A letter from Mrs Playmobil to her Creator.

Reposted following a WordPress technical problem that suspended my blog….

Dear Sir,

The Playmobil mammas are at the ends of their tethers, and have asked me to write to you in the hope of changing things before it’s too late. I am writing to request certain modifications in your designs, in the hope of changing the depressing future currently facing the Playmobilia population. Far from being the politically correct environment described on the packet, the situation here is dire.

Our lives are limited by your somewhat narrow view of the woman’s role in society – we Playmobil girls have had enough of career possibilities that are limited to the medical care of small children and animals, cooking dinner and being princesses. What do you think we are, Miss World candidates? The playmo-mammas that recently escaped from the airport pack were most disgruntled that they were air hostesses rather than pilots. Oh, and they’d like to point out the hygiene issues of using four cups and one bottle of drink to serve an entire flight worth of passengers.

Femal frustration is at an all-time high in Playmobilia. Note disproportionately huge beer mug.

Yes, we are concerned by the limited scope you attribute to women: Why aren’t there any female bank robbers? Why can’t we be road workers sporting builders’ bums, too? Ok, we understand that for ethical reasons you cannot have pole dancers in Playmobilia. But why are we always the assistant on the box, and not the surgeon? The straight-laced, submissive female role you force on us with each new collection gets us down, and the rare times you give us something fun to do, the clothing is totally inadequate. The pirate girl down the road had to give up her sailing career when she snagged her laced top and fell flat on her face when boarding a ship. She would like to point out that you lose all credibility as a baddy when your boobs have escaped from your feminine but impractical top…. Likewise, the cowgirl ended up in hospital after attempting to  leap on her horse dressed in your choice of slip-on heeled shoes and an ankle length, wrap-around skirt.

Add to this unsatisfactory professional equation children that mysteriously stop growing at the age of ten, and we have a serious crisis. Where are the Playmobil teenagers who can babysit for the siblings so that Playmo mamma can slip into something feminine, clip on a new hairstyle and go out for a night on the tiles? Incidentally, although a choice between princess dresses, sensible housewife pinnies and Woodstock dungarees/Birkenstock sandals is all very well and good, we’d quite like to be able to slip into a mini skirt or a sheath dress slit up to the thigh for evenings out with our empty-headed husbands. Please?

Our neighbour Mrs Jones singing "Don't cry for me, Playmobilia".

The families who adopt us are another bone of contention. Our house was recently used to play out the arrival of Godzilla in Playmobilia, the well-known Michael Jackson balcony scene and an admirable, tear-jerking rendition of “Don’t cry for me, Playmobilia” by our neighbour, Mrs Jones. It can be dramatic being a Playmobil parent: the cat abducts my children from the house and shoots them across the floor with his paws until they end up under the couch, and the neighbours down the road now have to wait till Christmas to replace their toddler, who was hoovered up by the cleaning lady.

Jenny attempted to iron out her differences with her drunken husband.
Jenny attempted to iron out her differences with her drunken husband.

Please understand that our husbands systematically drink too much due to the barrel-sized beer mugs you kindly provided in the box. THis can result in disputes such as the one pictured above. My own airhead spends his evening drunkenly laughing in front of the blank screen of the computer terminal (our host family did not buy us a TV), leaving me to deal with the children and the laundry (see below).

An example of maternal martyrdom in Playmobilia.
An example of maternal martyrdom in Playmobilia.

I would also like to draw your attention to your accessories, which need reviewing to respect the notion of scale. My husband had a fire at his office and couldn’t put it out, as the fire extinguisher was as big as him. Without mentioning my friend Patricia, who fell into the street when she leaned out of the window to call the cat holding one of your oversized coffee cups.

Although it is very kind of you to provide us with dining utensils, it is not much use to us as we cannot reach our mouths. You were proud to give us mobile hands, but forgot that elbows are an essential part of the equation. Likewise, the absence of knees makes it impossible for us to board a plane out of Playmobilia unaided.

