Friday, 22 January 2016

Home At Last

I'm at this weird crossroads at my life at the moment and I feel solely responsible for a lot of heavy things.

Firstly, I'm due to go back to work in the next month or so and I am responsible for finding and engaging childcare for all three children - no easy feat in these parts.   Something I didn't really see clearly a year ago when we were considering  moving to a rural area, was just how it would affect our day to day living and that things such as childcare would be a lot more difficult to come by.

Me, trying to magic childcare out of my ass.
The after school club which was there when I googled last year is no longer running due to low turnout and any available childminders are either full to capacity or only have space for one child.  I kind of knew to expect these challenges and I'm working it out, but heck, it's hard.

Some things of course have completely taken me by surprise.

I never factored in how much different it was going to be living out here, and oddly, how much in love with it I was going to fall.  How spending so much time here, even though for the majority of it I am alone (and more alone than I have ever been) is kind of really good for me and how the weird little things like watching hawks out of the back window or walking in the woods with the dog just outside my front door can just, well, balance things out.

We've had a hell of a year health-wise, work-wise and, well, life-wise, and I think we have boiled everything right down to one thing.

Once we have had all of our arguments, flung out all the rubbish, heaved through the murk and the gloom, come out on the other side and spent some time walking in the light, it seems the answer is fairly obvious: nothing is as important as each other.

No career, no amount of money, no amount of things, no amount of eating out or new clothes or gadgets etc is half as important as our family's health, our family's love, our family's life and happiness together.

We all deserve to be happy.  We all deserve peace.

We all deserve to feel appreciated and loved and respected.

We all appreciate space and time and space.

We all deserve enough sleep, healthy food and warm stuff.

When we moved here, it was a huge risk.  One, because we were moving to a completely new area, changing the kids schools and having to change the entire way we live; no more jumping on the bus to wherever we needed to be, no more quickly popping out to the shops, no more having friends and family being able to easily swing by and visit us.

Everything now must be planned, measured and organised completely, and admittedly, it's taken, and is still taking, a bit of time to adjust to that.  We are so very used to having everything to hand.

After the chaos of 2015, with it's huge massive highs and it's break-neck lows, we are still kind of scrambling through things, albeit with less stressful desperation.  There's definitely a nicer pace to things and a glimmer of what is to come on the horizon, and I have to say, it looks really sweet.

It starts as you take the back road up towards our house.  We've been here for three seasons now and watched the surroundings change with each of them.  It's something really special.

Just now it's winter, and the trees are thin and bare.  The fields are cut and everything is open for you to see.

Birds of prey sit on fence posts and telegraph poles, right out in the open, their huge silhouettes strong against the shadows of the dim morning light - it really is a magnificent sight. They hunt in the field behind our house, a family of them hovering and swooping, like we have our own nature show in our kitchen window.

 Just yesterday while driving along I saw something stirring on the grass verge.  I rolled down the window and there in front of me, just a few feet away was a young hawk toying with it's prey. This bird was huge - a yellow beak, massive wings and huge claws. Stunning.

Take a walk through the fields and you happen upon hares which startle and zip right past you. 

The flash of a deer's white tail as it darts off through the woods is something I've come across more than once while walking the dog on a quiet afternoon.

And there's nothing at all like being present as huge flocks of Canadian Geese happen to start landing in the harvested corn fields right beside you.  All you can do is stand and watch as flock after flock locate each other and all land in a great chorus, suddenly falling completely silent as they complete their number.

It's magic, pure and simple.

I've always been a nature lover, someone who feels more at home in a natural space.

I've moved around a lot.  Been in so many different areas, so many different places; towns, city centres, suburbs, multi-storeys, flat-shares, houses.

But nothing will beat taking the road to our house.

First you hit fields.  Loads of fields. Like the opening credits to your favourite television show, they set the tone and the pace for what is to come.

The fields roll in.  Some horses.  Some sheep sometimes.  Depending on which road you take, there's highland cattle too.

You hit the first village and it's pure idyll - old drystane dykes and pillared walls,  There's history to it.  A really old phone box.  Some hand-painted signs advertising logs and hay bales for sale; and even better, you are interested in this because you know you could use these.  Or know someone who could.

