Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails


Harvest Festival

Times have changed.

No longer the school harvest festival involves rows of children ‘singing’ “We plough the fields and scaaaaaaaatter, the good seed on the laaaaaand” or “Raiiise the glori’us ‘arvest ‘ome” with parents seeing the event as the perfect opportunity to palm off the overgrown marrow or glut of other home-grown vegetables to some unsuspecting person ‘in need’.

Tomorrow is the last day of ‘bring your harvest gifts into school’.  Marrows are not allowed.  This is the battle of the preserved goods.  Competition is intense.  There is skill involved.  New parents to the school are not yet indoctrinated in the ways of the shopping required for the best possible harvest contribution.

Why?  Well, because our harvest contributions are judged by quantity.  Not quality.  The prize (yes, prize, this year it’s a treasure chest full of chocolate coins) is awarded to the class who bring in the greatest number of products (or ‘projects’ as the Sealion Keeper* calls them).  There is a running total kept every day by the office staff and obviously the opportunities for numeracy lessons are plentiful.

But the pressure – oh the pressure!  To send in as many products as possible (obviously equal numbers for each child, you’ve got to be fair) without losing your store cupboard contents, a large chunk of the housekeeping money or the respect of your child is quite a challenge.  The children are coming home with a running total each afternoon – they know where their class is in the league table – this is, to put it quite frankly, war.

Which is why I spent last Wednesday afternoon trawling around Sainsburys trying to find the maximum number of products for the minimum spend – noting that the general assumption made by the merchandisers that those who are buying the ‘Basic’ ranges in the supermarkets are, well, short.  Or extremely flexible.

Didn’t do badly though – 12 items each per child (not that they could lift the bags), total spend for all 24, less than £7.75.

So, tomorrow, when “all is safely gathered in” we’ll get the final result.  We’ll see which teachers are quietly fist-pumping in their store cupboards and which children have chocolate coins melting gently in their sticky hands as they come out at the end of the day.  The battle will be over for another year and the parents have 12 months to hone their shopping skills further.

Oh, and our young homeless in St Albans will have enough food to see them safely into the winter storms and hopefully fill their tummies with some (relatively) nutritious, hot food and help them believe that there are people out there who do care.

Times may have changed but the underlying message is still there – making life better for those who need a bit of a hand, and if we can get our children round to that way of thinking, maybe the odd battle is a good idea.  What do you think??

* The Cheetah Keeper’s sister has decided her chosen career path is that of Sealion Keeper at Whipsnade Zoo and therefore wishes to be referred to as the Sealion Keeper on the blog from now on.  Who am I to argue?


Friday Photo – Cake

I had a cake commission today *small fist pump*.  Not just a cake commission, a cake commission with the spec of “12 cupcakes, whatever you want, suitable for children”.  Cool.

So I made vanilla sponge cakes, took the core out and filled it with toffee sauce and then put a swirl of salted toffee buttercream on the top.  If you’d like the recipe, let me know and I’ll post up over on Bake Yummy.  The downside being that the cakes were in the oven by 8am as the children wanted porridge for breakfast and oddly enough needed to get to school.

What do you reckon..?


I Spy with my Little Eye, Something beginning with M

No, I’m not a week out and posting for last week.


Now mambo, mooch or meander over to  JBMumofOne to see what’s on offer this week…

Mum of One


Octagenarian Expletives

I spent yesterday morning courtesy of the NHS at University College Hospital in Euston, central London.  I had achieved a rare feat – having two diagnostic tests on the same day.  Not just the same day, the same morning.  For those of you blessed with not having to have experienced how difficult this is to achieve, sit back, breathe and smell the roses.  For those of you that do – you know where I’m coming from.

Despite the ‘system’ being down and having to resort to good old fashioned paper and pens, the receptionists in X-Ray were in remarkably good spirits.  Get the chance to chat to them and they say they have to stay jolly otherwise working next to the morgue would get them down.  The radiographer was delightful and my wait (bear in mind my longest wait in that department is 3 hours) was less than 2 minutes.  X-Ray done and I moved on to the next clinic.

Due to the amazing efficiency of radiography, I was early.  I booked my follow-up appointment with no problems and then settled in on the hideously uncomfortable chairs for the wait.  I am more than used to setting up camp in a waiting room, the constant movement of patients and clinic staff, doors opening and closing, the whirr of the printer – there’ll be me, outside the relevant room with my can of Pepsi Max checking my emails on my phone.

Today was slightly different.  I was sharing the waiting room with the patients of the anti-coagulation clinic.  These patients have to attend weekly (if not more frequently) and seem to accept the clinic as an extension of home.  With the lack of reserve that is usually expected in a hospital.