One last request, Mr Conceptor: can we please have more neighbours with more varied ethnic origins? 99% of the neighbours are white middle class. My Asian neighbour is rather put out that the first Asian Playmobil was only designed in 1996, and was a karateka rather than a doctor or a dentist. There is also a samurai neighbour, and a collector American Indian family lives down the road. But they really are thin on the ground compared to the real human world that surrounds us, and they have a distinct feeling that they represent clichés rather than reality. Try going to Tesco’s wearing a full feathered headdress, and you’ll understand.

We hope that you understand our position, and that you will do your best to adjust the contents of future boxes to make Playmobilia a better place – both for us and the children we play with.

Yours,

Mrs Playmobil (on behalf of Playmo Mammas United).

 

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Hello, I have storks in my garden……

Looking out of the window and discovering a face staring down at you is one thing. Discovering that the visitor is the equivalent of Sesame Street’s Big Bird and that he’s brought his pals along with him is even more amazing. Check out these storks, who have migrated over from Africa and have apparently decided to spend the night in my garden, just in front of my bedroom window. I hope they won’t be leaving any parcels on the doorstep when they leave…..

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Who’s coming for a walk?

As I have said so many times before, the best things in life are free. Do you fancy a short break from whatever you’re doing? Come on! Let’s go for a walk together with Smelly Dog. The Tramontane wind has driven the clouds away leaving beautiful, luminous blue skies, and it would be a crime not to make the most of it. Wherever you are – Britain, Serbia, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Indonesia, Germany, India, Croatia, Italy, Dubai or elsewhere – drag on a pair of trainers, an anorak and a warm hat, and join me in my playground: the gorges de l’Hérault in the south of France.

The vineyards are waiting solemnly for the sweltering heat of the summer. Their gnarled, knotted branches thrust out of the freshly churned earth in disciplined lines, pointing defiantly at the sun like accusing, arthritic old fingers.

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Walk through the olive yard over a soft carpet of green, and turn suddenly when you hear a loud buzzing beside your ear. Apologise profusely to two bugs who – for lack of a better expression – are full of the joys of spring, and feel uncomfortably like a voyeur as you admire the petrol-like reflections on their kingfisher blue and turquoise wings. Then wonder how Mrs Bug manages to hang on to that olive leaf with Mr Bug flapping away on her back like that. She must be one tough lady, with claws that would scare the pants off Godzilla.

Oops, sorry to disturb you....

Oops, sorry to disturb you….

The fruit trees are blossoming in line near the stone cabanon. Their branches are swaying in the wind, and they look like giggling girls all dressed in pink and lined up to square dance.

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Turn and walk up the uneven limestone lane, and look up to see a vivid yellow, sunny mimosa tree swaying in the wind. Close your eyes and breathe in its heady fragrance. Look closely at the blossom – the perfectly round balls of delicately perfumed colour perched along delicate stems take you back to the illustrations of your childhood Dr Seuss books. Look closer again, and wonder at the perfection of the tiny filaments that each offer up pollen to visiting insects. Then get taken by a childish desire to draw beaks on them and turn them into chicks.

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Drop your camera lens cap on the ground in your hurry to change lenses. When you crouch down to pick it up, bump into Billy Idol the caterpillar making his way with difficulty through the grass as his punky hair-do gets tangled up in the greenery. Maybe he’s on his way to the hairdresser’s to ask for a short back and sides.

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As you stand up, you get knocked over by Smelly Dog, who has bunny-hopped through the long grass towards you. I could swear she’s laughing….

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Lie in the grass with Smelly Dog, soak up the sun and let your senses sharpen. Take in the undefinable, fabulously pure blue colour of the sky. The plaintive cry of the buzzard. The bossy chatting of the tits and finches, the rasping smoker’s cough of the crows. The far-off sound of human voices chips into the natural concert: the wine growers must be coaching up their protégés to produce the best wine for the coming season. The distant, gut-wrenching howls of hunting dogs as they move in on their prey in the forest. The wind rustling the leaves in the olive tree above you. The smell of the mimosa and of freshly-ploughed earth. The surprising chill of the gust of wind that hits your cheek as the Tramontane reminds you that winter is not over. Not yet.

