

I’m almost tempted to try my mother-in-law’s time-saving method of packing everything on a hanger. (I said ‘almost’.)

So, whilst I am doing all the unpacking, husband goes into James Bond mode.

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No. Not that.

I mean the safe.

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Birthday, house alarm or anniversary for the code?

This is his priority and he takes it seriously. I’ve barely walked into the room when I am ordered to shed all valuables and put them in the safe with the passports.

Once I’ve unpacked the clothes it’s onto the bathroom; an almost lengthier unpacking process with my lotion and potion-loving family. After I’ve established that the hair-dryer is a complete waste of time and inspected my face in the giant back-lit magnifying mirror, I stow away the handy sewing kits and shower caps as ‘going home presents’. (No interest in the body lotion – far too allergic.)

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Will just go curly then…

I don’t even need to glance at the bed to know that we will need more pillows. Always more pillows. ‘Hello housekeeping?’

Next, I like to find most useful/accessible plug point and claim it as my own. There’s usually only one unless we unplug the useless lamp in the corner too.

So, what about the rest of the family whilst I’m doing all of this hard work?

Well, the kids are trying on the free slippers and maintenance are on the way up to sort out the tv for my husband. We may make it out of the room by lunchtime…

Happy holidays and thank you for all of your blog support this year. It means loads. x x x


Here’s a fun festive recipe to round things off for the year:

Rice Krispmas Puds

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Noms

Ingredients:

100g Rice Krispies

5 or 6 full-size Mars bars

3oz unsalted butter

Red, green and white ready-to-roll icing

Method:

Chop the Mars bars up and melt with the butter in a microwave for 3-4 mins on medium.

Stir melted Mars into bowl of Rice Krispies and mix.

Roll into golf-sized balls. Add a Malteaser in the middle of a few of them (yassssssss!) – finders wins prizes! (Ensure you actually have prizes.)

Top with a white circle of icing (snow), red balls (berries) and green sprigs (holly).

There’s a Poop in the Pool…

As Soul II Soul once said, back to life back to reality.

My Summer fun is pretty much done and I can almost smell Rosh Hashana in the air. (In case of confusion, that’s the festival celebrating Jewish New Year which usually falls around mid-September and you can just smell an Autumnal change in the air).

After a few weeks on the Costa (Mill Hill-on-Sea), I am most definitely home, trapped (albeit happily) in my utility room, dealing with the wash load upon wash load that is a sure sign of a good holiday. You can spank money on the hotel laundry service all you like. You can hand wash to your heart’s content with your travel wash from Boots. Fact is, it will never convince me it looks or smells good enough, so I usually end up re-washing most of it. Although I did return home with a much hyped (on Facebook’s My Best Product Ever (#addicted) fabulous cleaning spray from the local hypermarket:

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For cookers, cars  ..and clothing

No two summers are ever the same and a big plus for 2016 was that both of my kids were fully swim proficient and could handle their own on a Taylor Swift-style inflatable. And this year it was definitely all about inflatables: crocodiles, unicorns, lemon slices, swans – I saw it all.

On top of the variety of inflatables this Summer, the ice cream consumption was off the clock. Like an enormous flash card, we all stand and point at the ice cream board and readily hand over our Euros. (A reward card would be nice, Walls. Just sayin’.) Yes, there are Peanut Butter Magnums, Negratons and Fantasmikos, but Sandwich de Nata is still my favourite 6pm sampler. Biscuit. Marshmallowy-soft ice cream. Perfecto.

 

Every day starts much the same – a promise to do some cardio just to ‘keep things ticking over’ – maybe a You tube Pilates video (“Hi I’m Christy, let’s work that booty…”), or some lengths in the pool? By 11:30am I’ve done half a pack of rice cakes (the ‘healthy snack’) and I’m like quality control on the kids’ crisps. It’s a job – somebody’s got to do it.

This year, I said to myself that I would be the ‘Mum that said yes’ when it came to the kids.

“Will you come in the pool with us?” Yes. And this time I wore goggles. Not my best look but I leave that to the messy bun, fresh-faced, slick of clear gloss brigade.

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I know who I am…

I borrowed eldest’s spare pair as I have super-sensitive eyes (cataracts, detached retina.. but that’s a whole other blog). Plus, if you saw the colour the pool water turns our swimwear, it’s no wonder my eyes sting. Chlorine catastrophe. Diving competitions, handstands, roly poly’s and the occasional pool evacuation for poop. Sometimes it was a stone. Sometimes it really was poop. Mass hysteria as we try to ignore the fact our kids are swimming in 90% urine as it is.

“Will you come in the sea?” Yes. And this time I wore my beach shoes as Marbs beaches can be rocky. It always fascinates me that I am on the ‘edge of land’. Like, literally right on the edge of Earth’s surface. Stepping into the blue bit of the light-up globe in my kids’ bedrooms. You get my point.

Once all the activity and excitement is over, Mama deserves a chill out with the grown ups. That’s when the inevitable ‘Dragons Den in the Sun’ begins. What can I invent to make me millions whilst lying here aiming for some semblance of a tan?

Post-it notes? Done.

Towel clips? Done.

Even the sure-fire winner of a suncream applicator booth was veto’d as apparently, according to Facebook (gospel).. done.

We were getting nowhere fast and it was time for a break (ie. more snacks). You know that programme Springwatch? Well, move over Bill Oddie. Round my pool, at a certain ‘time of the month’, it’s ‘Stringwatch’. Girls have all got each others backs (or fronts..) and give a knowing ‘nod’ as we palm one of ‘Mummy’s special carrots‘ and head off to the ladies.  I just wish the boys could look out for each other more. The amount of times I had to avert my eyes. You might think you are modest in your swim shorts, but with your excessive manspreading on your sunbed, the netting bag of ‘fresh plums’ is still very much on show.

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Close your legs, gents

I shouldn’t be unkind as I am most susceptible to ‘pitminj’.  I don’t think I need to explain, but most of my photos require careful editing.

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My armpit. My pitminj. My god…

Right, back to the ideas board for 2017. I’m hoping for something a bit better than my tan if I’m going to get that call from Peter Jones. “I’m in.”