Thursday, 30 April 2009

Wandering post

Yesterday, about 3pm, I had a call on my mobile from school.

Don't panic! I tell myself (in the manner of Corporal Jones).

"It's nothing to worry about," the school secretary says. "Are you coming to pick your children up this afternoon? Could you call in to see me at the office?"

Now intrigue, more than panic, sets me on the walk to school with some immediacy. (After finishing my cup of tea, of course.)

"Well, Mrs Withenay, I had a phonecall from a lady in Australia."


"Yes, Australia. It appears her mother, in York, is receiving your post forwarded from your old address." The secretary laughs. I stand there looking at him as if the world has just flown off into a different orbit and I am left stranded, wondering what I was supposed to have done to stay on it.

"So, let me get this straight: a lady in York is receiving my mail, redirected by the Post Office."

"Well, that's how it appears."

"And how come they phoned you?"

"There must have been something with the school name on, that she could just see beneath the label."

Ah. My solitary planet is gradually colliding with reality.

"Anyway, I couldn't give our your personal details, but here's her number if you want to be in touch."
I love our school. The secretary chuckled to himself, as I went off to fetch the kids.

Given I have already blogged about the tardiness of the forwarding from our old address here, and just a week ago we received something forwarded incorrectly from another house in our old street, it does make me wonder what value we get from this service. And, furthermore, I wonder what service we'll get when we move in a month's time [yikes! that really is a cause for panic, Corporal Jones!]

Then I sigh, and remember that we have one of the best postal services in the world, finding addresses from little on the envelope, delivering things to the most remote places, not opening the mail to see what is inside and what they would like to keep... (never totally trusted parcels through Zambia!)

Now, I must go and phone a lady in York to try to retrieve my post...

Friday, 24 April 2009

... to do ...

I have 'to do' lists coming out of my ears.

I used to have short ones, maybe a dozen items of varying importance and time consumption (varying from: post letter to write book).

Then things got busier, so I'd subdivide them: Household (change beds, wash sheets, buy food) Paperwork (file everything, clear desk) Children (W to play with M, take E to ballet) etc. etc.

Now, with the house move and subsequent refurbishment, I now have separate pages for each heading, which are then subdivided further. It is using up my A4 scrap paper (excellent: won't be waste that moves with us) but beginning to hurt my head.

And still the lists grow!!

Will I ever actually get anything done?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The lost child

When I tweeted that I had lost a child this morning I didn't really think. Well, I thought about the nightmare event and how shaky I was feeling, but not about how my simple phrase could be interpreted.

Let me be clear: my children are both still alive and kicking. 

What I lost was my friend's daughter, or my daughter's friend, whichever way you look at it.

My friend is a lollipop lady. Her daughter goes to a different school and starts back tomorrow, so was spending an hour this morning sitting beside a busy road, watching her mother herd schoolchildren across. Not the most exciting way to spend your holiday, me thinks. So, being kind and generous and thinking this would be no bother, I suggest that she walks with my children to school and then I bring her back again. Just five, maybe ten minutes: a change of scenery, a chance to chat with my daughter and have a bit of fun. 

All is fine, until we cross the bridge over the railway. I am walking ahead with my son, daughter and friend in fluffy pink coat behind. I hear them stop to watch a train go past underneath but walk on, waiting at the foot of the bridge for them to catch up.

But when I turn round, only my daughter is there.

"Where's A?" I ask.

Daughter sort of shrugs, points up the bridge, mumbles something.

I'm scanning all the children coming down, but no sign of the big pink coat.

"Wait here," I say fiercely to my daughter, and run back up the bridge. 

First hope: she was still at the top of the bridge watching the trains. Hope dashed.

Second hope: she was back the other side, down the steps or walking along the road. Hope dashed further. 

I call her name. No response. Not even from all the other mums and dads walking their children to school, interestingly, but I'll try not to dwell on that.

Now I am in a quandary. I have lost my friend's daughter. This is not a good thing to do. Losing your own is bad enough, but another person's is a whole different ball game. Yet, on the other side of the bridge are my own children, and I also have to get them to school.