Now let’s go home for a hot chocolate. Thanks for the company. And please don’t remind me that I’ve forgotten my camera lens cover: I know. It’s still in the grass with Billy Idol.

In The Doghouse.

In French, there is a great expression : « Qui aime bien, châtie bien ». This directly translates as « the more you love someone, the harder you are on them », but it is generally translated into the English expression « spare the rod and spoil the child ».  This is particularly true in my case, and on the rare occasions that I’m in a paddy with P.F, my revenge can be terrible. Before we got married, I was so mad with him that I waited until he was fast asleep then took a handful of shaving gel and gently smoothed it up his lower leg before shaving a strip wide enough for a Boeing to land on along the length of his shin. Needless to say, he couldn’t wear shorts for a while. Other favourites include drawing on him with marker pen and putting ochre coloured pine cones that strangely resembled cat poo under the quilt on his side of the bed. M.M is one volatile chick: get her angry at your peril.

 

One weekend back in December, P.F was in the dog house for reasons that will not be explained here, but have nothing to do with buxom blondes, betting or swapping my mother for six camels. I was so majorly miffed that when I stopped the car at a red light and saw a beaming bride in the car next to me on her way to her wedding, I was inches from dragging her out of the back seat and telling her to hitch up her soft, ivory silk meringue and run as fast as her legs could carry her in the opposite direction. Yep, I was mad.

 

My revenge tactics have mellowed with time and three children, so come evening, I decided to gather up the three P’s ( my pride, my pillow and my PJ’s) and relocate with them to my daughter’s bedroom. The classic withdrawal tactic, in every sense of the word.

 

Contemporary rendering of a poster from the Un...

 

I would remain there until I found the infamous flegme britannique the French mistakenly think is part of my genetic make-up. This term has nothing to do with coughing up phlegm, as we could believe. It in fact refers to the British reputation for being cool, calm and collected, having a stiff upper lip, and otherwise keeping our emotions in check, with dignity, whilst the world goes to pot around us. You know, the behaviour associated with the handlebar moustache-toting, G&T drinking, croquet-playing colonial Brit who is capable of walking on a mine, picking up the leg that’s been blown off and popping it under his arm saying « I’ll sew it back on later, old boy. Now, shall we join Brenda and Rory for a cup of tea? ».

 

Taking refuge in Little My’s lair was not my most original solution for revenge, but getting mad had made me tired, the leather sofa was cold, and smelly dog’s basket was too small for the two of us. Little My was delighted to have company, and we had a girly nail-varnish session before tucking ourselves into bed. After the light had been switched off, we chatted for a while. The subject was fear, on her initiative. It was the second time she had asked me what my biggest fear is, apparently not having believed my initial reply a few months before that parents aren’t scared of anything, because it’s our job not to be sissies. We grab our trusty swords and barge right into battle, defending our kids from everything from monsters under the bed to Gargamel’s bad moods and zombies climbing up the façade of the house. Like the wish you make when you get the biggest bit of the wish-bone in Sunday’s roast chicken, I was going to keep it for myself. But Little My was intent on sniffing out my Achilles heel, and went about it with more determination than Rupert Murdoch on a hunt for a headline.

 

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M.M escorting Little My to school in full Maternal defender garb. (Photo credit: brx0)

 

She insisted, her little voice carrying clearly through the dark, stable as a rock and pitched with seriousness. I deftly returned the ball with another question: what was her worst fear? Her answer surprised me : « Being the last survivor of our family. I’d hate it if you were all gone and I was on my own ». We’d already been down this road once as we drove through the winding Esterel mountains (see here for details).

 

Dammit, I thought, as I snuggled her in my arms under the Babar quilt.  In the end we both have the same fear, that of outliving those we love. Our reasons were different, though; a ten-year-old imagines the terrifying concept of being alone. Parents imagine the suffocating pain of not having been able to protect their child.  So I finally bit the bullet, and admitted to Little My that my biggest fear is to outlive my children. She was satisfied, said goodnight, and the page was turned.

