It started a few weeks ago. A door suddenly appeared at the bottom of one of the old gnarled trees in the garden. Tiny, coloured red with a sprinkling of sparkles and decorated with delicate flowers and leaves. Quite obviously, we have fairies in our garden.
The Littlest was almost beside herself with excitement and the first thing she did was write a letter to the Queen of the Fairies. It is utterly enchanting and truly magical.
Over the last couple of weeks, more doors have become visible under a silver birch and, most excitingly, a row of four beautiful little doors under the ancient cherry. We have a red door with a sign saying ‘Blossom Cottage’ with a decorative flower beneath and a green door with painted grass decorating it. An oval door has a watery theme with waves lapping along the edge and a welcoming glow from within.
Someone is very, very clever and has definitely brought a little bit of magic to this corner of Hampshire.
2:30pm Call from school saying ‘Gerald Durrell’ (‘GD’) is not well and needs to be picked up.
2:45pm Pick up ‘GD’
3:30pm Pick up the Littlest from school
4:20pm Call from the Boy to say they were let out of PE late and he’ll be on the later train
4:30pm Pick up the Eldest and friend from station and take them to tennis
4:55pm Back home to make a very speedy supper for the Littlest
5:15pm Call from the Boy asking why he hasn’t been picked up yet
5:30pm Pick up the Boy from station and go straight to surgery. The Littlest one reads one of her books to me, ‘GD’ looks miserable, the Boy is starving.
6:15pm The Eldest arrives from tennis at the surgery.
6:25pm We’re finally called by the doctor – we all go into his consulting room. Prognosis – not sure, but keep an eye on her.
6:30pm We go home via Tesco Metro as I have no ibuprofen or paracetamol at home.
6:50pm Back home and I get dinner for the older two; ‘GD’ lies on the sofa feeling horrid.
7:15pm I get the Littlest ready for bed and ready for a story. This is delayed as she gets back out of bed to check out how she looks with her princess crown and cat mask on. I find myself clenching my teeth in an effort not to scream “WILL YOU PLEASE GET INTO BED!!!” I am quiet and she gets back into bed and we read Puzzle Dinosaur – one of those books that the Tribe have always loved as the book involves a bit of a treasure hunt as you have to find various things within all the pictures. These books are a NIGHTMARE when you are trying to get things done quickly. ‘GD’ crawls in next to me to listen and spot. She really is feeling rubbish.
7:50pm Read to GD for 5 minutes before she goes to bed. We’re disturbed firstly by the Eldest who’s somewhat frustrated by the MacBook she’s using – too slow. This is not my department, you need to speak to your father. Oh, he’s not back. The Boy needs the iPad to find images of guillotines and Marie Antoinette.
8.15pm Finally get ‘GD’ to bed.
8:30pm The Boy is still looking for images and then starts discussing the fact that Marie Antoinette never did say “Let them eat cake”. I am interested but I really want him to speed up.
8:50pm The Eldest comes into the kitchen (that I’m still trying to clear up), saying that she needs to get her food tech ingredients ready – can I help? This happens every week, at about the same time. I want to scream (again), but I just can’t muster the energy it would entail. 15 minutes later the whirlwind leaves the room with her bag of ingredients packed and ready for the morning. I am left with the detritus that she leaves behind. Hmmmm
9:15pm Kitchen is almost clear and I put on some supper.
9:30pm Father of the Tribe arrives home and pours a couple of glasses of wine. Things are looking up.
9:40pm The Boy appears in the kitchen – “Where’s my Physics book?”. Bizarrely, I want to scream. But I don’t. Instead, I pick up my glass and take a sip.
9:55pm I manage to have an uninterrupted conversation with Father of the Tribe.
10:30pm As they said on The Magic Roundabout, “Time for bed”. And I think that I may have succeeded in not screaming. I think.
I haven’t posted for some time as the site appeared to have a gremlin in it and was losing everything that I attempted to post. However, Father of the Tribe has managed to fix it so hopefully I can now attempt to update everything.
September began at a pace with the new term starting very early and this term saw all four of the Tribe dressed in school uniform; the Littlest was embarking on the adventure of school life. As the youngest, she has seen her siblings dressed in their uniforms, doing homework, reading and generally being involved in school life, so much so, that she desperately wanted to know when she’ll be able to do homework! Long may that continue. Her first day began with a great sense of excitement. Father of the Tribe even going into work late and all the Tribe are dressed and ready by 7 o’clock for some family photos before the older two are taken to the station.
Just under two hours later and things don’t quite go to plan as she howled just outside the classroom and had no intention of being left by me. Any mother who’s been through this knows what it’s like; you know that your child will be absolutely fine as soon as you leave them, but every instinct that you have is screaming to wrap your baby in your arms and take her home. Obviously I don’t do this and she is perfectly happy when she skipped out a few hour later. I spent the morning drinking strong coffee and creating some calm after the busy summer. Our Littlest is growing up and life has now started a new chapter.