Then an old bridge, more horses. A river.  A long, winding road and then, our village.  Community noticeboards with up to date information about social events, parties, services.  A village hall.  A restaurant.  The wee school.

Out of the village and up the road, past the woods, and suddenly: our house.

Our home.


Sweet, sweet heck, I'm home at last.

There's so much to do here, so much work to be done.  There are whole rooms waiting to be purged and completely rebuilt from the bottom up; this is no mere decorating job!

We will have to work very hard at this.

But,oh my goodness, I am home.

Since we started living here, I can feel my new life creeping in around me, filling up the gaps in whatever was missing.

As I begin to settle and put down roots (and I honestly never ever thought I would ever get to - what a treat) I begin to see the way things are going to be, and it's weird; it's strange to feel so comfortable and suddenly so relaxed.

No wondering where we might be next year, no feelings of unease.  For the first time in such a very long time I can think further ahead than the next year.  Everything we own has been in hibernation, waiting for the day it can come out and be - we've almost forgotten how to use these things.  It takes time to get comfortable with pictures and where things should go; people take years to work out the best way to do things.  We've had to work it out temporarily in other people's homes for so long now, we've forgotten that we are allowed to use our  own stuff.  Everything has been very much make-do, that we've fallen into that mode even now.

It's so nice to remember suddenly that we don't have to make do.  We can use our stuff and make homes for them. We can throw away the stuff we don't need, the stuff we've been holding on to just in case we get a house with or without something and use what we have and what we want.  We can start to make grooves in our lives.

The most travelled Xmas tree in the whole world! Pretty sure it should hold a record! It's going to be really surprised when it keeps coming out in the same house!

As maternity leave ends and I have to try and work out where I want to be - work or home - the pull towards home is so strong.  I've waited so long for this.

My passion for work has always been strong; I love to work.  I love to feel useful.

But I am so aware now of how much work fills up family time.  And now I have more family for my time.

So, here I go.  Building my new life.  Working it out, cutting my teeth. Shaping now and the future, and my childrens' future. Making decisions.  Weighing the balance.

I'm nervous.  I'm not historically good at making decisions.  I have a tendency to think that things are a great idea and then realise with a huge whack that it really, really wasn't.  I live and I learn (thankfully). I grow.  Don't we all?

It feels like I should have a lot at stake, but it also feels like I don't.  After all, I'm now where I always wanted to be. Have my priorities changed? I'm so unsure.

I don't have a magic crystal ball.  I have no idea where I'm going to be work-wise this time next year.

But, oh my days, I am going to be here.  In my home, whatever happens.

You have no idea what difference that makes to my mindset. 17 house moves in and I'm home.

Here goes.

Friday, 1 January 2016


I've talked a little bit about how things have changed so much for us all in the past year, but I've never gone into any detail.  One, because I'm genuinely so tired and time-poor that I just can't fathom how to, and two, because, well, nobody really cares that much, do they?

This time last year, we had no idea that this one even existed!

Life is life is life, and everybody always has their own thing going on which is more important to them, and that's cool by me.

How did this guy get big enough for school?

How in the heck did we end up here?  It's amazing!

I'm  huge believer in change and the ability it has to surprise you out of nowhere.  And I can definitely stand testimony to the fact that things can change incomprehensibly: what might seem crazy one year, can be your reality the next.

I can't imagine not knowing this little guy!

It is important to keep an open mind and embrace change.

My life, our lives, are so completely different to the way that they were this time last year and I guess it's still blowing my mind a little bit.

We've changed cars, lost a family member and gained two, moved house, struggled with ill health, changed schools, and poor Dave has changed jobs 4 times, all in the space of a year.  Yet, if you'd at me down last year and said that any of this was going to happen, let alone all of it, I'd have laughed in your face.

Where will we be this time next year?

I'm almost too scared to ask!
If you'd have told me that I'd have a view like this on my doorstep, I'd never have believed you!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

So, that was 2015...

And another chapter closes.
A year of some really huge ups and some really awful downs.
We've said 'see you soon' to some and welcomed some new faces too.

