Sunday, 7 April 2013

The holidays (again)

The school holidays seem to have lasted most of my natural life already, and there is still a week left. Yesterday we despatched F to an eight-day science camp, in a damp corner of the Ardennes. What am I saying, all of the Ardennes is damp, like driving through a large, mossy sponge. As we neared Spa, the weather shifted in barely perceptible increments from merely grey to damp and grey, to solidly rainy and as we drove into the lane heading to the gîte where science camp is taking place it started properly lashing down. Welcome, campers! We picked our way across a field that looked like it had recently hosted a reenactment of the Battle of the Somme, into a slightly chilly and basic brick building, with a perceptible degree of indoors humidity, though the jolly science animateurs remained resolutely cheerful, setting up a worktable of alarming tools: many hammers, wrenches, a great deal of gaffer tape, various bottles of unspecified potion. I suspect the science project for the week is to raise a golem out of Ardennes mud.

I should say science camp, like Chinese and violin, is something F positively chose and insisted he wanted to do, even though I gave him ample opportunity to back out. I think I have to accept that he'd rather not spend two weeks with me: this is, after all, my future. When we dropped him off he was extremely no fuss and tight lipped about the whole thing and just sort of willed us away, looking appalled and faintly sickened that I dared to do anything more effusive than give him a brisk, manly handshake. He is extremely stoic, possibly to a fault, which one could not say of his older brother.

L spent Friday afternoon/evening wailing and ululating in a frightening fashion like a banshee, suffering from earache (quite understandably, earache is foul, I would doubtless have done the same). We went on a mad emergency doctor and pharmacy dash, to a soundtrack of intensifying wailing, then despatched him home to the sofa with a continental amount and variety of medications: drops, expectorants, sinus tablets, anti-inflammatories, the full panoply of the francophone pharmacy. "You could have suppositoires?" the doctor asked L, quite seriously peer to peer, looking over her varifocals at him to solicit his opinion, but he shook his head very firmly with a hiccuping sob, so we were spared that joy. About four seconds after installing him, Nurofen-ed up, on the sofa, he raised his tear streaked face to look at me and said very perkily that he was "starving" and could possibly manage a few chocolate digestives and maybe one of those vanilla yoghurts and ooh, was that saucisson? Were there crisps? Perhaps a little juice might be good for his throat?

In contrast, F is not given to much expression of his emotions, sensations, desires, or other incontinent human outpourings. Whilst we were at Tetanus Manor, he came briskly into the bedroom at 3am to tell me he had been sick. "I was sick earlier", he explained, "so I just made a bed on the floor and slept there. But now there's too much sick". Nails. Anyway, Science camp looks nice, if you like that kind of thing - being cold and wet  and extremely matter-of-fact in a group - which he clearly does (I don't suppose I need to tell you he does not get this from me). It looked a bit like Woodcraft Folk camp, actually, but with fewer psychopaths and acoustic guitars. I have thought of him anxiously a few times, just because you can't really be a parent without occasionally giving in to the lure of irrational worry, but I am actually perfectly confident he will be just fine, barring a little light trench foot.

This means that I am spending the week with L, the child who vibrates with pleasure at the thought of a hot water bottle and pyjamas at 5pm, who, when you tell him on a Sunday afternoon that you are going back to bed for an hour or so to read your book, says he is going to do the same and is not heard of until he gets hungry, around four hours later, ie now. I can hear him rummaging idly through the cupboards in search of snacks, but he has not felt the need to come and see me, nor has he attempted to make a homemade lava lamp from bicarbonate of soda and cooking oil, devised a DIY wormery, or made cornflour slime, all of which F did within a few short impressive yet trying hours last week. L's plans are more leisurely. He has written a list of what he wants to do this week and it reads: "eat Thai food, eat Japanese food, have an ice cream every day, watch films, perhaps sleep over at one of my friends, teach Peanut (the more sociable of the rats) a trick, learn which way round to write question marks and on Wednesday DO NOTHING AT ALL" (every Wednesday should be like this). There is a tick box by each item and we are committed to ticking each one off.

I don't know why this entire somewhat tedious post is devoted to my children, delightful as they are, nor can I stir my feeble limbs to go and find a picture with which to illustrate it. Apologies. I am a broken reed of stupidity at the moment, my brain as sharp as Ardennes mud, my time divided between (i) adjective wrangling (ii) existential angst (iii) red wine (iv) Netflix (v) financial brooding (vi) stoking my sense of inadequacy via excessive passive consumption of social media (vii) frantically trying to come up with a viable career strategy and (viii) removing cables from the jaws of the Roomba. I have, however, cooled it slightly on the 'compulsive picking of facial wounds', so for this small triumph, I give myself some credit.