 

The very next day, a young man entered Sandy Hook school and killed twenty children and six adults in a senseless killing spree. I thought of the parents and families of these twenty-six victims, for whom my own fear has become a reality. Our overwhelming instinct, the pit-of-the-stomach, primitive impulse of parents to see our offspring survive and have a chance to grow old, is frustratingly not enough to protect them in the world we have built for them. I yearn for a world where I can believe in the reassuring, story-book normality of being parents who can disappear from the picture knowing that their children have become self-sufficient adults. Unrealistic, yes. Puerile, yes. I miss that time when I had no knowledge of how unfair life can be, when my memory was untouched by the knowledge that humanity can be so cruel and twisted.

 

Then came the sudden, sobering realisation that petty squabbles and momentarily distancing yourself from someone close is a reckless thing to do, as it would be terrible to never be able to say it didn’t matter.  So now however mad I am, I’m sleeping in my bed. Time to check out some tribal patterns to shave on P.F’s shins, I guess…

 

A view with a room.

One of the things I love about blogging is the interaction with other bloggers. “Homesick and Heatstruck” recently published a bittersweet description of her balcony in Dubai, in which she describes not only the environment she sees from it, but also the sounds and the smells that invade her senses, and the thoughts and feelings that assail her there as an expat girl far from home. She suggested that I do a similar post to share with her. The view from my balcony is completely different. So here it is, H&H!

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Little My on her balcony this morning. © Multifarious meanderings

Little My has the best bedroom in the joint, in so far that she has a real Romeo and Juliette -style balcony. Any budding Cyrano had better watch his step, though; the first poor soul that dares climb up there to recite poetry to my daughter may well find himself facing her disgruntled father, armed with a Black & Decker drill.

Juliette Little My was on her balcony this morning when I sneaked up on her and took this snap. She was soaking up the view and the first rays of sunshine. Arms resting on the black wrought iron and eyes fixed on the horizon, she was dreaming as the wooden shutters with flaking grey paint creaked gently beside her in the spring breeze.

She had just watered her new babies – two garden boxes of delicately coloured, overtly feminine carnations. I pointed enthusiastically at the garish, fun pansies at the garden nursery yesterday, but Little My had already been seduced by their girly neighbours with frilly leaves and was enthusiastically cooing “Ooh, Mamaaaaan, elles sont trop belles!” I couldn’t say no.

I joined my daughter outside, and turned my face to the sun. Closing my eyes, I enjoyed that childhood thrill of seeing nothing but red through my eyelids as I basked in the sunshine. Closing your eyes accentuates the smells and the sounds around you. The smells: fresh earth as PF gardened below, wood smoke as the neighbours burned their garden cuttings, the aroma of fresh coffee wafting out of the neighbour’s open door. The sounds: Bigfoot and Rugby-boy laughing as they threw the rugby ball to and fro. The occasional blaring of car horns on the village bridge, signalling the presence of intrepid baguette hunters returning home from the boulangerie in their battered Citroëns. Smelly dog growling suspiciously at the sound of footsteps, perceptible only to her, as morning walkers wandered down the lane.

The loudest noise by far was the staccato of sparrows, finches and blue tits chirping indignantly in the huge cedar tree. I opened my eyes and saw why: the magpies were winding them up, balanced high in the tree and machine-gunning them with their raucous, rasping chatter.

The branches of the cedar tree practically touch the windows of our house, and the morning chorus usually wakes me long before the alarm goes off. As spring moves on, the sound of nature increases until it becomes part and parcel of life inside the house – particularly at night. We have a pair of nightingales that nest nearby every year, and soon they will be back. They aren’t called nightingales for nothing. Firstly, Mr Nightingale sings to seduce Madame nightingale. Daddy nightingale sings perfectly, and very loudly, from the branch in front of my bedroom window…. All bloody night. Every night, until the sun comes up to put us out of our misery. Last year, he did it for six long weeks, and only stopped once his kids had their pilot’s licences, Biggles goggles firmly strapped to their heads for take-off.

Now I love birdsong, don’t get me wrong. But a little like having Pavarotti rehearsing La Traviata at the end of your bed at three in the morning, you can get too much of a good thing. After two weeks of constant nocturnal birdsong, even David Attenborough would end up having visions of nightingales on skewers turning over a hot camp fire. I can hear you all telling me I’m a fiend. Well, listen to this and imagine listening to it all night, then think it over.