Thinking back to last year, I had no idea that I would experience half of what we did or that we would end up where we are now. I'm still kind of working it all out in my head!

Happy New Year to everyone here. May it be filled with health, happiness and good vibes.

Lessons I've learned this year:
Never underestimate the power of tomorrow.
 Always stop and smell the flowers.
The days are long, but the years are short. 
Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. 
It's okay to say no. 
Never take your health or that of your loved ones for granted. 
Look after each other.  
Channing Tatum keeps getting hawter.  
Hot tubs are awesome. 
Sometimes people are just shits and there's nothing you can do about it.
Grey hairs can be covered really well with home hair dye.

And as the Wellgate parking machine always tells me, 'change is possible'.

Slangevar! And lang may yer lum reek!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

6 Months

My youngest baby will hit the 6 month mark in a week or so and I have to say, time has certainly flown away from me.  While I cannot quite believe what I have managed to pack into the last half of a year, I am also quite disbelieving that it has been 6 months already!

Look at this guy!

I mean, isn't he just perfection?

Well, I think so anyway.

How is he big enough to, like, eat food and sleep through the night (sometimes) and be using his hands and look like he wants to crawl and stuff already?

Not to mention his brothers.

How in the heck am I now the mother, a MOTHER (scary adult title) of a 7 YEAR OLD, and also a 5 year old?


In the last 6 months we have:

Moved house
Unpacked said house
Started to decorate said house
Had a baby via scary c-section
Got a rescue dog
Tried out another rescue dog (didn't work out, sadly)
Had a hot tub party
Dealt with major illness
Made new friends
Moved the boys school
Delivered 4000 Yellow Pages
Had 8 Interviews between us
Changed jobs twice between us (third to follow shortly)
Learned how to plaster a wall
Learned how to fix guttering
Passed a driving test (husband)
Started volunteering
Collected baby slings for refugees

And now it's 3 weeks until Xmas.

What is even going on?

I am feeling really lucky.  Not only have I got the house of my dreams, in the location of my dreams, I have a gorgeous family who are (mainly) in good health.  We have a world of things to look forward to.  And in the grand scheme of things, well, that is absolutely imperatively, everything.

But, hey - 6 months.  Jeezo - that's a lot of stuff for such a short amount of time.

Dear life, please give me an easier next 6 months.


Hearty Butternut Squash, Caramelised Onion and Feta Pie

I've been feeling a bit glum this week - the winter weather has not been very kind so far and with yet another night of rain lashing and wind howling through the house (turns out old stone cottages are a bit draughty!) it was time to raid the stores and come up with a winter warmer for everyone to tuck into.

So, here's my recipe for 

Serves 2 greedy adults (or 2 adults and 2 not-so-fussy-as-our kids)

Ingredients (fills a 15cm cake tin, so adjust as needed):
4 small red onions, chopped
Half a large Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed into bitesize bits
175g (or half a tub of Apetina Feta cubes, if you want to be lazy, like me)
Pre-rolled Shortcrust Pastry sheet - enough to cover cake tin and provide a lid for pie
3 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
Balsamic vinegar
Sugar (preferably brown, but I used white as I had no brown sugar!)
Olive oil

Grab a bowl and toss the  Butternut squash and garlic cloves in oil. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the top and place on a baking tray.  Roast in the oven for around 20 mins or until Butternut is slightly browned.

Meanwhile, toss your onions in a pot with some oil and fry for about 5 mins.  Add some healthy slugs of Balsamic Vinegar and about a tablespoon of Sugar and watch the onions turn into a deliciously sweet mixture. Fry off a little, then set aside.

Line your cake tin (or an actual pie dish, if you are more civilized than I am!) with the rolled Shortcrust Pastry

Grab your roasted Squash and Garlic.  Squeeze out the garlic from it's papery skin, chuck in a bowl with the Roasted Butternut, Caramelised Onion, and tip in the Feta cheese. Pour into the pastry case and fashion your lid over the top.

Some tasty filling going on in here!

Bake in the oven until pastry is cooked.

Slice and serve.

We had our with some pretty sweet Sweet Potatoes.  Very yummy!