I decide to run back to my daughter (my son has taken it upon himself to get to class: he is that bit older and quite capable, thankfully). I find her being spoken to by another mum, clearly asking if she is ok. Here I am Bad Mum 2: I have not only lost a child, I have abandoned my own. Other Mum is a friend. She takes my daughter to class. I run back over the bridge to retrace all steps and hunt for lost child.

My mind is wondering what on earth to say to her mother, the lollipop lady. How do you tell someone you've lost their daughter? In the space of five minutes? When we'd been together, A had been talking about a new playground - maybe she was there? I take a quick detour to double-check, but the place is deserted.

It isn't, physically, a long walk back up the road to the lollipop lady, but with my mind a whirlwind of possibilities (mostly bad), I don't know whether to run or crawl. I want to hide, go a different route, but A's safety is uppermost and I realise I have to face the music. The journey is too long: I want to be sure all is ok; and too short: I haven't planned what to say.

As I reach the corner, I spot the pink coat and a furious looking lollipop lady. 

On the one hand there is relief: A is there, totally safe. I may have messed up, but my worst fears have not been realised.

On the other, I can see the look of thunder on my friend's face. I can't bear to look my friend in the eyes. I have let her down completely. I was responsible for her daughter and I lost her. The traffic is against me. I watch all the cars go past and eventually there is a gap. I dash across (not waiting for my lollipop assistance) and brace myself.

"I'm sorry, Catharine," says A.

"That's ok," I respond automatically. I raise my head to look at my friend. I take a deep breath, but she speaks first.

"She's been told off. She should never have left you and come back on her own. She just got it into her head to come back and ... well, I'm so sorry. You must have been so worried."

I have a lovely friend. She has a lovely daughter.

We are all ok.

Friday, 17 April 2009

50 not out

I can hardly believe it, but this is my fiftieth posting. As any great batsman would do, I raise my bat to the stands, lift my helmet and smile to all four corners of the ground.

In honour of this great event, here are five of the best!

1 Best for travel: given we wander so much, this was a hard category to judge. My early musings on noses were up there with the most surreal, but given our imminent move I think the moment when I was really tearing my hair out pips it to the post. Buying a house is always a Headache - never straightforward, particularly if you don't know the area. Feeling rather worn out with house moves (this is my third in less than two years) I really just want it over and done with. And to never see another packing box again in my life...

2 Best for comments: there were many contenders for this category, not least of which was for YP's witty rhyme in Whatever happened or the many responses to Lessons I should have learnt (but that just shows how foolish I can be). Overall it has to go to Questions you cannot answer ... principally because I discovered there were so many answers! Thank you, everyone, for all your comments: they are what make it all so much fun.

3 Best for Africa: throughout my blog I have tried to reflect some of my musings about Africa, and Zambia in particular (given it is the location of my book). The article about Fashion for Africa sums up many of the quandaries we find ourselves in, as we ('The West') attempt to help the poor and needy, but often find ourselves doing more harm than good.

4 Best for taking a long hard look at myself: here is a snippet of Domestic Bliss - how did I get in that state?!

5 Best for children: for the frustrations and hair-tearing moments, for the love and unbelievable joy they bring, I offer up Why do we do it? [Answers on a postcard, please...]

To all my followers: those who have endured the full fifty-course banquet and those who just pop by for a tea and biscuit occasionally, thank you! Your company is what makes it all worthwhile. I hope you catch a glimpse of the wonderful, wandering, whirlwind life I lead. So stay with me: I'm looking forward to my Century now!

Monday, 13 April 2009

The visit of the tooth fairy

Today my daughter lost a tooth. 

Her third.

When my son first lost a tooth we were in Zambia. The tooth fairy was very clever and realised that if he was paid in Kwacha he would spend them immediately, so she gave him a pound coin. This way, when we came home for a break, he had by then saved up enough to buy something more useful (and less tooth-threatening) than sweets.

Moving to the UK, tooth loss continued, but now he was competing with his classmates. One lost her tooth at school and couldn't find it, and was given £5 (yes, you read that correctly!) as compensation for lost ivory. My son, never to miss a trick, managed to 'lose' a tooth at school, so with great glee told me what the tooth fairy would do. 

She didn't. 

