Memory Foam

Memory Foam mattresses – OMG – who knew?  They’re amazing!!

Admittedly, our old mattress was…well, old, but I had no idea how “old” until we got a new Memory Foam one a couple of days ago.

Memory Foam is just ace!  No ridge in the middle, no springs poking me in the arse every morning, wonderfully soft but still somehow firm – it’s like sleeping on a very large cake.

Better still, it seems the sore hip I’ve had for almost six months was caused by the saggy old mattress; not, as my GP told me, because “you’re just getting older”.

The only person who doesn’t like the new mattress is Millie.

Memory Foam, it turns out, is useless for bouncing on. 😛

Boots from heaven

To escape from the house, I took the girls to spend their combined Christmas and pocket money this afternoon.

Some might call it “shopping”.  I do not.

I was getting a bit grouchy stuck in the house anyway.  The Lovely Melanie might be good at setting aside her hobbies aside to play with the girls, but I’m not.  I get impatient and feel pressured to do stuff I’d often prefer not to.

Taking the kids out = yes, absolutely fine, love it, no problem, me at my best.

Staying in with the kids = recipe for a grumpy Stu.

So, we went shopping.

“They want to go to the Disney Store,” said the Lovely Melanie, “Take them to Bluewater.”

I swore an oath never to visit that hideous place ever again,” I muttered darkly.

“Yeah, but your girls want to go.”

“Tough.”

“But…”

“No.”

Which is how we ended up heading into the centre of London this afternoon.  Me, Millie, Amber and Auntie Kristine (who was headed home to Hatfield).

I felt better as soon as we left the house, frankly.  The girls were in good humour and ready to spend their £30 – Amber wanting some new shoes “with heels,” Millie not sure: she was banned from accumulating any more cuddly toys and couldn’t think of anything else.  Just as with the old mind-game “Don’t think of an elephant” (which makes you immediately think of an elephant) Millie could think only of cuddly toys.

Demon DentistFirst stop – the Waterstones in Leicester Square where Millie finds the new David Walliams hardback on sale for half price (she’s been reading The Boy In The Dress and Gangsta Granny), while Amber, with only slightly less enthusiasm, plumped for Little Miss Princess.

Everyone is happy, me included, because books have been bought without any threat of force being required. 🙂

We walk on to Covent Garden, where I have promised we will visit The Disney Store.

We spend about ten minutes looking around, not finding anything amazing…until Amber discovers a pair of boots.
Knee length.

White leather.

With heels.

Sparkly.

From the film Frozen (which they saw Christmas Eve).

These boots are the last of their kind in the shop.  They have a handwritten price and barcode number sellotaped to them.

They’re a size 10.  Amber is a 9.

Amber's Frozen Disney boots

The whole store falls silent as Amber tries them on…first one, then the other, and…

THEY FIT!

Hallelujah! Heavenly choirs of angels play celestial anthems to these boots, carrying Amber aloft on their shoulders up to shoe heaven, there to sit at the right-hand side of Walt Disney himself!

Auntie Kris and I both look at the boots.

“Are they comfortable, Amb?”

“Yes!!”

“No, really, do they hurt or pinch?  Are they the right size?”

“YES!!”

Auntie Kris and I both look at the boots again.  They’re so…outrageously Dolly Parton C&W style that it’s hard not to like them.  As someone with a fairly unique fashion sense myself I can completely understand where Amber’s coming from.

I throw my hands up, “Sure!  Let’s take ’em!”

As soon as we’re out of the shop Amber swaps shoes for boots.  Young children stop and stare in amazement as she pulls them on.  Hell, Amber stares in amazement at her own magically-transformed feet!

Amber & Millie - successful shoppingMillie is a bit sad.  There was nothing in the Disney Store for her.

Fortunately, we’re in Covent Garden!  There are no end of little toy shops and novelty stalls!

It takes a while though.  Millie hasn’t a clue what she wants, all she knows is that her remaining money must be spent, and spent here, and spent soon.  And in the end she decides upon a plasma ball, a rubber toy and a furry caterpillar, leaving nothing but two shiny pennies in her purse.  A narrow escape!

Everyone is pleased, especially Amber, who keeps looking at her feet in amazement.

What a day… 🙂

Christmas 2013

Christmas!  It’s brilliant, in’t it?

Today’s the day after Boxing Day; I’m sorting out our photos ready to upload some, but first I wanted to thank some people…

At the home of Rich & Helen
Conny, Stu, Rich, Helen and I

Thanks to all the people who we saw on the 21st in Swindon, for the big meal at the Manor Farm followed by a bigger party at the welcoming home of Rich & Helen May.

There were moustaches and wigs involved, that’s all I’m saying…

Nevertheless, I woke next day feeling super-Christmassy.  Extra-special thanks to Rich & Carla for putting us up in their beautiful new home, even though we were very drunk – we really need to work on our sense of direction, however, having gotten very lost on the edge of the dark and muddy countryside for what felt like rather a long time.

Rich was even drunker – he got separated from us and texted asking for assistance, saying “I’m in the middle of a stream,” before turning up at home ten minutes later as dry as a bone.

Thanks to my Mum & Dad, who babysat for the girls and their cousin, Izzy, then let us borrow their car to get back to London, then drove up in the other car on Christmas Eve, to stay Christmas Day.  We were so glad you did – it wouldn’t have been the same otherwise. 😀

Yesterday, we had the in-laws, Pam, Dave and Auntie Kris, round; which was lovely, too.

It’s all been just lovely – and that’s without including the presents, which ramped the whole thing up to “Wonderful”.  I got books a-plenty, CDs, and a fab t-shirt.

