January looks mostly like this…

Happy New Year.

January feels like one of those months you survive in lieu of lighter evenings and warmer weather. Of course, these days there is a sense of occasion in that the Toddler celebrates a birthday. As of the 9th January, Kate moved in two years ago. Two! I know. I can’t remember life before, and I would not wish it without her.

But sometimes the grey cold days set in and instinct says to hibernate. And inspiration to do anything in particular is largely lacking. So one must fight against it. And at least blog.

Pop round for a cuppa.

The light at the end

It’s been a while. It’s been a muddle. When things are in a muddle, my head is in a muddle and the words don’t work.

But the skip goes next week. That’s a big deal. It means this big build is almost finally over. The instillation of a hob will complete domestic bliss.

Phew!

There are so many things to catch up on, domestic acitivies, celebrations of all varieties, superb outings of note, the toddler continues to grow and amuse, and today the ‘Kleenezy’ catalogue arrived. The festive edition. Oh, the things in there I have my eye on in there! Expect a full review. It’ll be worth it.

As ever I suspect I am typing to myself, but it feels oh so good to be back on it. And in less of a muddle.

Exhale.

Be back soon.

 

Working on it…

It’s now seven weeks into the build and we are all absolutely exhausted.

Yes, of course, the prospect of living in an environment infinitely nicer than our previous one, particularly minus the anaglypta wallpaper and omnipresent smell of granny (think carpet underlay) is very exciting – but the process of achieving a vision of semi-detached perfection is proving more difficult than I had anticipated. Hence no blog for quite a while.

It doesn’t help either that the Toddler has been going through one of her ‘phases’ too which has entailed random napping, much grumpiness, the necessity of cheerios to aid the putting on and removal of clothes, and (much to my dismay and feelings of failure as a parent) copious amounts of Peppa Pig. And Suits. And wine.

The latter two might have been for me.

It has long been said that a tidy home is a tidy mind. Right now, neither of these things ring true, and I have come to realise to what extent my immediate surroundings have an impact on every facet of daily life!

Still, not long to go, and oh my it is all showing great potential. I share with you a small window in to the madness…

Garage

IMG_20140808_163238 IMG_20140808_163351 IMG_20140811_200321 IMG_20140811_200519 IMG_20140818_163234 IMG_20140822_180926

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The time when…

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.

 

Duck

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!

It’s a busy day down on the farm…

Who’s that hiding in the barn? Our favourite book of the moment.

It has taken me a while because a great deal of my leisure time recently has been consumed with dispensing advice on upholstery cleaning to the elderly. Lucky for you however (?) I have also managed to find a few spare moments to upload pictorial evidence of our attendance at Open Farm Sunday. For anyone not familiar with this particular and sacred day,  it is an opportunity to have a mooch around your local agricultural establishment without fear of being caught out by an electric fence or worse, a farmer with a penchant for spit-roasted rambler.

I have to say, we were very taken with our chosen destination ‘Shiplake Farm’ in Oxfordshire. There were of course the fundamentals – tractor rides, heifer introductions, the opportunity to feel small next to a combine harvester, and lashings of homemade victoria sponge! Our farm however not only offered all of the above, but also an opportunity for colouring in (the equivalent of crack cocaine to an ex Geography Student) – whist their primary crop also just happens to be opium. I know! That may account for some of the tractor driving, but I feel it added to the ambiance and general authenticity of experience.

Here are a few photos of our adventures, including one of a very exciting contraption used for weighing cows on their way to Tesco.

To collect Clubcard points.

Or so what Neil told me.

P.S. Note the Toddler is wearing her hat! Wonders never cease.

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake farm

John Deere Tractor - Open Farm Sunday 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Cow weighing machine

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

The Sofa Saga

We purchased two very nice and enormously comfortable cream sofa’s from Sofa.com 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’?

‘Hello, is this Guardsman Protection?’

‘Pardon?’

‘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 Sofa.com 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.’

‘Yes?’

‘I have put my cushion over it.’

‘Ok..’

‘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?

Sunglasses

Previously it was all about the balls.

And now for some context to that statement.

Moving on. The new fad in my toddler’s life is sunglasses. She has been major fans of both mine, Neil’s (and well anyone’s really) for some time now, so when strolling amongst the aisles of summer attire, I finally caved in and purchased some for the young lady in my life.

Kate had a choice of four pairs, including two brandishing the much favoured ‘Peppa Pig’, but apparently unable to influence the decision in any way,  we ended up with the bright pink oversized polka dot pair. They have not left her nose since.

I kid you not, even bath time has not been taken without the accompaniment of specs.

