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A Tilly Bud Family Christmas

1 Dec

Do you think I'm a little under-dressed?

It’s the first of December and I’m in the holiday spirit.  We woke up this morning to discover Jack Frost had replaced the mild(ish) but wet weather with ice and the car was frozen to the driveway.  Therefore, I thought I would start this month with a description of our Christmas.  It is always the same, only the gifts change.


January 2

Take down the tatty remains of the Christmas decorations.  Store in Christmas boxes, Christmas sacks, Christmas bags and Christmas suitcase for easy identification in the loft next December.

January 3

Hit the sales (only 356 shopping days left to Christmas).  Queue for two hours to get into car park.  Buy nothing except the one available unbroken half-price tree decoration.

February 3

Weep over credit card statement.

March 13

Tilly Bud’s nagging finally coincides with the Hub’s first good day of the year and Christmas decorations are returned to the loft after standing in the upstairs hallway for two months.

NB Now that we have had loft ladders fitted, the nagging is reversed and the Hub insists I drag my lazy backside up there and put away the decorations that I wanted down in the first place.

September onwards

Christmas adverts start on telly.  Ignore them while applying sun block for Indian summer.  Ignore the Hub complaining, ‘I hate Christmas, I do.’  Complain to everyone else I know about how Christmas comes earlier each year but don’t mention the suitcase full of presents we already have stashed away.

Fourth Saturday before Christmas

Begin watching Christmas movies on Saturday afternoons to get in the festive mood: It’s A Wonderful Life; While You Were Sleeping; Sleepless In Seattle; Terminator 2 (if you’ve been present at some of our Christmas Dinners you’ll get the connection); and the greatest Christmas movie ever made: A Muppet Christmas Carol.  Begin boasting to harrassed friends about the suitcase full of presents we have stashed away that means our Christmas shopping is complete before anyone else has even started.

December 1

Make list of Christmas cleaning jobs.  Stretch out on couch to recover, watching a naff Christmas special on tv.  Start hinting to the Hub that we must get the tree down from the loft.

December 11

Get tree down from the loft.  Put on cheesy Christmas music to get everyone in the mood.  Argue about cheesy Christmas music.  Erect tree.  Argue.  Dress tree with lights and tinsel with boys.  Take boys off tree.  Take lights and tinsel off tree.

Watch the Hub dress tree with lights and tinsel in the correct manner.  Sulk.

Share decorations equally between family.  Spend ages arguing about who has the most/least/best/yuckiest decorations.

Collapse exhausted into bed.

December 12

Clear up yesterday’s mess.  Accidentally vacuum half the tinsel left dangling after yesterday’s fist fight over who has the most/least/best/yuckiest decorations.

Christmas Eve

Lunch time: take flowers to Dad’s grave.  Miss him.

Ten minutes after lunchtime: open the first bottle of wine/tin of chocolates/box of biscuits.

Send excited children to bed on the one night of the year they want to go at six p.m.  Spend next eight hours telling them, ‘Santa won’t come until you go to sleep, darlings.’ (Translation: ‘Get to sleep now, you little brats; we’re knackered!’)

Cook turkey and other meat; prepare vegetables.  Stay up till two a.m. to welcome Santa.  Go to bed, leaving on all lights to deter burglars without a Christmas spirit.

Struggle to sleep.  Wake up every three minutes hearing noises that indicate burglars.  Wake growling Hub to send him downstairs to check for burglars.  Have huge argument with the Hub who not only refuses to go and check for burglars but turns over and goes back to sleep.  Lie awake until six a.m, listening for burglars and worrying about the waste of electricity.

Christmas Day

Six-O-Three: woken by the excited chatter of two children raiding their stockings.

Six-O-Five: recover from winding caused by excited children jumping into bed to demand we all go downstairs for presents.

Six-O-Seven: set up video camera to tape every magical moment.

Seven-O-Seven: finally accede to the Hub’s assertion that it might be Tilly Bud’s camera, which he knows because he bought it for her, but trust him, he knows what he’s doing and can set it up perfectly well, thank you very much; and stop that sulking, you misery, to which children add, Yeah, Mum.

Seven-O-Eight: film delight on boys’ faces as they enter Santa’s grotto (temporarily set up in living room).

Seven-Fifteen: start unwrapping presents, taking turns so that everyone sees what everyone else has got and thanks can be given and received.

Ten-Fifteen: finish unwrapping presents.  Make traditional Christmas breakfast of toast so that everyone has a stomach lining before inevitable munching of Christmas goodies begins.

Ten-Sixteen: send exhausted Hub to bed for a few hours.