And the next time the tooth wasn't available to put under the pillow he had to write a letter explaining what had happened. You simply cannot guarantee that the tooth fairy can see the gaping hole in your mouth: usually it is shut when you are asleep.

Move forward a year, and my daughter is losing teeth. Wobble ... wobble ... wobble... The first came out at school: no sign of it anywhere. The tooth fairy generously still gave the standard gift. 

The second tooth had a similar fate: we were out for lunch and suddenly the tooth wasn't there. The assumption is that she swallowed it. Whatever, the tooth no long exists, but she was quite adamant that the fairy would visit. (She did).

This afternoon, tooth number 3. In the living room, mum and dad in the next room, brother beside her. Tooth comes out whilst she is eating. Have to assume that, again, she swallowed it, as there is no sign of it anywhere.

What will a decent tooth fairy do? Writing is not my daughter's strength (see earlier blog on spellings...) so I'm reluctant to force her to write a letter like her brother did. But it would be nice if she could keep just one of those little pearls: I've got a lovely little box to put it in!

Are there any Tooth Fairies out there with advice?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

He is risen!

Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed!

Last week my son asked me why we have eggs at Easter. I explained that they are a symbol of new life and that is the central part of the Easter story: Jesus risen from the dead, giving us life. 

I then failed to think of a good reason for chocolate, although late in the day when the kids have run me ragged I think chocolate can give me a new lease of life!

The joy of Easter is not that Christ died, but that he rose from the dead. Many people die cruel deaths, some die to save others, but only Jesus brings eternal life. Hallelujah!

May I wish you all a very Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Leaving home

I told my daughter nearly two weeks ago that she was going to visit Grannie.

"Today or tomorrow?" she asked.

"Well, neither: in the Easter holidays, when school has finished."

She tries to digest this. "So after school then."

This style of questioning has happened nearly every day since. "We go to Grannie's tomorrow?"

"No, love, in the holidays."

At long last the big day came: "Yes: we're going to see Grannie tomorrow."

She's very organised, my little one. Everything has an order and that is rigidly set in her mind. 

"So we need to pack?"

"Yes, we'll do it after dinner."

After dinner, she was straight upstairs and into her pyjamas. Clothes were pulled out to go in the suitcase, dolly was dragged from the bed, books were collated and (most importantly to her) 'Mamma Mia' was in the pink 'puter (portable DVD player to you and me) for the train journey. In bed, asleep, early.

And up early. And delight on face as we catch the bus, then the train. Anxiety as her bag kept falling down when the little wheels got caught between the pavement slabs. Joy, as Mamma Mia plays repeatedly (pity the poor gentleman trying to work at the other seat on our table). And then, seeing Grannie at the platform, my daughter runs to greet her with a big hug and walks hand-in-hand to the car.

"Bye mum!" she calls. (Although she is later forced into giving her mother a kiss as well.)

My son gives me more hugs, but is also pleased to be spending a week with grandparents.

So, I ask myself, am I doing everything completely right, or completely wrong, that they leave me so easily?

Friday, 3 April 2009

All change!

What a week for the Withenay clan!

1 April turned out to be no fool: my husband started work as a Consultant Paediatrician. I take all the credit, of course, for ... er ... for... well, I did tell him he could do it! This is, of course, the job that precipitates the move, so he is now in Manchester and we wait for the house purchase to go through.

But - trumpets please! - the mortgage has been approved, the valuation has come in-line with our offer and I even have the paperwork in front of me! Ta-dah!! Now just some legal stuff and hair-raising money transfers to go! Oh, and the physical move itself, which I am not (repeat: not) looking forward to.

Now with husband out of the house I am turning into a domestic goddess. Oh, well, all right... the kids and I baked choc chip cookies yesterday for my son's class's cake stall today. There are still a few left to sell! 

More excitingly I have begun writing Book 2 of our Zambian saga, with a working title of 'The One with The Brain Event'. So far I've written about the diesel can leaking all over the luggage and the car, the roof rack flying off in the middle of the Game Park (you know, with lions, elephants, hyaenas etc. all around), the petrol gauge breaking and a tyre bursting. That was all one holiday, in less than a week. For some reason, nothing ever was simple and according to plan for us!

And best of all, the sun is shining and the Easter holidays are here! 

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