My other favourites are the owls – at the end of the post there’s a picture we took of the cute little guy who got hooted through to independence by his mum and dad last year. He was sitting on the wall and scared the pants off me when he glared at me on my way home from the boulangerie one evening.

In May the midwife toad chorus starts up, echoing back and forth along the stream as soon as night falls. I love that time of year, sleeping with the windows open and listening to the wind in the branches and the concert of toads, owls and crickets. I feel like I’m on a Disney Princess trip every time, and secretly hope that I’m going to open my eyes to see a frog playing a banjo on my windowsill.

Then the cicadas will kick in for the sultry, hot summer afternoons. And we’ll have to keep an eye out for the bats: they find their way in, but can’t find their way out. The cat goes mad, Rugby-boy laughs himself stupid, and Bigfoot runs around in circles filming the thing.

So there you go. Hope you enjoyed the view from M.M’s pad. I’m sending birdsong your way, H&H, and hope that this post gave you a bit of a hoot until you get some real birdsong to listen to.

Tawny owl baby- last year's recruit for the local wildlife brigade. © Multifarious meanderings

Tawny owl baby- last year’s recruit for the local wildlife brigade. © Multifarious meanderings

Tilting at the windmills of inhumanity.

P.F’s grandmother, Marguerite, would have been 105 today. She passed away in 2010 at the grand old age of 102, and was a very special person for me and my family. Today’s post describes one of the reasons she was so unique.

Human existence is short and insignificant in relation to the universe surrounding us, and we are relatively anonymous as we all follow our individual paths, running around in circles like ants. Often, our paths cross, and when this happens each of us can unknowingly mark the existence of someone, somewhere, and stay with that person forever. Some people leave an indelible imprint which goes much further, particularly when a fortuitous encounter at a crucial moment has made an essential difference to their lives, with friendship taking root and growing in adverse conditions.

This is precisely what happened when three such paths – those of a couple named Pierre and Marguerite, and a young man called Jean-Philippe – crossed by chance in wartime Saint-Etienne.

Marguerite took this photograph in 1942. For anyone who picks it up, it’s just another old, black and white picture. But the ageing colours of a dog-eared photograph often hide the most beautiful stories, and this is one of them.

There is no-one better placed to tell this story than André, the little boy you see horsing around whilst his father and Mr Lévy pose for the family album. He is now 78 and still  horses around with his grandchildren, but without the fetching white shorts and hat.

The following text explains the story behind this photo. It was read by André in November last year at the Yad Vashem ceremony in Paris during which his parents were posthumously named “Righteous Among the Nations“. He admits that he was shaky and emotional, and I can understand why.

“My father, Pierre, was a non-commissioned officer in the Avignon 7th Engineer Regiment at the beginning of the 1930’s. He met Marguerite in Bédarrides, and they married in May 1934. He went to the Versailles military administrative school for officers, which was transferred to Nantes in 1940. When he finished his training he was assigned to the Army Service Corps in St Etienne as second lieutenant.

Jean-Philippe Lévy was a young law graduate who taught at Lyon Faculty of Law. He was called up in 1939 as a reserve officer then posted to the St Etienne Army Service Corps after the June armistice. It is at this moment that his path crossed my father’s.

The Statute on Jews issued in October 1940 meant that Mr Lévy could no longer work as a civil servant. He lost his job, and lived from a meagre income composed of the royalties from his earlier legal publications and small salaries earned from precarious work contracts.

I was a small boy at that time, and the memories I have of him are those of a man to whom I could ask all kinds of questions. During our walks in the countryside, my questions concerned things like flora, fauna and the colour of the sky. At home, I asked him about my electric train circuit and mechanics: how did it all work? I was systematically provided with the answers. Although many of his explanations were way over my head, I did understand one thing: Mr Lévy was a scholar. When I asked my parents questions that they found difficult or embarrassing, their answer was inevitably:  “Ask Mr Lévy“!