This dish is such a surprise, because of the salty/sweet taste that you get.  The sweetness of the Onions and the Squash is very much challenged by the saltiness of the Feta and the pastry for a perfect combo.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Doing it for the kids

Isn't it weird how having kids puts you in some odd situations?

Situations you wouldn't be in if it weren't for the kids?

How you end up talking to people you wouldn't normally talk to, how you end up in weird situations you wouldn't be in, if it weren't for the fact you had some tiny little expectations looking up to you, all round-eyed and innocent-like, expecting the very best of you?

It's so mad that in order to fulfil things from a kid's perspective, in it's complete black-and-white form, that we end up putting ourselves into places that ordinarily we would be so outraged by, that we would simply walk away from.

But because we have little monitors, little consciences, little Jiminy Crickets watching our every move, simply just wanting the goodness from a situation, we pull ourselves to the side, have a word and draw deep breaths in order to get through it for their sakes.

Life is weird.

People are weird.

Kids are innocent.  We try our best to protect that.

And that is why we do some really weird and stressy things in order to appear good in their eyes.

I often wonder at what point do we break the facade of perfection? At what point do we admit our fatal flaws, our likes and dislikes despite circumstance, our moral compass that determines action and inaction?

At what point do we admit that we cannot tolerate, cannot be so good, cannot ignore what we need to expose?

At what point do we let them in on the secrets of adulthood?

And are we letting them into the fold by divulging, or are we corrupting an innocent soul?

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Throwing a ball...and getting it back again...

Tonight I had one of the most pleasant experiences I've had for a while.

Tonight I took Kim into the field behind our house and I threw the ball for her.

This is a momentous occasion for two reasons.

1. It has been nearly two years now since I threw a ball for a dog.  Sparky was pretty blind in his last year and used to crash into things, thus we rarely played.  My throwing arm is way out of practice - man it feels so good to finally throw a ball extra hard.  I forgot how far I could make it go.  After being pregnant, having a c-section and going through recovery it feels so good for my body too to be so physical again.

2. It has taken me the best part of six weeks to teach Kim how to play like this.  And to see her wag and stand up tall (and boy, is she tall!) and hang her tongue out of the side of her mouth as she smiles -just, wow! Seeing her happy like that, seeing her run and chase and bring back joyfully, then lolling on the ground, exhausted is nothing short of awesome.

Teaching a previously abused dog how to play has been interesting.

If you don't know Kim's story, read it HERE.

I suppose if I had to pass on any tips, it would be, let them build their own confidence.  Don't push.  Let them find their own ground.  They'll show you when they are ready.

At first, I didn't know what to do with her - she is such a different doggy to all of my other doggy experiences.

All the dogs I have ever come across have been motivated by something; be it treats or toys or whistles or clicks.  They've all been responsive and eager to gain their rewards, whatever that may be.

Kim is different.

Kim's just happy that you are being nice to her.

She isn't at all interested in treats or food - I get the feeling that she was a very submissive bottom of the pack, and judging by how thin she was when we got her, rarely ate her fill.

She views the gift of food with almost-suspicion like someone might tell her off or smack her away.

It almost feels like she is scared of getting food, so I'm always very careful in how I offer it to her.  I want her to be certain that it is for her and that she is entitled to it.  She never seems to believe me though.

Toys were equally suspicious.

To Kim, toys were a huge source of fear.  Initially I thought she might have some kind of hunting instinct - after all we were pretty much told that she was used to catching her own food. You know, because they didn't feed her.

'Something that squeaks', I thought.

Nope.  She was terrified.  She hid from the one squeaky toy we bought her.

We spent a few nights in the garden trying to get her interested in a football.  Instead of chasing the ball, she cowered from it.  Our kicking terrified her and she cowered down like we might kick her.

Wary, we tried throwing a small ball to each other, but throwing is basically the lifting of hands, and so, Kim was again scared.  She ducked down, crawling on her belly, pretty much begging us not to hit her.  It wasn't going well.

Of course the weeks went on, Kim never got hit by any of us and she was getting used to what to her appeared to be some kind of dream life.

She gradually accepted treats.

She carefully discovered that she could be petted without having to earn it.

She discovered the joys of meeting other humans and dogs and was taken on long, happy walks in all weathers, off lead and on.