What tiny source of pride can you claim this week, if any? 


Xtreme English said...

I bought a huge ream of multi-colored construction paper. cha ching!! but I forgot the black pepper (not related). And I had a Cafe la Ruche cafe after dinner last night.

cruella said...

God, I don't now. I've come out of a twice-in-a-lifetime flu that lasted over a WEEK, and I'm telling you my so called colds normally lasts an evening (of hypocondria).

In the middle of this my husband went to live in southern China, and yes, I'll follow suit with the younger teenagers. In August. Very confusing life right now. I explicitly have to tell myself to to the most ordinary things, like shopping for food, cooking, get out of jim-jams. Not that M normally micro-manages me, but...

Triumphs, hmm. I went out an hour in the sun today, listening to a podcast about (possible) excessive ADHD diagnosing. Does it qualify?

cruella said...

*know* Obviously.

Ellie said...

I have had no triumphs today (we attempted to take a drive through the Texas Hill Country to enjoy the wildflowers but, due to having a bad map and overcast weather, which rendered my Boy Scout husband unable to determine the direction of the sun and therefore of the car, we kept on hitting the same titanic traffic jam on Hwy 290 not once, twice, no-- three times, all while thinking we were cleverly escaping). A 20' elm limb fell and crushed our sugar-cane plants two days ago, though. And we have new rats under the house.

I think I am much more like Lashes than Fingers, though I admire people of such grim tenacity.

deadkat said...

I washed my dog, who has been becoming progressively more stinky all winter. It turns out parts of him are white underneath. I also washed my bras for the first time in a month or so. Hurrah

frau antje said...

Wasn't expecting you to turn on us at the end, and ask what if anything we had done that might be of any note whatsoever.

Um, feeding my tiny, bobble-headed spouse?

Not being gutted like a de Witt?

Oh god, I give up. But it's not fair, as my entire brain is taken up with thoughts of how I can dictate my handover notes (this is leading nowhere).

Z said...

having sawn down a lot of undergrowth in my own garden, I did the same for my son in his. I took down an old fence and an old greenhouse. I catalogued an auction-worth of china, taking a photo of each piece too. And I made risotto last night, always a source of pleasure.

Sorry darling, usually the answer would be sod all.

Anonymous said...

I did not smack my husband as hard as I could. Hooray for me!

Helen said...

Lashes' to-do list sounds much better than mine for this week. I think I want to be his friend.

I am most prideful this week because my article was published! In an actual real journal! I keep stroking the cover, is that weird?

I hope that Fingers does bring back a golem. Would be very handy for the housework, and for making gin and tonics.

Patience_Crabstick said...

I have two stoic children and two drama queen children. My drama queen daughter is literally not happy unless she is not happy.

What am I proud of? Today I sandpapered the dead skin off my heels.

Anonymous said...

small triumph - didn't have a fag at lunchtime...(had one this morning and will doubtless succumb later but in present circumstances, I'll take even this tiniest of triumphs; even though the main reason I didn't have one was cos I was starving for lunch and had to hot-foot it to Snax for some greasy pasta...)

Margaret said...

I started a new job yesterday, but if this were last week, my main accomplishment would have been 50% non-smacking-of-spouse/50% thinking-about-sandpapering-soles-of-feet.

I'm completely in love with F's Englishness. Where does it come from? I'm more of a Lashes gal, though. His to-do list is a delight.

Ellie, how on earth do you get lost in Texas? There are 11 major roads, tops. We once plugged a destination into our GPS and it said (my hand to God): "Drive 200 miles, then turn right."

Waffle said...

Oh god Cruella, you are moving to China? DEAR LORD. Good luck.

Ellie "new rats". The best kind of rats.

Frau Antje - Do you think one can write handover notes for one's whole life? "You have a missing filling and some unresolved tax liabilites, a poor relationship with your younger brother and a body buried under your patio".

Anon - You win the GOLD STAR for achievement.

Helen - Congratulations! That is most real and proper thing to be proud of!

Margaret - I really have no idea. No one in my family is particularly stoic. Maybe it was in the London water.

Ellie said...

Margaret, you get lost by not taking the major roads. If you're not up for spinning a 2 hours drive out into 5 hours, I don't recommend it, but it is at least more interesting than driving W on 290 for the millionth time.

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