The time when…

Kate on a swing

As we sat round our little table eating dinner together. In the hall. Next to the ironing board and a spare bit of coving. Remembering a time when we didn’t have to bail out our bath with a bucket because we still had a waste pipe, and a time when we didn’t share our bedroom with a desk chair, umbrella stand and a decorative but somewhat cumbersome obelisk.

It is a little mad undertaking building work, and our strange state of being at the moment is particularly enhanced by the addition of the Toddler who still requires regular nutritional input, restorative shut eye, and enough available space in which to swing a small broom at a Peppa Pig ball (our favourite activity of late). Fortunately she is taking ourtopsy turvy state of affairs infinitely in her stride, though we do find ourselves wondering to what extent she will remember this funny time in our lives…

As we post her out of the front window to avoid having to move the kitchen cupboard currently blocking the front door.

You see my earliest memory was at 18 months- Kate’s current age. I have somewhat unusual memories of my childhood, but like our daughter, I wasn’t born into the most conventional of families. Here are the top 10 most memorable incidents I was party to.

Notably, all involve my mother.

1) The time we visited a National Trust property in Kent, and as is normally the case, my Mum was enthusiastically reading the guide book aloud to my Dad and I (despite the fact we had our own copies). By the time we had completed our visit, we had picked up probably 20 or so Japanese tourists who thought we were the official tour, and our journey home was delayed considerably as we felt obliged to pose for souvenir photographs.

2) The time my Mum was forced to wear just her bathing suit on a trip to a French Aquarium after failing to remember her change of clothes following a dip in the swimming lake.

3) The time we were locked in a small shed at a confectionery factory in rural France and forced to watch how sugared almonds were manufactured in German, after my Mum’s attempt at the local dialect failed to both establish our nationality and the fact the owners were just about to go out for lunch. We finally managed to escape the shed to find the owners gone, and a small note wishing us a pleasant onward journey and hoping that we had enjoyed our visit.

4) The time when I was 5 and my Mum removed my brand new sandals whilst I was crabbing in Cornwall, just in case they were to fall off my feet and into the sea. On the removal of one shoe she stowed it in the front of her pac-a-mac, and was just reaching for my other foot, when the sandal left it’s stowage facility. And fell in the sea.

5) The time my Mum felt too embarrassed to explain to our dinner host that she disliked cheese immensely, so convinced me to wrap up her considerable wedge of blue stilton in a napkin and stow it in my rucksack for her. It was a hot and sticky summer evening, and we had been booked immediately onto a tour of a French Countess’ castle after dinner. I’m sure not one of the tour members did not question my personal hygiene.

6) The time my Mum was stuck in the ‘rapids’ of a local swimming pool, and too embarrassed to admit she could not swim against the artificial current created, was carried around in a figure of eight for 45 minutes. My friends and I were waiting for her at the pirate ship the entire time, and had no idea where she was!

7) The time we arrived at another one of Mum’s ‘introductions to culture’ on holiday, when she exclaimed how lucky we were not to have missed the shuttle bus (as a big bus bearing a picture of the attraction we had come to see arrived in the car park). She hurried us on to the bus, and began it’s descent down a very steep and winding road to the bottom of a very large hill. It was only once we had reached the bottom, that Dad had been given time to consult the map and had discovered we had in fact parked outside the attraction we had come to see, and had caught the shuttle bus back down to the town centre from where our journey had begun. It was a long walk back to the car. Which I seem to remember was largely carried out in silence.

8) The time we had to eat 34 horrible chocolate ice lollies because Mum didn’t properly understand the offer in the cheap Spanish supermarket, they wouldn’t all fit in our caravan ice box, and Dad’s constitution means nothing is allowed to be thrown away.

9) The time Mum walked with gusto to secure us a sunny table on the patio of a local pub, misjudged where the door actually stood, and instead walked into a large plate-glass window, subsequently falling into a large plant pot and squashing an unsuspecting Japonica. Much to the delight of all the lunch time patrons.