She got to know that when we lifted our hands that it was to peg washing, to dance and to wave - and that it wouldn't end horribly for her.

And that it was nice to interact with us closely, because we would carefully stroke her ears, we would hug her on the couch and we would always reassure her when she was unsure.

Gradually we gained her trust.

Then our next door neighbours got a puppy.

A 13 week old collie pup, who, when she got to come and play over the fence, showed Kim how to play.

She showed Kim how to chase a ball.

She showed Kim that dog toys were in fact for her and that it was fun to run, and throw and chase each other with them.

And Kim payed attention.  She wonderingly learned how to play and stand her own ground and how to have fun.

It was so nice to see.

Every time she played, she got a little taller.  Her tail got a little bit more waggy.

Soon, she was dashing out into the garden to find her ball.

HER ball.

She knew it was hers.

Now she finds her toy and runs to greet it.

She throws it up in the air and rolls in the grass with it.

And she looks so happy.

And she lets us join in too.  She brings it to us to play.

It is then that we realise that we haven't just been teaching a dog how to be a dog again, in the nicest possible way, but we have taught her how to trust.

And that we have earned her trust.

And that is the greatest reward of all.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Every day is a dog day! #NationalDogDay

Today is National Dog Day, and if you know anything about me at all, you will know that I don't need any excuse at all to celebrate doggy life.

Having been an avid dog lover all of my days, I have been and still am absolutely enamoured with pretty much every dog that crosses my path.

Losing my old doggy, Sparky, after nearly 19 years together was and still remains one of the most heartbreaking things that has ever happened to me.

There'll never be another boy like my boy.

We did however end up recently rescuing a collie dog, called Kim.

She's a beauty.

She's also one of the most loving dogs I have ever had the fortune to meet and I really still cannot believe that we got so lucky as to have not only met such an even-tempered or well-behaved dog, but that she gets to to live with us and we with her.

I guess when the time came for us to get a new dog, I felt a bit like a kid in a sweetshop. 

There was a world of possibilities out there - the chance to have a puppy, make a life-long buddy and to mold a life.

I never imagined that we would end up with a dog in the way that we did.

I'll be the first person to tell you the ins and outs of getting a dog, ESPECIALLY if you have children.

Here are my no-mess rules to getting a dog:

1. VET any potential breeder/seller of pups.  Do not buy a pup where you cannot see the parent - there are far too many people breeding dogs for profit and shipping them in from horrible puppy farms where they do not care about the welfare of the breeding bitches, nor the pups. DON'T do it.  Be aware and use your savvy.

2. ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE EXAMINED THOROUGHLY, because any breeder worth anything at all will want to know where those puppies are going to end up and also, that you are going to bring them back to them (i.e, the safest place) if things don't work out.  They want to make sure you have time, you have space and you have the energy in order to give a dog a good life.

3. ASSESS yourself.  Do you work a lot? Do you have young children? Can you commit to at least 3 walks a day PLUS playtimes? Are you prepared to accept some mess? The possibility of your things getting chewed? The expense? Have you thought about where it will sleep?  What they eat? Getting them spayed? Have you thought about what you will do with them if you want to go away for the weekend or a big day out? Are you okay with yellow stains on your grass from dog pee? Picking up endless poop? Can you take a dog with you through the next possibly 15-20 years? Will you be able to deal with an ageing animal? Will you be able to provide all-of-life care, no matter what?

4.KNOW your breed.  Research, research, research. Know that even an individual dog will challenge it's own breed stereotype.  Know that you must see your dog as an individual.  Know that dogs use body language and learn what it all means; it's all your dog has to communicate with you.  Know how to enact positive reinforcement in training and that you never really train your dog, but rather, your dog trains you on how to interact with him/her. Know what kind of food is best - this is a basic thing which will affect a dog's health and behaviour in the same way it affects you or I. Know what makes your particular dog tick and know that if you know this stuff, your dog will be your best bud.

Did I follow my own rules? Kind of.

Kind of not.

I was stupid.

I had never owned and had never had any experience of a border collie before.