We lived on the fifth floor at 56, rue du 11 novembre, right opposite the Rullières army barracks. From the balcony I had a bird’s-eye view of the barracks courtyard, and from 1942 onwards, the Nazi flag was hoisted and flew in its centre. I was fascinated by the comings and goings of troops and strange vehicles, and continued to assail Mr Lévy with my endless questions ….

From that time onwards, Mr Lévy only came to our home for dinner. Sometimes he had to stay the night with us when there were curfews, and came down to the cellar with us when the industrial suburbs of St-Etienne were bombed. I remember the comments my mother made in private about Mr Lévy’s appearance and his appetite. It was obvious that some days he didn’t always get enough to eat, and his clothes were in a pitiful state. My mother repaired his shirts, sewing the buttons back on and turning back the collars; it was common at the time.

Mr Lévy left for Toulouse at the end of 1943. He had found a job there in a publishing company, using false documents in my father’s name.

When the war was over, I asked him how he had felt when he walked to our home at night,  passing just a few feet from the soldiers at the entrance to the barracks. He replied that it wasn’t so much the German soldiers that he feared, but the militia and the Gestapo….. It must have taken some courage to walk by…….

At my niece’s wedding in Paris in 2001, my son Pierre was sitting beside me and asked me the name of the part of the chancel which is above the altar.  I didn’t know, and I replied without blinking: “Ask Mr Lévy“. Mr Lévy, sitting on Pierre’s left, answered without a second’s hesitation: “It’s called a rood screen“. Mr Lévy was 90 years old.

André at the Yad Vashem ceremony.

André at the Yad Vashem ceremony in 2012.

Post scriptum:

On Marguerite’s 100th birthday in 2008, a quiet gentleman had pride of place beside her at the head of the table. She introduced him to me as “a very good friend from St-Etienne”. I was perplexed: the complicity communicated in the look they exchanged at that moment betrayed that they were linked by something far deeper. She never talked about the conditions in which they met, and I think it is because first and foremost, Mr Lévy was her friend, and supporting him in a difficult time had been a gesture like any other that didn’t deserve any superfluous attention.

Yet the refusal of these three friends to accept the injustice imposed on them was far from being an isolated event: the same thing happened again and again throughout this dark period of history. These often unwilling and unprepared everyday heroes showed that you can tilt at windmills and win the battle, if you listen to your instinct and believe in your goal like the three friends you have just discovered.

My children will talk to their own children about Grande Mamie Marguerite one day. They are growing up in a world where atrocities still continue, and mankind continues to judge his fellow-man on the wrong criteria. I hope that the future generations of Pierre, Marguerite and Jean-Philippe’s families will never need the helping hand that linked their families, but that they will be ready and willing to stretch out their hand to help if it is ever necessary, with the same spontaneity and humanity. Happy birthday, Mamie. 

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Marguerite and Mr Lévy on Marguerite’s 100th birthday in 2008, nearly 70 years after they first met.

 

Got the school holiday shakes?

It’s the second week of the February school holidays. That moment when the sun suddenly and inexplicably disappears to the very same place we were four days ago, 800 km away, when the weather was awful but we didn’t care. The moment that the heavens open and it rains day and night, the fire splutters and dies and my offspring prowl dangerously along a well-trodden migratory line between the kitchen and the TV, leaving small, telltale piles of dirty crockery heaped around the living room like the signs of discontent left by a malevolent, incontinent cat.

Any maternal attempts to simultaneously keep them occupied during the day and keep up with the house plus my own work fail dismally – on all counts. Bigfoot, Rugby-boy and Little My complain that most of their pals are all whooshing down the ski slopes with their politically correct parents, gaining their piou-piou, bronze, silver and gold consumer badges then pigging out on tartiflette and raclette whilst my poor offspring are being fed survival rations of macaroni and ham for the umpteenth time. So I pour myself a glass of white wine at the end of the day, listen to the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper” full blast in the kitchen and wonder if that bra-burning lark really got us girls anywhere. Does anyone else out there in blogging land identify with this?