When I look back at the photos from that morning I can see how her face gradually changes; school is the last place on earth that she wants to be. We managed to miss that completely – great parenting.
A few weeks later all the Reception children are relaxed, confident and happy as they leave the classroom to be collected; cardigans and sweaters, book bags, a myriad of A4 ‘artwork’ and water bottles trailed behind them. Perfect!
We’re away for much of August but towards the end of the holiday, we’re contacted by the friend who is looking after the Tribe’s cats. When she went to feed them in the morning she found one of them in the house, lying in a pool of blood. Pretty horrible for her and I’m so grateful to her and her husband for sorting everything out while we were away. The foaming around Max’s mouth together with the fact that he was safe in the house leads us to believe that he was poisoned. Rat poison we guess. I know that Max was only a pet, but he really played a big part in our family life. So this post is dedicated to Max, our much loved short haired moggy.
Max belonged to our son. We bought three kittens for the Tribe as a Christmas present in 2009. The evening we drove to pick them up it started snowing heavily. So much so, that Father of the Tribe put shovels and ropes in the back of the car – a true Kiwi! – and I wrapped the Tribe in blankets as they were bundled into the car in their pyjamas with no idea of where we were taking them. Arriving at the house where the kittens were, the landscape was totally white – the snow was definitely settling. Pretty exciting especially when you’re 4, 6 and 7! As we went through the door the penny dropped and the Tribe were besides themselves with excitement as they realised that they were there to choose their own kitten.
Our Boy was so thrilled at having a little boy kitten all of his own. He picked this little bundle of black with white socks and an upside down white V on his nose, cuddled him and announced to everyone, “This is Max”. No discussion of names, he just knew that’s what the kitten was going to be called. The kittens travelled home in a cardboard box in the back of the car and as we had three, there was never any trauma or upset; they cuddled up together and slept with one of them purring ridiculously loudly. And that was it; our family of 5 had expanded to 8 with our feline additions.
The kittens were always up to mischief – that’s their job, they’re kittens! But Max or ‘Mad Max’ as he became known, caused me a few grey hairs before any of the Tribe did. One day I was hoovering on the balcony, not long after the kittens had joined our family, Max, terrified, backed away, and to my utter horror, backed straight through the spindles of the balcony and into oblivion. I felt as though I was watching in slow motion and was frozen to the spot, “How on earth was I going to explain this to my son??”. When I finally did look over the balcony expecting to see a tiny, lifeless, broken body, there was nothing. Max had disappeared. Running downstairs, I found little Max, completely unperturbed, but more than happy to be picked up and made a fuss of. I guess that was one of his nine lives used up.o
The following Christmas we became 9 with the arrival of the Littlest and all three of the now year old cats, just assumed that she was one of them and spent hours sleeping in the Moses basket with her. That Christmas, Max, together with his two siblings, found it fabulous fun to climb the 12′ Christmas tree in our hallway. Carrying a 3 week old baby, I found a tree surrounded by a pool of water leaning at a precarious 45 degree angle held up only by the cable of the fairy lights that were still merrily flashing. The cats looked at me as if to say, “Nothing to do with me.”. Hmmmm.
On learning that we were to move to the Middle East there was never any question that the cats would come with us. When we picked them up in the scorching summer heat and brought them to our new home in Jumeirah, I realised it had been absolutely the right decision, despite the time, effort and money involved. Knowing no one in the region and without any help, we were very much on our own.
With the cats, we knew that we were all together and everything would be just right. The cats didn’t venture very far, cats don’t; but despite the fact that we lived close to a busy road, they were pretty streetwise. Even with the stray cats that roamed the streets, our cats would ‘protect’ their patch taking their positions on the high wall either side of the gate to the compound. A few times a stray would try and get into our garden, but this is when ‘Mad Max’ would live up to his name and chase the intruder over the whitewashed walls.
When we first returned to Abbotts Ann I found myself alone in the kitchen one night; Father of the Tribe was still living in Qatar and the Tribe all safely asleep upstairs. Suddenly I could hear a tap, tap, tapping. It kept going and I began to feel a little nervous – where the heck was it coming from? And then I saw him. Mac’s face with its upside down white V nose just outside the window and his paw going up and down tapping on the window. Brilliant! And that was how he always let us know that he wanted to come in.
I miss that tapping. I miss the fact that there are only two cats following the Tribe across the fields. The other two cats miss him; Father of the Tribe misses him much more than he ever thought he would; and the Tribe miss him, especially our son. Max, with the softest silky fur, will never again be the heavy weight sleeping at the end of his bed.
We scattered Max’s ashes over the fields where he used to play and chase and under the trees where he used to sleep in the sunshine. He was much loved and he will be much missed.