Ten-Thirty: everyone not sleeping, dresses.  Boys disappear to their rooms to play with their new toys, leaving Tilly to clean up.  Tilly stretches out on empty couch with Maltesers and one of her new dvds, ignoring mess.  Thinks about starting dinner.  Snores.

Two-Fifteen: wake Hub to give his stomach time to prepare to eat large Christmas dinner.

Four-Fifteen: eat large Christmas dinner.

Rest of day: rest.

December 29

Discover unticked list of Christmas cleaning jobs tucked down back of couch.  Discard.

January 2

Take down the tatty remains of the Christmas decorations.  Store in Christmas boxes, Christmas sacks, Christmas bags and Christmas suitcase for easy identification in the loft next December.

January 3

Hit the sales (only 356 shopping days left to Christmas).  Queue for two hours to get into car park.  Buy nothing except the one available unbroken half-price tree decoration. 

Day’s Gone By.

23 Nov

Aye aye

Despite my getting into a tizz over nothing, yesterday was lovely.  Tory Boy finally arrived about two o’clock; appeared to genuinely admire his room; made fun of his neurotic mother; and ate my delicious roast dinner.  I know it was delicious because there were three dishwasher loads.  Dishwasher loads are how I measure the success of a meal: if I’m cooking because I have to and I want it over with, I tend to wash up as I go along and use as few dishes as possible (e.g. cook three veg together in the same pan, like sprouts, cauliflower and peas).  If I care about what I’m doing, the kitchen is a mess and the utensil cupboards are bare.  So, yesterday: empty cupboards/delicious food/full tummies.  Tonight: sandwiches/two knives/one bread board/clean kitchen.

He has gone now <sigh> and phoned earlier to say he was safe back in his room – no train crashes, no murderers on the bus; though he did put his back out, carrying a suitcase full of student essentials (beer, wine, cheese).

I miss him already, but I’m glad to have his room back again so I can store my wet washing.

No Spuds Were Harmed in the Making of This Post…

16 Nov
Welsh Miner 14

Beneath this cute exterior lurks the worst of all monsters: the teenager

…Only because I bit my hands and sat on my teeth.  Spud was in full protest mode yesterday – why does he have to do so many jobs?  It’s not fair.  None of his friends do (he took a poll to prove it).  Why must he vacuum once a week; tidy his room; make his bed; do his homework; walk the dog he pestered to get for several years; put away his Mum-ironed clothes; pick up dog poo; empty the dishwasher of the dishes he helped make dirty; make Mum the occasional cup of tea; his own breakfast on a Sunday…? 

To be fair, he does have a hard life: when he’s not being waited on with meals, having his laundry done for him, taxied around by Dad, spoiled rotten at Christmas, loved like he’s perfect, it can be tough to be him.  He goes to an excellent school that he loves; plays rugby, a game that allows – nay, encourages – him to hurt other human beings and enjoy it ; has his friends over at the weekend; spends any free time in his large bedroom on his PC, PS3, mobile phone, or watching his dvds on his widescreen tv…no wonder he’s miserable.

I blame Tory Boy.  Apart from one or two brief but scary moments, he didn’t seem to suffer with hormones and gave us a fairly easy time from thirteen to now.  He lulled us into a false sense of security, letting us believe we were good parents who got the whole approach to teenage martyrdom just right.  Ha! (I hope you can read the bitterness in my tone)  Spud has shown us how smug we were.

I can’t seem to get it though to him that when he leaves this house, he’s going to be able to clean up and look after himself, and not expect some compliant woman to do it for him; they don’t exist any more.  And even if they did – I DON’T CARE.  I expect my children to be able to cook, sew and clean, just like their father.

Parents: heed my warning – when Thirteen approaches…run for your life.


Mothers & Sons

14 Nov
Top of St Paul's Cathedral

Are we lost?

Good news for this mother – Tory Boy is coming home next weekend.  Just for the day, and just to eat my roast dinner (the only meal I don’t have to burn to ensure it’s cooked), but I’ll grab the scraps and be happy about it.  He hasn’t been home since he went back to uni, and he’s been gone long enough that we have forgotten how irritating he is and can look forward to his visit.

He is thoroughly enjoying his second year.  He has been elected to the Conservative Future Executive (Young Tories to all you die-hard Labourites); he has two political radio slots on the campus radio station; he was able to get work this year (in his first year the recession was at its height and no-one was hiring); his flat mates are much better than last year’s shower; and he has been all over the place to concerts with fifteen of his closest friends.  Not sure if he gets any studying done, but hey, that’s not what university is about, apparently.

