The poorly pet …

Sunday 5 September 2021

It’s the start of the August Bank Holiday weekend, when an early tap at my bedroom door heralds the arrival of a worried Small Boy,

Mum, something is wrong with Boris…

Boris is Small Boy’s 18 month old leopard gecko. And this morning, he has a cloudy eye, which is, Google informs us, both a common problem for shedding reptiles and one that requires immediate attention. Even if it didn’t, I can tell that Small Boy is already agitated and so I leap out of bed to put a plan into action. Unfortunately for us …it is a Sunday!

Our vet does open on this non-standard working day … but only for one hour. We hit the phones promptly at 10, and over the next 60 minutes, call and leave message after message but, alas, fail to get through. At 11:01 am, we get the ‘surgery closed’ message but are provided with an ‘out of hours’ number. We call this but are told that it is ‘not available’ and are sent instead to the city wide emergency pet number. Third time lucky? Happily it is, and we find ourselves speaking to a helpful receptionist who recommends a video call which we book for that afternoon.

I stop to take stock of the day. It is now 11:30 am and, so far, all I have done is try to make phone calls and now am essentially going nowhere until I’ve zoomed with a gecko-vet at 2!  The rest of the house begin to emerge into the day,

What time are we heading into town mum?“,  smiles my eldest as she heads sleepily for the shower

Ooh … now that we are all back together, shall we go out for my ‘exam results’ meal?” call Prom-dress daughter from her room

I’m also wondering where I fit a few work tasks in, what to do about some rapidly escalating Monday lunch plans and when on earth we are going to find some new school shoes for Small Boy’s size 12 feet in time for the start of the new term on Thursday.

One day back from my week away and I feel frazzled with demands, restrictions and everyone else’s priorities. I reach for my trusty run shoes because I need to clear my head.

Back in half an hour!

I shout over my shoulder as I head for the door, knowing that a trio of open mouths will be watching my departure.

My run; my salvation. The steady steps, the fresh air, the space…the quiet are all just the tonic for a brain that needs to think and re-plan. At the centre of it all; Small Boy and Boris. Now I am not an animal person but I understand why my son is. He may be messy, he may be clumsy, he may be hopeless with money but putting all of these minor defects into the shade is his big heart. He is one of the nicest people I know and his care and kindness envelop his family, his friends… and his little gecko. He was designed for a pet and in that moment, amidst all of the other clutter in our weekend, getting Boris the attention my son wants him to have becomes my main mission. I sit on a bench about a mile from home and send a text to pull out of the Monday lunch plans. Then, in my mind, Sunday moves to Monday, any shopping moves online  and … problem solved. I feel relieved. I feel happy. I feel that our weekend has finally got its priorities in order.

Back home, I announce that we shall be spending Monday ‘in town’ and ‘celebrating exam results’ and feel back in charge.  Though it proves to be far from simple!

Small Boy and I attend our video call, whereupon the vet advises that Boris is seen immediately and dispatches us to the emergency vet hospital, warning of a 3/4 hour wait.

“Mum, it says they charge £172.75 for a consultation!”  gulps a shocked Small Boy, as we speed along the road

Don’t you worry, ” I trill, hoping my rather shaky falsetto sounds more convincing than I feel. “At times like this, we just forget the cost and stick it on the credit card!”

But we never get as far as a payment…

We sit, like a couple of stake-out cops, in the crowded car park with snack, kindles, and Boris scrabbling about in his tupperware travel-home with holes in the lid. After 90 minutes, a nurse appears … with a lead! She does a visible double take as we offer our small box and scurries off with Boris, looking very pensive. Five minutes later she is back, apologetically explaining that there is no ‘exotic pet’ specialist available and we head home, unseen and still unsure; me rather forlorn and my son pretty angry.

Next morning we try our vet again, but it is Bank Holiday Monday and no-one picks up; so we email instead, attaching photos. On Tuesday, with nothing in the email inbox, we phone once more and do finally get through and fix an appointment. We now just have to career through Manchester’s roadworks and diversions to reach our elusive goal… our little lizard, at long, long last, is examined by an expert and my son looks as if the weight of the world has been lifted from his shoulders … phew!