Coin Bank
My Coin Bank

But my favourite present was the “coin bank” my dad made for me.

I got the idea from Kickstarter, but thought he could probably make one for a lot less than they’re charging.  And I was right – it’s a thing of great beauty, made from the remains of Trev and Conny’s blinds (which is an added bonus) 😉

Today Auntie Kris has stayed over, so she’s mostly looking after the kids.

The Lovely Melanie and I have been to Bexleyheath and bought a new mattress made of Memory Foam.  Springs were sticking out of the old one and it had peaks and troughs like the Himalayas.

Looking forward to a really good night’s sleep later…

Writing to Trev…and Millie…and Amber…

Below is the full text of the girls’ Christmas story – the one I write for them every year.  I’ve never posted these stories online before because…well, because they’re stories I write for my children, of little interest to anyone over the age of eight not called “Carter”.

This year’s is a little different, however.

For a start, it’s longer, scarier and more grown-up than previous years.  But more importantly, it is, in a sense, written as much for me as it is for the girls, because my brother, Trev, is in it.  Yes, the same Trev we tragically lost three years ago.

I wanted to write a story to say goodbye to Trev – a chance we never got in real life.  It would be a fantasy, obviously, but I didn’t want it to be self-indulgent and purely for myself.  Every now and again I’d talk to Trev in my head, and we’d discuss what happened as if he were still alive, rehearsing for a goodbye that would never happen.

So the idea languished.  But it wouldn’t go away.

Until it hit me: I write a fantasy story every year!  Why not use that?

So I have, and here are the results.  Don’t feel obliged to read: it was written for an eight year old and a five year old and there are in-jokes a-plenty.  But I’m pleased with the result and feel as though I’ve exorcised a few demons in writing it.

So, sit back and enjoy Millie And Amber (and Sparkle) And The Lobster King…

Continue reading

No Christmas in the Nativity

Just got back from Millie’s school nativity play and…it was disappointing. 😦

Previously, two school years would join together to perform: the deal was the older children would have the “acting” parts while the younger would be “the choir”.  Millie and her year were “the choir” last year so everyone was excited this year.  But the school inexplicably changed the rules and gave children from both years speaking parts – so most of Millie’s year missed out on speaking parts (and next year they’ll be “the choir” again!)

But, as previously mentioned, Millie didn’t want a speaking part, so this was rather academic.  But it would have been nice to be able to see Millie; as it was, she was on the floor, at the back, behind children twice her size.

Fine for her, out of the spotlight, but less interesting for us, unable to see her.

The final straw was that, rather than spreading Christmas joy, happiness and good cheer, the whole thing was oddly soul-less – the word “Christmas” wasn’t mentioned once.

There were songs about Jesus and how brilliant God is and how everyone should praise Him and how merciful He is and how great everything’s going to be with Jesus here…

Lovely singing – really lovely, but not a single mention of Christmas.

There were readings from the Bible, all telling us how great Jesus is and how powerful God is and how we should all just shut up and praise him.

Not a single mention of Christmas.

Now, it may seem churlish to complain about a Nativity being too religious, but Millie’s school is not a religious one.  I didn’t expect it to celebrate the magic of Richard Dawkins, but I didn’t think I was being crazy to want a mention of Christmas joy and happiness.

Christmas for me is, as Tim Minchin so poignantly captures in his Christmas song “Drinking White Wine In The Sun“, about family and happiness and love.  And maybe presents. 😉

Our traditional Christmas at the Red House on Sunday was full to the rafters with bountiful Christmas spirit: we all left there with a warm glow in our bellies (not just from the mulled cider and mince pies!)

ScroogeSadly, the only warm glow I left the school with was a burning desire to re-read The God Delusion.

Damn, and now I feel like Scrooge for complaining about a nativity staged by seven and eight year olds. 😦

Traditional Christmas

The decorations may have been up for two weeks and Christmas ads on the TV for two months, but yesterday was was the moment I began to feel properly Christmassy.

We paid another visit to Red House, which was the home of William Morris back in the 19th century.  They were doing some traditional Mummers plays and Morris Dancing, but the house was also decorated in very old-fashioned Christmas style.

It was very different to the modern style.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-hung Christmas light combined with some silver and gold tinsel – I’ll even allow a bit of gaudy purple tinsel if occasion demands (I’m not a complete decoration fascist!)

Christmas at Red HouseBut the traditional decorations were a lot more subdued and had a more natural palette.  And the smell of it… 🙂

Modern Christmas decorations have a plastic smell which is nevertheless quite nostalgic for me (you seldom smell that particular polycarbon chain at any other time of year), but the Red House tree was hung with cinnamon sticks and dried slices of orange, while the tinsel was popcorn threaded on cotton.

There were huge bunches of lavender and barley (I think) hanging from the ceiling, as well as window displays of holly, pine cones and other evergreens.

It all looked and smelt beautiful!

And the Mummers Play and Morris Dancing were…chaotic but fun, making both players and audience smile, followed by a rousing chorus of We Wish You A Merry Christmas which was what tipped me over the edge into full-on Christmas mode.

Only nine more sleeps to go! 😀

When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it…

New glassesI have new glasses: They are nice, not too expensive, and slightly science fictional – which is what I was aiming for, this time.

Thank you so much to Millie, whose first words upon seeing them were: “I don’t like those.

But extra pocket money for Amber, who instantly reassured me, “I do, Daddy.

Thanks to Specsavers in Bexleyheath for sorting me out with them, and for displaying customer service skills second-to-none.  They were surprisingly cheap, too.  I had £200 put aside for new glasses (because that’s roughly what they cost the last few times) but they were only half that.

I shall definitely be returning there for my next pair. 🙂