10) Another occasion when Mum fell in a huge muddy puddle prior to us dining with friends in a posh country pub. Suspecting the Maitre D wouldn’t allow her entry in her earthen state, she spent the entire time walking perpendicular to every wall so as to conceal her embarrassment. I suspect people thought Dad was her carer as the Maitre D spoke to us very clearly and concisely throughout the duration of our visit.

I feel no shame in writing this post as I suspect Kate may be writing a very similar one featuring me in 31 years time.

I hope so.



Buggy drying - Cliveden House National Trust

The toddler’s favourite word is ‘duck’. Much to my relief the pronunciation has improved terribly, and so I no longer fear the reprisal of others when leaving the house.  Kate does however use her word with great conviction, and often in a number of non-bird related scenarios, and there is no accounting for her immaculate comedy timing (all this has relevance later on, bare with me).

It’s exciting times at Ferguson Forts as a large proportion of our house is now missing courtesy of Steve (our builder) and his merry men. We have had breakers, diggers, grab loaders, skips, some wonderful wheelbarrows in jaunty green and yellow hues, and all manner of things that create noise and dust, but at the same time profound joy! We have always enjoyed a bit of a project when it comes to house related things, but this has been the grandest effort to date. I can’t wait to be living in the end result and making the most of what the new space will offer us in terms of daily living and also potential money making adventures (if I play my cards right).

With the fun however, has also been a lot of hard work and preparation for the great event, and so last Monday in much need of some R&R, our little family downed tools (yep, the Toddler is head of sweeping) and we set off to the beautiful gardens at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire.

We started out tour in the water garden which is everything a stately home garden should be, beautifully landscaped, planted with only the most fragrant and exotic blooms, and as it’s name would suggest, is host to a large number of lily laden ornamental duck ponds. Breaking with tradition we had actually taken the buggy with us on this particular outing as the Toddler was seen to be flagging from the start and we hoped she would eventually give in and make use of it. Sadly, this was not the case, and so we spent the entire time pushing the cumbersome thing round, but at least it was (I thought) a useful storage facility for my handbag and worldly possessions. 

At one point I was rather pleased that I had managed to traverse Kate’s aluminium chariot across a number of stepping stones to a grassy island where Neil and Kate had already made their way. I signalled to them that I had arrived and bent down to receive an incoming toddler who was bounding over to me.

Now at this point I understand it when people say their lives flash before their eyes and everything goes into slow motion…as I swept Kate into my arms I heard Neil call out! I looked behind me only to watch as the buggy, its brake not having been applied, deftly make its way down a neatly mown hillock towards a watery edge.  I ran after it, but unable to catch it as it picked up speed, it entered the water with an almighty ‘splosh’, sunk on impact,  and only its rear wheels were visible above the surface.

‘Duck’ said the Toddler.

I believe the correct terminology for my mobile telephone is ‘bricked’ as it displays only a flashing red light, the lady at the Co-op was quite mistrustful of my slightly damp and curly edged five pound note (I did explain), but at least the stamps still work, albeit with the application of a little Pritt Stick.

The buggy was eventually laid out to dry in the Children’s playground after Neil managed to rescue it in a manly display of strength over adversity, and we made several new acquaintances off the back of our spectacle, as fellow parents gathered to both commiserate and congratulate us on our efforts.

So the lesson in today’s story is thus. When life surrounds you with deep water, apply the brakes, because you never know what could end up getting bricked.

And if you visit Cliveden of an afternoon, do take in a cream tea on the parterre, it’s lovely!

The Sofa Saga


We purchased two very nice and enormously comfortable cream sofa’s from a few years ago.

I know, how you laugh, but we didn’t know about toddlers then.

Anyway, we had a small incident a few weeks back involving a misplaced glass and some red wine which resulted in some unwanted decoration of a sofa arm. Luckily Neil is the sort for forward thinking (and having had experience of me and my blunders), and had enrolled us into something quite marvellous called ‘Guardsman’ where they send someone out to clean, or in the scenario where a stain cannot be removed, replace the affected bit of sofa for you.

