It’s Christmas! Ching ching!!

Yesterday, we found ourselves surrounded by German shoppers. Not surprising really, since we live in Germany.

Though despite having lived here for, what? 12 years? I still find shopping with the Germans, as opposed to with the British, a truly shocking experience. They shop, but at most, they only ever seem to carry one bag. And most of them don’t have any bag at all other than their handbag.

You could be lulled into the belief that those bustling High Streets and shopping centres are filled with many browsers who use the shops to find their purchase, but then take out their smart phones or go home to their laptops and search out the very best deal for the exact same product online.

But those High Street stores are clearly thriving. So my true belief is that everyone here (except for me, of course) has a Mary Poppins Bag or perhaps even a Mary Poppins Pocket.

But yesterday, we weren’t Hight Street shopping, we were food shopping, in our local supermarket.

All our fellow shoppers stood there, with their little shopping baskets two days before Christmas. Easily convincing anyone that every checkout could support the sign ‘Express Checkout: 12 items or less’ (but does not, because of course, that checkout is just not necessary here).

Simultaneously we stood there, smilingly queueing with our two precariously balanced shopping trolleys.

We caused quite a commotion. Two boys behind us watched our mounting food bill on the electronic display. Passing the 100 Euro figure caused them to release some, quite loud, exclamations. Then as we approached the 200 Euro total, their gasps and gulps flourished.

Excitement reached an almost hysterical level as we neared the 300 mark (sorry, I mean Euro). Squeals of “Will it make the 300?” along with bulging eyes and anticipating jumps reminded me of a dedicated gambler longing to see his horse win the race and I smiled. Because I knew we’d hit 300. Just.

The air was so electrical, I half expected a bouncy store manager to run out, bearing bouquets, bubbly and other extravagant gifts. Overflowing with kisses and hugs and handshakes and thanks for being the store’s best ever shoppers.

But there was no music. No fizz. And no rigorous handshake.

Though we did see the manager briefly. We questioned him as to why we couldn’t use the 110 Euros worth of vouchers we’d been collecting all year. Apparently we could only use a maximum of a 20 Euro voucher at a time. Which does make sense. Express checkout mentality considered.

I know. Over 300 Euros on food. But in my defence we are six people. It is Christmas. The shops are closed for two and a half days and then again on Sunday. I like to cook. A lot. The children like to eat. A lot. And at the end of the day, despite having lived here for a quarter of my life, I am British. I know exactly how to panic buy.

Wishing all of my fellow bloggers, my friends and everyone who has a Mary Poppins Bag a truly wonderful Christmas.


Don’t cha just love Christmas?

So here it is: that time of year again.

Here anyway, there’s not a single, solitary flake of snow on the ground. The mulled wine is still in its bottle, as far back in its cupboard as it’s possible to be. After Thursday’s level of celebrating I have decided: I am never touching alcohol ever again. Well, not before tomorrow anyway.

The gifts are wrapped but not placed under the tree. Aden wanted to deposit his interestingly packed package for Joni, under the plastic needles, but we ran to the rescue as we anticipated the dog’s eyes excitedly lighting up and her wrestling the paper off. We explained to Aden that the dog would contentedly nibble away on his lovingly purchased present.

So he thoughtfully offered to squirt it with anti-chew spray.

The turkey is stuffing up the bottom drawer of the fridge. Reini’s chocolate gooey puddings are ready to cook, directly from frozen. Akasha’s covered the window in home-made stars and the apple tree is welcoming passersby with it’s twinkly, strangulating net of lights.

Cards have been sent, received and put up. The dog’s had her hair cut. Akasha’s offered to make extra presents – origami birds from loo paper. Excitement truly is in the air.

Christmas is coming and apparently we’re ready; even waiting for it.

Wishing you all a very, very Merry Christmas!!!!!

Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush

If you decide to go on a self-catering holiday with Mr Fix-It and four children then you have to be organized.

You have to remember everything.

I remembered: four different types of toothpaste, three sorts of mouthwash, toothpicks, five electric toothbrushes, and one small person’s use-up-some-of-your-own-excess-energy hand-held brush. I even remembered a cup for rinsing.

But I forgot the toothbrush charger.

Well, that’s not strictly true.

I remembered a toothbrush charger. But the wrong toothbrush charger. Meaning only one of the five electric toothbrushes had the possibility of being charged, while we were away.

No matter.

I had already thought to charge each individual toothbrush fully before setting off.