And now Boris has eye drops twice daily and we hope he improves soon, otherwise we are back again and things will be serious for the little guy. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it and … hey at least he has Small Boy and I am not sure a gecko could ask for a better owner!

So one little pet certainly took up a lot of time and a fair bit of money! But it was definitely worth every second and dime because, remembering that the people (and animals) in our lives more important that much of the other stuff we complicate our days with is a pretty fantastic thing. Sometimes, the very weeks that don’t quite go to plan are the ones that help you to see what really matters ….

Long Island Ice Tea…

Thursday 29 July 2021

Was I the only one not to know about Long Island iced tea …

For the first time since January 2020, I meet up with one of my oldest friends for a day of cocktails and catching up. A momentous occasion, because simply getting to this point has been a true covid-endurance test. We tried last Summer but were hit by the Greater Manchester Lockdown. We tried at October half -term but were thwarted by both Lancashire and Greater Manchester being dumped into Tier 4. And since the ‘unlocking’, it has been an endless, sometimes demoralising, litany of burst bubbles and isolation orders. But finally…finally we are here and intending to make the most if it. And I have been given a top tip…

Yes, earlier in the week, I take my daughter and niece out for food and drinks. As I mention my ‘cocktail’ day plan they chime in with ‘student land’ advice,

When I was at Uni, if we did cocktails , my trick was always to start with a Long Island iced tea…” announces my niece confidently

Me too” agrees my daughter, adding as I continue to look confused, “It’s the same price as all the other cocktails Mum, but you get 4 alcohol shots instead of 2…”

So as my friend and I settle into a trendy greenhouse booth in a Spinningfields bar and peruse the drinks menu, I decide that I am going to give it a go. My friend checks out the theory

It does look lethal! It’s not 4 shots…it’s five!”

But,” I point out, “it is a ‘long’ drink…so it will last…

Whether it lasted a long time or not, I really couldn’t tell you. But we certainly have a lot of fun! I think, about an hour and half later, after much chat and tons and tons of laughter, we climb out of our greenhouse pod to find a leisurely lunch, with glass of wine. Then it is another bar, before we seek out a final ‘coffee and carbs’ to sober up a little before the tram and train rides home.

Such a great afternoon! I really do think that, to be a good mum, you need days when you forget about being a parent for a few hours and just let your hair down. It recharges the batteries and lifts the spirits like nothing else. And after a year and a half of pandemic, I am aware that I have been running low on such times. On the home-bound tram, another friend, I am due to see next week, calls and I tell her, with great excitement about my new cocktail ‘discovery’

Oh yes,” she replies “Long Island iced tea – completely lethal. I used to have one after work every Friday. Once had two .. and could hardly walk!”

The fact that I am clearly the last to this particular party makes me laugh out loud in my seat and I am a little too tipsy to care whether any of my fellow mask-faced passengers notice. After a grim 18 months of battling covid-19, laughter … and possibly Long Island iced tea…really are the best medicine…

Show me to the flat pack…

Saturday 17 July 2021

Sometimes, as I am scooping spiders out of bathrooms, battling with the lawnmower, jolting around the estate with learner driver Prom-dress daughter at the wheel or shoulder-barging Small boy at basketball, I do appreciate that single parenthood equips you with skills you never foresaw when discussing your life plan with the school careers advisor. And this weekend, marks a true Everest of personal achievements….

After a few covid-19 delays, we are collecting my Eldest from her new student house in the North East for the Summer. She calls midweek with a request,

“Mum, could you bring a screwdriver and hammer on Saturday? I’ve got to make a chest of drawers.”

And so it is, that just after noon and a drive up the A1, I saunter into the student kitchen brandishing our family tool box and drill.

Oooh how professional! ‘ coos one of her housemates.

And it makes my day! I feel like some empowered, positive role model of female capability and follow my Eldest to her room with my head held high!