So yesterday I phoned what I believed to be ‘Guardsman Sofa Protection’. Sadly in my distracted state (The Peppa Pig episode had ended and was dealing with a fractious toddler) I had accidentally dialled the wrong number and ended up having a delightful, if somewhat confused chat with an elderly lady called Edna. Our call went something like this…


‘Hello, is this Guardsman Protection?’


‘Guardsman, I have a stain on my sofa and was wondering if I could claim on our policy?’

‘Who is this?’

‘Amy Ferguson, I bought a sofa from 2 years ago and took out a policy with you….have I got the wrong number? I think I do, I do apologise, I shall let you get on.’

‘I am Edna Bridge. The stain on my sofa.’


‘I have put my cushion over it.’


‘You can’t get someone to clean it you say?’

‘I apologise, the stain is on *my* sofa…’

<At this point I realise how terribly English I am>

‘…But I can recommend the fabric and upholstery stain remover that you can get from Sainsbury’s. it comes in a blue bottle and you just squirt it on. It’s very good. That might help.’

‘Ok dear. Thank you for calling.’

<And she puts the phone down>.

Now that is what I love about older people, they can accept that totally random strangers may just call them in the middle of the day and dispense stain cleaning advice without any question about the normality of this.

I just hope her stain comes out.

But at least I can rest well tonight in the knowledge that if it doesn’t, at least she has a cushion to put over it…

Why didn’t I think of that?

A richness of embarrassment

parking pigeons

Now this blog comes with several warnings.

The first is that if you should happen to acquire a small person, for reasons unfathomable,  you appear to spend more time in one’s local supermarket (although an insatiable appetite and inability to remember anything may be to blame). This has became apparent from a) my monthly statement b) the amount of nectar points I appear to have acquired and c) a small survey conducted amongst other acquaintances who also care for individuals weighing less than 30lbs.

Now aside from wondering what your life has become when you consider if you should be promoted from a ‘parent and child’ parking space to an area designated for residents, all stories that you now have to share all start with ‘when I was at Sainsbury’s’….

It’s a funny thing, I was at Sainsbury’s the other day, and having returned to my ‘parent and child’ parking bay laden with goodies, I spotted what appeared to be a new Mum parked next to me, who was now attempting to unfurl her buggy from it’s collapsed state. Now we have all been there – trying to attempt to master a piece of child rearing equipment in full public view and the wretched thing will not be tamed – and so I really should have known better. However, for some reason a wave of cockiness overcame me, and so now a pro of 8 months, I decided to nonchalantly flick the release button on my own wheels, fold them up neatly in the blink of an eye, and pop them in the car.

Or at least that was the plan.

Instead I caught my hair in the buggy basket, trapped my head in the folding mechanism, smacked my lip on the car seat bracket, and bled all over the (incredibly useful but rather staining) retractable sunshade. Such a spectacle did I make, the Mum next to me who had now assembled her buggy in this time, came over to me and offered to release me from my travel system incarceration. To my shame she did this with incredible ease, and even played with Kate whilst I mopped up my spillages.

So I end with two warnings 1) If you are thinking about having children, it is worth doing a comparison as to which points card offers you the best deals and 2) never assume you have child rearing in the bag, because you could end up sitting shame faced in your car nursing a fat lip and sucking on a wet wipe.

You’re welcome.

Still Me

Owing to my last post I had become increasingly aware of a change coming over me, one that was quite shocking and completley against my entire nature…

I was becoming sensible.

It had started with the flower arranging evenings, then planning my Christmas shopping well in advance, then checking my car’s levels of screenwash at regular intervals, and I had even been taking Neil’s coat on outings in case he felt cold.

Oh dear.

The events of yesterday however came as a reassuring reminder that, whereas I have many additional responsibilities these days (although some of the unecessarily self imposed), I still have an overwhelming ability for the ridiculous which despite still taking me by surprise, nevertheless jollies life along.