So without further ado, introducing the Toddler and her ‘rays’…

Toddler Sunglasses
They went on in the shop. They have not come off since.
Eating dinner in my sunglasses
Eating dinner 
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Digging the shades
Digging the shades
Greys Court Garden - National Trust
Giving coach tours 
Kate and Benjamin
Cake scoffing incognito

 

What can I say.

She’s a special girl.

A Post on Post

I think it is possible that the former occupant of our house received the most post ever. For months on end we were e-mailing an incredible amount of organisations to remove us from their mailing lists – from double glazing manufacturers to decathlon training outfitters, freemason organisations, and the one which tugged at my heart strings a little (and I had serious thoughts about joining). – ‘Friends of Ferrets’. Two years later we are still receiving letters for Mrs W, and ‘returning to sender’ has become almost a ritual in our household.

There is however one subscription that there is no way I will ever be able to part with, and that is Mrs W’s bi-annual wig catalogue.

Now I had little experience or knowledge of wigs until this arrived on our doorstep some months ago, but it has opened up a whole new world to me.

Firstly there is the choice (and considerable) price point between a synthetic and a real hair piece. It is a difficult decision, but having researched the issue thoroughly, I believe ‘real hair’ does indeed give you a more luscious look, but I am still unable to come to terms with the thought of stepping out with a head of hair manufactured by a foreign scalp. There is also the hassle of split ends and the thought of lingering dandruff or even head lice that seals the deal with synthetic for me. Even though this does, as warned, pose with it a greater risk if the wearer were to experiment with naked flames, or even ‘open the oven door’ in some cases. If attending an event therefore where unusually the host has brought in the caterers, the reason may not be purely gastronomical. And one ought to be cautious around the candelabra.

The main reason however, I appear to be so enthralled by these fascinating reads of follicle loveliness, is the rather endearing names given to each ‘do’. Rather than referring to each wig as a ‘bob’ or ‘elfin cut’ as one might given a conventional style, they are given monikers such as ‘The Virginia’, ‘The Sophia’, or if you are feeling rather racy, ‘The Mauritius’.

What is more, you may also choose from a wide range of shades such as ‘shaded wheat’, ‘platinum’ and the rather disappointingly named brunette choice – ‘medium’. For the older lady not afraid to sport some silver, ‘granite’, ‘truly mink’ and ‘sahara’ are also available. I am always rather tempted by styles in the fetching tone of ‘honey glaze’, but I then become rather distracted by a longing for gammon.

The Sophia
The ‘Sophia’ courtesy of naturalimagewigs.co.uk
The Virginia
‘The Virginia’, courtesy of naturalimagewigs.co.uk

‘Jacqueline Wigs’ and ‘Natural Image’, the two publications we receive also carry ‘wig styling and care’ tips which, of course, I too have a penchant for. Achieving a ‘wet look’ for example is possible by simply combing your ‘wig conditioner’ through from scalp to tip, and leaving for an hour for the fibres to assume a stylised placement.  An ‘up do’ may also be achieved for longer wigs by conventional means, but go easy on the hair spray as even a venture out in fine weather may mean a visit from the emergency services. The most important feature of securing the desired look however is to achieve a good fit on your wig. This is possible by adjusting the velcro fastenings inside the head piece, along with the ‘anti-slip strips’ which means the wearer may feel ever confident in blustery conditions. Vital I would have thought, particularly by the coast.

And so, I shall leave it here, sad in the fact I shall have to wait a further 6 months until my next wig fix, but rather excited at the thought of what the winter collection may bring. I shall be looking up tips on ‘hat hair’ in preparation.

Building

Now I always think to myself, there is nothing more inspiring than a pile of rockwool on a Wednesday.

But for me it is actually rather magnificent as it marks the start of building works at our home, and at long last, we can get this place looking a bit more like we own it and we can banish the ‘Granny smell’ of the previous occupant forever. There are likely to be many more updates on this over the coming weeks, particularly as I do love a mini digger, and nothing gets the heart racing like a plastic down-pipe, so bare with me but I will need an arena for my excitement.

In other news I have been working hard to counter the parts of my personality I take issue with, namely my inability to commit to a project for longer than 5 minutes without getting distracted and a new flight of fancy steering me off course. This is why I continue to watch a TED talk each morning, and why I am feeling particularly chipper that I find myself still sitting here typing at you.

Today I would like to share this from my a.m. viewing – definitely worth a watch if you have a few minutes – a very funny, provocative and (unfortunately for Stella) inspiring talk on disability.

P.S. UPVC patio doors will be going in the next few weeks. If these have been missing in your life, and the days have been long, hard, and at times rather chilly without the appropriate fenestration, then do get in touch. Also available with or without toddler lick.

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