My baby was 4 weeks old, I was recovering from a C-section and I had two kids who, lets face it, are unpredictable (they run and scream and cry and shout and are basically noisy, crazy children)

While I am on maternity leave now and my husband is on a long time off work, this will not last.

We were however pushed into something which kind of ended up happening beyond our control...and no, you should never actually go and see a dog unless you are prepared to go home with a dog, because basically if there is a modicum of love in your heart, said dog will be going home with you.

Kim is a failed sheepdog.

There is something you should know about working dogs: they are not kept in the same way as pet dogs.  A lot of them are literally just a way for a farmer to earn money and if that dog is not earning his or her keep, he or she becomes just something that should be disposed of.

Kim is the most loving dog I have ever met.  She is loyal.  She is so gentle. 

She approaches everyone with hesitation and loves nothing better than just to be cuddled and petted.

When we got this poor loving dog, she was a shell of herself.  She cowered when you went to pet her - she was very hand-shy.

She approached everyone crawling along on her belly because she was so scared of being hit.

When we fed her, she wouldn't eat until we left the room, and if we came back in she would duck away.

She had muscle wasteage in her back legs, she was underweight, covered in fleas and had a kink in her tail from being kept in a cage.

She refused to sleep anywhere but on the floor, and when she slept, after flinching every time came in the room, she slept curled up as tight as possible, as if she was still in the box we saw her crated in when we went to see her.

When we went to that farm to view a dog that day, it was a road trip.  We had no intention of coming home with another family member.

But there was no way we could have morally left her where she was.

We couldn't have left her to goodness knows what.

It was with a huge raft of concern and worries and warnings to my other half about what to do and what to expect that we took this dog with us.

She was never to be left alone with any of the children.

The children were not to eat beside her.

The children had to be watched at all times, the baby was NEVER to be left at her level.

She must be kept downstairs and not in the kids rooms.

She can't be out in the garden on her own.

She must be watched in case she nips - border collies have a herding instinct, she might try to herd the kids.

If under any circumstances she nips, shows aggression, has any badness towards anyone, we seek help, we get her another home with someone who understands.

As it was, we definitely needn't have worried.

We have a dog who took 6 weeks to discover we had stairs in our house. First she wobbled up them, terrified.  Now she gallops up two at a time, accompanying me when I go up to get the baby or express milk.

It took her 4 weeks to accept that we were not going to do her any harm. Now she rises up o meet a hand instead of cowering down.

Two weeks ago she discovered the comfort of the carpet in our bedroom and now she watches vigil while we sleep, getting up occasionally to wag her tail sleepily while I feed the baby in the night.  She now stretches out, and she has legs so long, sometimes we trip on them.  When we do, she never ever grumbles. She didn't flinch when we took her for her vaccinations at the vets either; she didn't care bout the pain.

She graciously accepts treats, carefully mouthing them before nibbling them delicately, grateful for every single crumb, disbelievingly enjoying them.  She stays well away from the children's food, waiting until we point out the crumbs that she doesn't even begin to think she can have.

She just learned how to play, first learning that when we throw toys it is not to hit her, but to have fun with her.  Now she is slowly discovering the joys of 'fetch'. Find out how we taught her how to play HERE. She still balks at 'tug of war', but will gently play it with the puppy next door with a daffodil leaf through the fence or the guide rope on the gazebo when she thinks no-one is looking.

It took her two weeks to be brave enough to bark.  At first we didn't know she could - until one night we heard her bark because she was scared of something in the middle of the night.  When we went down to get her, she was glad to see us, relieved that we were still there.  A hug and then back to bed was all she needed.

Now she comes for a sneaky hug in the mornings, after the baby is fed, she waits patiently until it's her turn.  She has free reign in the garden, lying in the grass or watching us do some weeding.
She's had a couple of leaps over the fence, but all we have to do is say the word, and she stays by our sides.

We have been incredibly lucky.

Everyone who meets her tells us this too - she is a real people dog.  And a doggy dog - she has yet to have a run in with any other dog.  She is ridiculously submissive and even-tempered.

What a lady.

She is completely an individual within her breed - she still very much carries the characteristics in a lot of ways, but she is not a stereotype.

I highly recommend rescuing a dog.