So that they should last the week.

Except on the drive to Geneva, for a one night stopover with friends, one of the toothbrushes got accidentally pressed.

We listened to it attempting to clean the other brushes.

We listened to the life slowly trickle and hiccup out of it.

Of course, it was the mother brush.

While planning our holiday I had tried to think of every possible eventuality in terms of packing.

Indeed, had we been stopped and searched at either the Swiss or the French border the customs officers would have had a field day discovering the likes of: sun block and woolly hats, oven gloves, candles, a torch, bin liners, anti-histamine, washing powder, a corkscrew, nail polish remover, 17 pens, sellotape, a happy birthday sign, salt, a sewing kit (you know those travel ones you ‘take with you’ after an overnight stay in a hotel), a full every-type-of-conceivable-possible-emergency first aid kit. And naturally, the obligatory cuddly toy.

I could only have watched from the sidelines as they chortled at my analness.

However, on my return journey I could have politely informed them that we had in fact used all of the afore-mentioned items.

What with our late night walk. A birthday. Pizza. A lot of washing. Several medical and accidental incidents.

And a few *hic* bottles of wine.

Yet, despite my careful thought and attention to detail, I could not have imagined (not in a zillion years) that my husband, would, during his stay, have been deflated by the fact that we had no pliers in our luggage.


That’s right.

We broke the washing machine.

And poor Mr Fix-It had to fix it with a mere screwdriver that I’d last minutely rammed in my rucksack.


We’re having an animal-tastic time here in Southern France.

We’ve managed to spot a lizard in the garden and a frog on a dark harbour walk.

We’ve seen several dogs on the beach who could easily have been nicknamed Sandy.

Yesterday, we were entertained by enormous dinosaur replicas as well as the real skeletons of the likes of a brachiosaurus.

OK. The truth is out. We actually create our own entertainment.

Then today on another long beach walk we spotted several jellyfish. The thought of which frightened my son closer to death than any sting actually could.

He swore blind not to go into the sea again and not to walk near to the wet sand.

However, about an hour later I took this photo.

A boy rescuing a buoy.

That would be my boy.

The stick later became a tool in his newly invented game ‘Flick-the-dead-jellyfish-back-into-the sea’.

Further along the beach we spotted someone flying a kite, which from a distance looked like a very realistic seagull.

But the best animal-tastic behaviour of all was that of a deranged naked woman bouncing and flouncing in the very cold sea. All by herself.

French beds to hairy legs

Since I arrived in the South of France, I’ve realised a few things:

  • Without caffeine I am nothing. Without my fix of homemade espresso I have been forced to turn to Coca Cola. One of those boats in the harbour could float on the amount I’ve sloshed back.
  • French beds are funny. On the first night I awoke yelling, “What the Hell was that?” At first, I was convinced that there had been an earthquake. Somewhat disconcerting when the land one is currently residing on is made predominantly of sand. Then as it happened again and again I slowly started to realise that the ‘earth shaking’ was actually my husband turning and rocking the bed. I would have written, ‘My bed is funny’ – but it turns out that the girls’ bed (a bunk) does exactly the same thing.
  • Despite the fact that I like the earth moving for me – I won’t be having sex in France. The squeaky, swaying bed is freaking me out. It would be like having sex while lying on the sea. Besides, the children are awake before and asleep after me.
  • My French is shit. But perseverance is the key. Between pidgin English and broken French, I have though managed to order and pick up a birthday cake for the upcoming birthday of my daughter. (She’ll be five on Wednesday). Quelle surpise!

  • French birthday cakes are really expensive. It cost around €25 Gulp. The rest of the day we’ll just eat toast.
  • French cakes are a work of art. I had to buy some extra mini cakes.
  • We may end of living on cake. French cakes are scrumptious!
  • I’m obsessed with shells. I cannot stop collecting them. I mean it. We’ll require a trailer to transport them home.
  • Sand really does get everywhere. Another good reason for no sex. Things would chafe.
  • Despite that, if I won the lottery I really would buy a beach house.
  • I am useless at shaving my legs. I’d allowed my thermal layer to grow in at home, in preparation for the German winter. Then the night before leaving I had a quick shave before going to bed. Lying on the beach I noticed large glistening areas of blond hair. Luckily no passersby fainted/vomited/shouted insults – OK I can’t be sure of the last one, because of my crap French.
  • It was a good idea not to give in and buy the ADHD one a balaclava. An adventurous ‘walk in the dark along the beach and then along the harbour’ revealed the woolly hatted one to particularly enjoy shining the torch on the boats. Imagine how that would have looked with a balaclava?