The first instance occurred when returning a work call to a Norweigen lady ‘Ottie Dottie’, an excellent name that I am now considering for my first born (although a seminar given by Dushy Large has also made that a contender). On phoning Ottie I was put through to a generic voice messaging system, immediately sending me into a panic for I am not at ease with such technology and very much aware of how much I sound like a 5 year old child on a tape recording. I tried my best to mentally prepare what to say and in what order, but all too quickly the ‘beep’ was upon me and my mind blanked…

“This is a message for Socky Wocky”…

Realising my mistake I laughed nervously, but one of those sort of embarrassing laughs that sounds like a congested farm animal, so I cupped my hand over my mouth to try and stifle the truly hideous noise. Sat in genuine shock, I didn’t really know what to do to recover the situation, so I hung on the line hoping to be offered the opportunity to re-record my message, but following the second ‘beep’, no such olive branch presented itself.

 A shameful moment came over me as I replaced the phone’s reciever into it’s worn cradle, although at the same time I was a little relieved I had not got so far as to mention who I was and what institution I was representing. Several practices in the kitchen and a cup of tea later I was composed enough to phone Ottie back, but this time wrote my message down beforehand and read it off like a script.

I do hope the lady has luck with her dormer window.     

My second oddity of the day came as I dropped my feather and down duvet into the dry cleaners for its bi-annual dousing. The weather that morning had appeared inclement and so not wishing to be caught in a passing shower with my beloved bedding, I had wrapped it up carefully in several bin bags, neatly taping them at the joins, and had arranged the ties in such a way as to make a carrying loop.

On arrival at the dry cleaners I pushed open the door to find the shop assistant nowhere in sight, so made my way towards the counter to push the bell for attention. On doing so however, my loafer caught itself in the turn-up of my trouser leg and I tripped, hitting my knee on an incidental shelf carrying shoe cleaning kits, and I ended up slumped across the counter, my midriff balancing on its edge. Furthermore in the midst of this impressive stunt, I had let go of my duvet bundle, which due to its slippery casing had shot out of my hands, launched itself across the counter onto the floor, and had slid its way to the back of the room picking up speed as it hit the lino. Meanwhile, the shop assistant arrived, stepping over my duvet parcel (still in motion) and made his way towards me.

“Can I help”? he gestured, as I brushed myself down and sought to right the heavily laden shop display I had almost taken down with me.

“Yes please, I would like to have my duvet dry cleaned”.

“No problem madam, where is the item in question?”

“Actually (pointing), its over there…”

A confused look and a long explanation followed, but eventually I paid my £9.99, apologised for upsetting his suede buffing and leather cream unit and left.

Maybe next time I will try the ‘Persil Dry Clean’ shop down the road. It’s about 200 yards extra to walk, but I know it’s counter is nearer the entrance and with luck they won’t know about my amazing aptitude to embarrass myself.

Unless of course I have to ring them.

The Day of the Frock

I have never been particularly body confident, so showing off more than a wrist or ankle on occasions can send me into a cold sweat. Today though, having officially ran out of summery clothes (I managed to put my hand through the material of one summer blouse and burnt a hole in another one) meant that there was only one thing for it.

I had to wear the summer frock.

I must say I am actually feeling slightly panicky already, as sitting at my desk I have noticed from shaving my legs this morning – bleary eyed and standing up in the shower, I have missed random patches, making my uprights look rather like a cat having been prepared for surgey.

The cross-over design at the front has also been causing me some problems having (quite unknown to me) wrapped itself around my seatbelt in the morning rush hour, giving the slip road queue at M4 junction 12 a flash of my M&S’ finest.

The gathered bits at the side also need constant pulling down so the dress sits right on my hips, but this has to be perfectly timed with the pulling up of the top foldy over bit to prevent any further over exposure. I almost gave an elderly gentleman at the public planning counter a heart attack earlier – having gotten this procedure out of sequence.

There are however some benefits to my summer frock – it is keeping me delightfully cool, was far easier to put on than other outfits involving zips and buttons – and I must admit- I am rather partial to its aqua blue/almost greeny colour.

I just don’t think its worth the stress of another visit to the office.