Maybe not the way we did it - as I said we were incredibly lucky - but yes, if you are considering getting a dog, please consider a rescue.

Imagine saving a life.  Making it happy. Giving it a chance.

Go on. Give a dog a home.

Monday, 24 August 2015

That time I worked as a Chamber Maid

I am a hard worker.

That's what I tell myself at night, when the flashbacks of the things I have seen play over and over in my head...

Ah, the things I have seen.


If you ever need to know the highs and lows of being a casino worker, cleaning turds out of a urinal, chopping up used dildos so that nobody can return them, or fingering tinned sardines - I'm your gal.

*Tips cap*

I was 16 years old when I got the job at my local chain hotel.  The guy-I-kinda-fancied's (read: now my husband )mum got me the job (not because she got me the job), and soon I was placed in a highly skilled team of three cleaners to clean the 24 bed brand-standard hotel.

I say highly skilled, I mean highly chastised and severely punished if we left so much as a smear on a mirror.

We cleaned HARD.

The thing about cleaning is, that it never ends.  Especially in a place where there are strange people walking about at all hours of the day and night.  Here's the thing - people are WEIRD when it comes to staying somewhere foreign to them.  It's like they feel invisible, or like they aren't being watched, or like they have entered some kind of alternate universe where they can do things they have never done before.

Here are 5 kinds of people who use hotel chains:

1: Family folk.  Generally okay and clean enough, but will totally ignore you.  They are never organised enough to leave a room on time (which is a bugger if you are set to clean it, because you will have to come back to it with your trolley later on.  The trolley with all the stuff on is heavy and a pain in the ass and has to be refilled!) They come with children. Mess makers. Toothpaste on the mirror bastards. Grubby hands on your newly Brasso'd door handles. Mud on the floor.
2: Travelling workers.  These guys are smelly. So smelly.  The good news is, in the main, they rarely use towels.  Less to carry and chuck in the washing. However, the ones they do use will invariably have shit stains on them. Great. They leave the room early to get to work and some even haven't slept in the bed (though goodness knows where they sleep). These are the guys who leave porn on the pay-per-view and a ton of beer cans/whiskey bottles in the rubbish pail. A nice stereotype.
3: Kinky couples.  A bit of a cliche, but yes, kinky couples - whether they have been married for eons, or if it's just a cheeky one night affair - do use chain hotels for their dirty, dirty times.  As a chamber maid, this is kind of the ultimate ming-fest.  Not only are you most probably going to walk into a darkened room mid-shag while someone shouts 'clean towels please' in the middle of their lust-fuelled romp, but you will invariably be picking condoms out of the sheets, or even better, the shower plug hole.  Any stains in this room, wherever they are, should only be approached with disinfectant and rubber gloves. Also, you will become highly skilled at picking false eyelashes out of the toilet bowl rim. The room smells like a mixture of sweat, sex and CK one.
4: Groups of children. Obviously chaperoned by adults.  These adults are not related to said children, therefore will be at the bar, drinking their weight in real ale and completely ignoring the carnage wrought by the small boys or horrible, awful pre-teen girls they are supposedly looking after.  One time we had a group of cheerleaders stay.  They laid their mattresses end to end down the corridors in order to practice their cartwheels at 3a.m.  Every other customer complained and got their rooms for free. There was confetti in every nook and cranny and popcorn stuffed in between the bed frame and the mattress.  Hell hath no fury like a chamber maid with a hoover crevice tool.
5: Elderly residents.  This is weird.  Like, really odd. But there are older folk who stay in a hotel because, well, they like staying in a hotel.  For a long time.  They aren't between houses, they aren't on holiday, they just really like staying in the ill-equipped and VERY CLEAN rooms.  They get to know you by your first name, and oh yes, they are the first to let you know (or your manager - sneaky bastards) that your standards are slipping.
Like, WHY!?
Just go home, crazy old people!

The leader of our band of merry troops was a very discerning (and sweaty) mature lady.
Let's call her, Jane.
Jane was unfortunately having a very menopausal time when I happened to be working under her.  Poor Jane.  Jane had the sweats at the thought of changing a bed sheet.