Greetings from the beach

First day, (well you can’t count the twelve-hour travel day, can you?) and the weather has been exceptionally nice. So we hit the beach.

We’ve entertained ourselves the kids building sand castles with moats, collecting shells, jumping waves and burying each other in the sand.

It’s been warm enough to wear our bathing suits. Cold enough to make our nipples stand to attention.

And we’ve loved every minute of it.

Even the bit when the two middle ones got all possessive over a stick and ended up shouting and throwing sand and sea water in each others faces.

Up to the bit when, as I dozed at the table over a game of ludo, and my husband dozed on the sofa, one of the scarily awake kids (does the sea air only knock out pre-forties grown ups?) smashed my wine glass, sending shattered fragments in every direction. One tiny shard actually managed to skim past my hand cutting it on its journey.

I sat slightly taken aback at the sheer surprise as my blood trickled.

And somewhat sorrowful.

It was the last drop of wine.


Just a small note to say I’m excited off to France tomorrow. Right now I am up to my eyes in packing. It actually looks like we are moving house rather than going self-catering for a week. I am so filled with excitement that I’m not even concerned that we’ve I’ve lost the contract/address/directions/linen form that Reinhold so carefully printed off. Actually, I’m quite relaxed. Especially considering that I still haven’t started packing any of my clothes or my husbands.

Hmm… I wonder if I’ve gone into chilled out holiday mode already? 😉


Hot and bothered

Damn it!

I left the living room for a moment and on my return I found it all hot and bothered.

OK. I took a little more than a moment.

After all, dressing myself involved intermittent whoops and prancing around semi-nakedness.

I have managed to secure us a little holiday. All six of us. An affordable holiday. We’re off to the south of France. I’ve booked a beach house in November. We’ll build sandcastles in the wind and window-shop through the glass of closed seasonal stores.

We’ll roam deserted beaches with rain or stormy sea-water splashing in our faces. We won’t jet ski. We won’t sunbathe. We won’t swim in the nice warm sea. But we may take our shoes off for a little paddle and warm ourselves up again running away across shell-splintered sands. *Note to self remember plasters.*

I am delirious.

Hence the whooping.

Not hence the semi-nakedness.

Bra’ed and panted I skipped to the wash-room only to discover that I’d forgotten to take the washing out of the machine. Again. Determined not to wash the load for a third time, I held my breath in an attempt to ignore the fusty smell. Mother Nature will help me, I decided. And if not there’s always Febreze.

I put on a new wash while being distracted by a four-year-old deciding to change her outfit again. For the love of God it’s not even 10:30 yet. Evidently, I was not distracted enough, because she managed to trap herself in a tightly closed belt. It took me several minutes to loosen the buckle enough for her to step out of the contraption. The whole time she tried to maintain a basic breathing function and hold in her tears.

One freed child later, we mounted the stairs together heaving one basket of smelly washing.

We entered the living room to be smacked in the face with a heat wall of 26°C.

One teenager having gone outside, to celebrate the sunshine and having forgotten to close the bloody door.

Chardonnay any one?

Holiday joy!

I’m just saying…

You know the way, when you’re going on a train journey, with all four children in tow, how you can’t sit all together, in one place?

Well, take it from me, it’s not a good idea to sit the one with a loose tongue, and not an ounce of compassion, at the table, with the complete stranger.


Because should you do that, the likeliness is, that the child will hang off the seat and speak, not whisper, that the stranger has drunk five cans of beer and is smoking.

You’ll find yourself, at first, whispering, and then later yelling (you’re on the journey home and it’s been a long day), “Just sit properly in that seat!” and, “But he’s not smoking on the train!” and “I think he only drank one or two cans.”

Be warned: reasoning with the insensitive one is another bad idea. His curiosity means that he has actually completed a thorough search of the table top bin and knows exactly how many cans have been drunk. And crushed. And rammed into the said disposal unit.

And you’ll find yourself slightly embarrassed, when your own shrieking results in a startled jump from the poor stranger, whose only crime was to sit on a seat and agree to an unknown boy, with an odd fisherman’s hat on, sitting opposite him.

Which certainly didn’t deserve the, “Yippee!! He’s going!!” jubilation as he finally arose from his place.

Poor man. I’m sure he needed a few more beers once he got home.