What the lovely students don’t know, but the rest of my household do, is that I only really have one professional piece of kit with me in the car… and that is my middle child. But in the searing heat of a third floor attic room, I have been inspired to play my part. Prom-dress daughter has the plan and gives the directions but, doing exactly what I am told: I drill, I hammer and I dowel like a trooper.

We stop for lunch out, in the vibrant and trendy cafe-bar area my Eldest now lives in and, then return to complete our mission. What a triumph! Never has a pretty basic set of drawers looked better in my eyes. The sweat, the plastic burns (long story), the occasional splinter … all worth it! It was, I have to concede, as a former scorner of DIY, strangely satisfying slots and fitting it all together. I celebrate with a murky cup of tea, from the student kitchen that has just run out of milk, and then we hit the road.

My younger pair share a Spotify Account, and we sing our way back down the motorway to their assorted play lists. Weary but happy, we arrive home midway through Saturday evening.

Have I morphed into some building stereo-type, I ponder as a I wave aside a gin and tonic and treat myself instead to a couple of cold beers? And possibly it is the beer talking as I announce that our next holiday project is demolishing the dilapidated old garden shed …. ourselves. Let’s see if I am still as enthusiastic after a good night’s sleep…

Real Neat Blog Award, congratulations, nominees!

Image result for real neat blog award

About the Award

In 2014, the Real Neat Blog Award was created to recognise the many bloggers whose blogs deserve more attention.

The kind petrel41 sent me this award and, in accordance with the rules, I am now delighted to be nominating you.

So, the ‘rules’? Designed to promote interest in our BLOGS but entirely voluntary, even if your name is not Dominic Cummings, (I’ll confess, I struggled to see how to follow them for a while and went for a new page!)

  • Put the award logo on your blog.
  • Answer the 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
  • Nominate any number of people linking to their blogs and let them know you nominated them by commenting on their blogs.
  • Come up with 7 questions for the people you nominated.

My Nominees

  1. Pointless Overthinking
  2. Rose Girl’s World
  3. Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
  4. Wee Ginger Dug
  5. Pilates Leeds
  6. Ramblings of a Rookie Life
  7. The Perfect Juggler
  8. Silent Pen
  9. H.J Tanner
  10. Solo Mum in Aus

My Questions

1. What is your most visited blog post of 2020?

2. If you could have a ticket to see any live act, who would you pick?

3. How have you coped with Lockdown?

4. What is your favourite quote?

5. Nature or nurture?

6. What advice would you give your teenage self ?

7. Can you name politician you admire? If yes, who?

Fantastique Day!

Saturday 21 September 2019

As Saturdays go, that was a pretty perfect one!

The morning sees the resumption of Saturday activities for the teens freshened up with a change of location. And this, in turn means exploring a new run route for me. I swap my well-trodden tracks, through a scenery of urban streets and sassy bars, for parkland and lush greenery. It is glorious in the warm September sunshine, the oxygen coursing through my veins and fuelling my heart with energy and optimism.

The afternoon takes me to a rehearsal for a performance of the dream-like Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. Mine is a small part, the ‘off-stage’ oboe player in Movement 3. I find myself positioned in a dark dusty side room for my solo, with only a partial sight of the conductor and totally hidden from audience view. One of my GC (Group Chat) friends makes me laugh out loud with the comment that this sounds like a metaphor for her life, and I think that it many ways it probably is for mine too. Perhaps all parents feel that, much as they strive to play a beautiful part in the symphony of life, their contribution can feel a little invisible at times. But I don’t feel unappreciated this afternoon. The solo may be written to sound distant but it is so haunting that I absolutely love it and many member of the orchestra are kind enough to compliment my playing very generously too.

The additional bonus, of only appearing in one movement, is that my rehearsal time is very short and frees up the afternoon for catching up with the teens, doing the laundry, sorting out the weekly shop and doing my share of ferrying to volunteering … and to parties. I experience an usual sensation of being almost on top of things.

And tonight I am relishing a chilled glass of white after an awesome concert. My little moment goes well, but above all I am blown away by the Symphony itself, which I hear in full for the first time this evening. It’s testament to a great orchestra , where players commit fully to a truly emotional performance, but it’s also the music itself . Bernstein describes it as “a first musical expedition into psychedelia and it certainly sends me home on a real high.