He is a good and dutiful son and phones faithfully every Friday and sometimes in-between when he wants something sent to him.  He has a contract phone so he doesn’t have to worry about how often he uses it.  It was not always thus: when he was at school he had a Pay As You Go phone, which he topped up £5 a time.  He has always been quite careless at looking after his phones, and one day it was in his pocket and he must have knocked it and it dialled home.  The Hub could hear him talking to his mates, but TB couldn’t hear the Hub shouting his name down the phone.  I tried phoning the parents of TB’s friends from my mobile in the hope that they could contact one of them, who would tell TB to switch his phone off; but I couldn’t reach anyone.  The Hub was screaming TB’s name by this stage, and he decided to sit in our tiny shoe/coat cupboard so as not to frighten the neighbours.  I hit upon the idea of the Hub using his old referee whistle, and opened the cupboard to find him sitting in the dark yelling ‘TORY!  TORY!  TORY!’ down the phone.  It hadn’t occurred to him to switch on the light (and he’s supposed to be the sensible one).  TB had just put £5 on his phone so it was a shame when the phone suddenly went dead, because it meant his money had run out. 

The Hub was hoarse and exhausted for several hours after, but the bonus for TB when he came home was that his Dad was too shattered to yell at him for being a divvy.

I don’t know why I feel so proud of my son: he once told me that I wasn’t a normal woman because I don’t like shopping or cooking.  I don’t know where he got his misogynist genes from but he’s clearly wearing them too tight.  I will have to beat it out of him and really give him an excuse to hate women.  There are moments when the hand that rocks the cradle rues the birth.


Outing the In-laws

13 Nov
Mum & Dad In-law

The Loveables

I was reading a blog about other people’s in-laws this morning, and that got me thinking about mine.  They were wonderful people, and I’m not just saying that because they’re dead.  They treated me like a daughter and, best of all, they never took sides when the Hub and I argued; which we did a lot of in our younger days.   They never took sides but, when necessary,  they did scold the Hub for not treating me right (see earlier post about me and diets).  No wonder I liked them.

My first meeting with Mam C was not auspicious: the Hub and I had only been together a short while; I’m not sure that we were even dating at that point.  It was four in a South African afternoon; Mam was wearing a kaftan and carrying a large ball of cotton wool on her shoulder, which turned out to be Lady, their Maltese.  Mam’s very first words to me came with a soppy look: ‘This is my baby.’  I was eighteen and befuddled.  Now, of course, I’m 46 with a cotton wool ball of my own, and just as soppy as dear old Mam C.

Mam C had a real zest for life.  Born with a serious heart condition, she was not expected to live beyond the age of six.  Forbidden to dance, ride bikes or roller skate, she did all three.  Totally and utterly banned from ever having children, she had six.

I don’t remember my first meeting with Dad C.  He was a quiet man who never spoke unless he had something sensible to say.  I had enormous respect for his opinion.   I never saw him lose his temper in the seventeen years I knew him, although he did once get slightly irritated with the Hub (see earlier post about me and diets).  Once the Hub and I were serious, I stayed over at their house every weekend.  Dad C and I would often leave Mam C and the Hub at home and go off to the café on Saturday afternoons to choose a couple of pirate videos,* snacks and sweets to tide us all over to Sunday night.  South Africa closed down at one p.m. Saturday in the 1980s: no supermarkets, petrol stations, nothing.  Just the cafés, a sort of extended corner shop that didn’t sell hot drinks or have tables to sit at.   No wonder I spent 1982 in a daze.

They had generous hearts and no money.  In their retirement, their greatest pleasure (apart from visits from their large extended family) was spending Sunday mornings at car boot sales.**  Every one of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren received wonderful and thoughtful Christmas and birthday presents, despite a budget of just £5 each per week.  I think it was Little Old Lady Syndrome: hardened boot salers would be unable to resist a sweet old lady or dear old gent haggling for a £1 reduction from £3 to £2 on a spaceship or a makeup set that cost £50 each in the shops.

They were married for 52 years, and one of those couples who were blissfully happy.  Normally, that would be irritating to the rest of us grumpy married or co-habiting folk, but they were such lovely people that it simply aroused the ‘aahh’ factor.  Dad C, a lifelong but not prolific smoker, died in 1999 of cancer.  Mum C died a year and eight days later, on the anniversary of his funeral.  They said she died of heart failure but we all knew it was really a broken heart. 

I still miss them.  I hope my boys find in-laws as wonderful as mine, but I suspect they were a one-off. 


*I say pirate videos, but they were actually home recordings of British TV sent to the shop’s owners by members of their family; the Equity ban on broadcasting British programmes still being in force in South Africa at that time.

**For a picture of that Great British Institution, the Car Boot Sale, visit this blog:

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