Poor woman.
That is not a job that should be undertaken by someone who suffers in such a way. She must have lost about four stone every shift just from water weight alone.

Jane loved cleaning. Jane loved cleaning so much that she earned that particular hotel the status of cleanest in the UK. No joke - there was a plaque and everything.
Jane taught me how to make the bathrooms SHINE!

Jane loved cleaning so much that she got her husband to lift her carpets on her DAY OFF so that she could HOOVER UNDERNEATH THEM.

Oh Jane.

She was very, very good at her job.  She taught me how to check how clean a toilet REALLY was, by standing back at a huge distance and looking underneath the rim, in natural light to see if there happened to be any scum under it.

Honestly, life is too short. And yes, I am still doing it. Some habits are hard to kick.

She spoiled me for, lets face it, any other hotel, because no hotel will ever be as clean as that one - there was never a pube out of place when she was around.  Which is no mean feat.

Unfortunately, my career as a chamber maid was cut short by the call of the bar - yes, I left a place where the toilets shone and sparkled and went to a place where men regularly missed the toilet altogether and peed all over the floor. Excellent.

Thanks to Jane however, I had learned that a mop and bucket filled with bleach and near-boiling water will scald pretty much everything away, which came in very handy one night when I was trying to hose a shit out of a urinal after a 12 hour shift.

Thanks, Jane.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Learning to Walk Again

Sometimes life hands you melons, and well, you all know the saying - if life hands you melons, you make...melonade?


That's not it.

Today was a bit disappointing.  I had an interview for a job I kind of already do, and for whatever reason (maternity leave?  I'm rubbish at my job?  Someone is much better?) I didn't get it.

It's a bit of a smack in the face not getting hired to do the job you already do, and I'm not shy about saying that it kind of sucks.  But hey - melonade, folks, all the melonade I can drink.

It's a bittersweet moment for me.  Ever since I started my current job, I've been hoping to do it on a full time basis, but as I went to interview I kind of realised that if I got this job on a full time basis, I would have to do it FULL TIME.

I mean, yeah, money and stuff, but what about the kids?  What about school runs and watching T.V in the evening and homework and snatched evenings at the beach walking the dog?
And Owen is so small, and well, if I wasn't here, he's in full-time nursery or something. Poor kid.
I was scared of getting it.  And scared of not getting it.  And I'm a bit of a fate-ist.  I decided to let fate handle the outcome: what's for you won't go by you and all that.

So, while I'm gutted not to be pursuing my career on a full-time basis, there's a realisation too that it is probably for the best, the kids are still young yet and, well, I'm not wonderwoman.  And I cannot in fact 'have it all'.

Oddly, this is kind of refreshing.

And yet again, I find myself at another very interesting crossroads; the exciting and addictive part of being, what my husband affectionately calls, a 'butterfly'.

Not because I'm a total beaut (although I'm sure that's what he but because I am in fact a bit of a fluttery butterfly when it comes to life.  I never am happy with just one flower - oh no, I like to consider my options, take a small sip of the nectar and move on to the next flower.


Now I am free to consider other things: further education, running some children's groups locally, sewing, reading, thinking about other possible career paths and so on.

When we had our third child, after getting through 7 years of raising the other two to school age, we got a lot of questions about why we were indeed having yet another baby: how we could even contemplate starting all over again?

The public reasons varied, depending on which day you caught us on, but the reason we gave each other in private was that it was exciting, it was fun, the possibilities and you know, we had done it twice before. We knew that we had struggled and it had been hard before, but that also, it was amazing and often hilarious and we had learned so much. An act borne out of pure love for each other and our family. We had experience. And with that came the knowledge that we would enjoy it all the more. And we are.  We are very lucky people.

But that crossroads...

It's a gift.  What will happen next?  Where will we end up?

It's amazing, this time last year I had absolutely no idea Owen would ever exist.  We had no idea we would be in a house of our own, let alone a gorgeous house in the countryside with fab neighbours and a red collie dog. 

If you'd told me that this time last year I would have exploded with the idea of it.

But here we are - drinking a shit-load of melonade with beer.  And tequila.  Hell, let's have a melonade party!

Change will come. Learning to walk again is fun.