Feeling ‘fantastique’, long may it last…

Tao of Glass and end of term

Sunday 21 July 2019

On Thursday, I try to cast aside my end of term exhaustion and head out for the evening to see ‘Tao of Glass’ , a world premiere piece of theatre, produced by the Manchester International Festival. This one will divide opinion, but I find it a mesmerising performance; visually stunning, very emotive and gently humorous.

However the final 10-15 minutes feature our protagonist lying on a revolving stage, next to a Steinway recorder playing an original piece of Philip Glass music, recorded by Philip Glass himself. It is beautiful and very relaxing …a little too relaxing as it transpires. I nod off and have to be nudged back into wakefulness by my companion. Next morning, it is still only in this semi-awake state, I stumble through a half-Friday to reach the end of term.

And so the sun sets on another school year and a hectic few weeks at home. As I collapse into bed, I am feeling shattered, dizzy and very unwell. I don’t emerge again until today and I have little idea where the previous 40 hours have gone.

Teens welcome me back to the world, and fill me in on the missing day and a half. They’ve certainly made the most of it! The girls have lots of shopping bags, all three have been to the cinema and Prom-dress daughter informs me that she’s cancelled her violin lesson! Oh well, reassuring to know that I’ve reared three independent souls, who can survive the odd day without a fully-functioning parent in the house. Thank the lord for my mum, who will doubtless have ensured that no-one starved, and bring on the Summer holidays…

Becoming ‘Mum the Brave’

Mother’s Day March 2019

Happy Mother’s Day!’

In pings a cheery text from Small Boy at 7:37am British Summer Time! It is earlier than I was hoping to wake up, after a late night concert, but it does make me smile. Small Boy is in France, so probably doesn’t know that our clocks have ‘Sprung Forward’. In any case it is now a family tradition that Christmas, my Birthday and usually Mother’s Day too, start at some ungodly hour with my boy crashing enthusiastically into the bedroom with a tray of breakfast!

The girls, by contrast, are far keener on their weekend lie-ins and so it’s very quiet house that greets me, as I creep downstairs for my first cup of tea. I decide that it’s the perfect time, on this National Day of Maternal-ness, to contemplate life as a mum!

The biggest change is that parenthood, life or maybe just becoming older and grumpier has lead to me being far more… forthright at best, and … confrontational at worst. ‘Quiet‘ was always the adjective used to describe me at school and I am pretty sure I was a fairly diffident young adult too. Years ago, I recall how in a, now legendary, family incident my mum took on a grumpy ice-cream seller in Harlech, who was picking on one of the kids. It was she who defended our family honour and earned herself the title of ‘Nana the Brave‘. The name stuck for years and if ever the kids faced a tricky situation I’d advise,

‘”Try and sort it out yourself, but if that doesn’t work …. we’ll send in Nana the Brave!’

This morning, I’m struggling to remember when we last called upon my mum to sort out any such issues. She’s still there, as fearless and feisty as ever, but I think that somewhere along the line … I became Mum the Brave!‘ It is me who was likened to a ‘Tigress defending her young‘ by a teacher when I disputed her comments at Parents Evening. (Let’s gloss over the fact that I have since been banned, by all 3 kids, from speaking any more than is absolutely necessary on such occasions!) It is me who takes on any retailer, any institution or any person who thinks they can mess with us. Hey, I’ve even taken on rodents this month!

So more outspoken for sure but is this is a single mum trait? You certainly do have to tough up and find your voice to survive, and to ‘smash it’ …well that’s a whole new level of determination. Read the incredible Dame Susan Black’s story for true inspiration. Whereas my ‘Mum the Brave’ exploits usually revolve around riding to the rescue of my family, she uses her strength to flourish in her own career too and to motivate other women to do the same…and that’s something I’ve been less good at. And I know it’s my next big challenge….

But today is Mothering Sunday, Small Boy calls to tell me that he’s having a star named after me and I decide that conquering the world of work can wait for 24 hours. Today of all days it feels pretty great just to be a mum!