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Super Teacher on an imaginary school outing (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

The next step is that the maternal brain goes into meltdown overnight, and feverishly mixes real life, fantasy and work into a fascinating cocktail. Last night it dished up a fabulous dream in which I accompanied a very good friend of mine on an outing for his infant school class. He ran along creaking, half-rotten wooden bridges spanning underground galleries, transformed into the Indiana Jones of the French teaching world. Backpack bobbing up and down on his back, he happily encouraged the crowd of four-year-olds and volunteer mothers gingerly following in his wake to be brave. He gave the kids rewards of Smarties and pieces of banana when they successfully leapt over the three-foot hole gaping over an abyss then promised to take them to visit a bison reserve for their next outing (I’ll leave you to guess what the work, fantasy and real life is in all that. As I said in my previous post, I love my job.)

Yup, holidays are an upheaval. As all parents know, the school holiday means increased numbers at home. Like the legendary Mohammed and the mountain, if your kids can’t go to school, the school must come to your kids, and the population of our humble abode increases daily as Bigfoot, Rugby-boy and Little My’s mates adopt us. I have learned to smile sweetly at the mother who says apologetically: “He loves coming here, he says it’s so lively compared to our place!” The word “lively” is an understatement: Armageddon has all the noise factor of a library in comparison with our house.

So last night, Little My invited some friends round for a sleep-over. They disappeared into the woodwork like cockroaches, only appearing to glean a tray of food to wolf down in front of the TV. I must admit I was choked up to see them lined up in bed, surrounded by brightly coloured debris of dressing-up clothes and guffawing at the film of their school trip two years ago, saying how “little” they were at the time.

Rainbow Jelly!

A monster rainbow jelly. Ours wasn’t like this. (Photo credit: fifikins)

This morning, I was clutching my first cup of Yorkshire brew and recovering from my strange dream when three little girls appeared in their PJ’s. Little My opened the fridge, and clapped eyes on the jelly she had made the day before in her friends’ honour, only to be forgotten after stuffing themselves with home-made burgers and chips. She pulled it from the fridge and proudly exhibited it to her pals, who all cooed in awe. Little My was proud to introduce her friends to her gastronomic roots, however unusual they may appear to her Gallic chums. She drew herself up to her full height and said “Look! If you shake it, it wobbles!” A murmur of appreciation swelled in the room as she delicately made the jelly shiver. Then it happened. Three eager, synchronised pairs of hands shot out to shake the plate, and the collective force launched the beast into the air. It took off like a drunken UFO then plummeted downwards, sliding down the sheer cliff face of the tablecloth before disintegrating into a gelatinous red pile of roadkill on its impact with the kitchen floor.

The sound of hastily scrabbling claws announced the arrival of our canine cleaning service. Smelly Dog’s radar can pick up on something falling on the kitchen floor from the other side of the house, and she is there, wagging her tail hopefully, within seconds of anything leaping off the table. (Please note that nobody is ever responsible for anything falling earthward in this house: food is either driven to suicide after being cooked by MM, or it has a lemming-like attraction for the void.)

Smelly Dog careened around the door, ears flopping and expert eyes searching as she tensed her body to pounce on her prey. Screeching to a halt beside the pink molehill, she sniffed suspiciously at the jelly then lifted her head. She fixed her Nutella eyes on mine with a mixture of disgust and disappointment before returning to her basket with as much dignity as a dog can muster. Proof of the pud: A dog can happily eat cat vomit, but refuse jelly.

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Smelly Dog pretending to be cute soft toy after eating all of PF except his head (kept for afters, see far left of picture).

Bigfoot had invited his chosen counterpart around for the afternoon, and had even tidied up his lair, proof of unconditional love. I don’t think she’ll be back for a while. PF pulled out his favourite power tool and got stuck in for the entire time she was here, apparently set on sanding a spyhole in the wall to check that they were behaving themselves. Much to Bigfoot’s embarrassment, I did however tell chosen counterpart that she can come back whenever she wants, if it means that I’ll be able to get a foot inside Bigfoot’s room to hoover once she’s gone.

I’m an optimist. That’s why I continued to work throughout the afternoon. Working from home seemed a good idea, which it is  – when the kids are at school. Only four more days, then they’re back to school and I’m back to normality. Bad mother and fully assume it, check.