Today the conversation was loud, and impossible to tune out from…

Essentially there was 1 very ‘chatty’ lady who set about (loudly) ascertaining

  • the age of the other patients
  • their reasons for being at the hospital today
  • their home town
  • reasons why they weren’t being seen at their local hospital
  • ages of their parents if alive, or their age at death (including half years – obviously)
  • other diagnoses, underlying conditions etc
  • how many tablets taken a day
  • how many surgical procedures had been performed on them
  • day/date of next appointment
  • and on…

To all points she added her own stats to compare to along with a few punctuating expletives.  Not many, but a good whinge about having to go to the chemist to pick up her prescriptions and having to fit in her hair appointment between clinics.  She seemed to take a shining to an elderly Cypriot guy who was waiting for his wife – conversation quickly turned into what made him happy…

Would you be happy if you had lots of beautiful girls around you?  [there’s a question to someone you’ve just met in the waiting room] – he was somewhat puzzled by this.

You know, if you had lots of beautiful girls sitting on you, would you be happy? [eeek – this is strangely compelling but it’s also like  your parents discussing sex with you]

Yes, says the 82 year old guy, but very tired.

Oh good grief.

His wife came out of her appointment and they trundled off to have her blood tested…

And then the next patient came in and sat down with her daughter and the questioning began…

This patient wasn’t to be quite as forthcoming with her daily tablet intake but was, I quote, in possession of “all my fucking marbles”…as she then insisted to her daughter that her rent payments of £19 a month (it wasn’t a month it was a week but she wasn’t having it) were robbery, that they had to be paid at the same post office because no-one else was knowing her (expletive)business and that she didn’t need her (expletive) walking stick the (expletive) hospital said she did because she was fine without it – all that happened was that she fell over a lot and the last fall had only required 10 stitches and did so and so want that nice soap…

She definitely wasn’t in the state of dementia that I saw in my first ever job working in the old peoples home (don’t ask me about the poo in the filing cabinet incident) – she was just opinionated and more than happy to punctuate her opinions with a few extra choice expletives.  She made sense, her thoughts weren’t quite sequenced as they perhaps once were but she was ok, for her 80 something years…

It certainly passed the time.  What struck me was that the chatty lady seemed to have completely missed that she was only sitting in the clinic due to the care, attention, skill and resources of the NHS.  It was the only reason she is alive.  And yet she really was giving it some about having to collect her free prescriptions herself.

We all like a moan about the NHS – I am more than up there in the moaning queue when it comes to funding being withdrawn, appointments sent after they’ve happened and the difficulty in accessing services for those with complex but non-conforming conditions but it’s a pretty bloody amazing thing that we have access to.

Maybe I should have turned round and said, “You knowing (expletive) what?  Stop (expletive) complaining and be grateful that we have this awesome (expletive) hospital here that we can access from all over the place that makes (expletive) life changing differences to so many (expletive) people that we will never know”

But I guess if I had, she’d have thought I’d lost my fucking marbles…


See It, Snap It, Love It – Colour

Lucy at Dear Beautiful Boy managed to set us the lovely theme of Colour before delivering a very gorgeous bundle of a baby on Friday – so welcome to the world little one and well done Lucy!  Here’s my colour photo for the week – a colour that I suspect her little one will become rather fond of at some point – and a flower that will hopefully be in bloom on her birthday each year…


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Hiding in the Church Hall Toilet

In the last week I have spent way too much time in the Church Hall.   Enough time to require everything that I’ve worn in there to be washed to get rid of that oh so unique smell of dust, damp, sweaty ballet shoes, over-cooked meals for the elderly, smoking candles and assorted toddlers.

Long enough to have seen 2 sunsets, 1 sunrise and a flood in the car park.  Long enough to have eaten both my evening ‘meal’ (ok, M&S salad, time was short), breakfast and a party tea there as well.  And long enough to have resorted to hiding in the toilet.

Thursday night is Brownie night.  23 delightfully over enthusiastic 7-10 year old girls who bounce in like monkeys on some form of ‘upper’ drug.  Their energy and chatter never ceases to amaze me, neither does their stream of completely random questions.  Heaven forbid that you should have the pleasure of their company after a day of wet playtimes at school – having been in all day they are like a pack of coiled springs that fly off in all directions the minute the pressure of conformance is released…  I digress.  Thursdays means an hour and a half tops in the Hall.  It’s doable.

Somewhere along the line I seem to have agreed to helping out at the Brownie Sleepover.  This hellish joyous experience meant the entire Brownie Pack (all 23 of them) plus 2 teenage helpers were to sleep in the Hall on Friday night.  That’s right, 25 girls in one room to ‘sleep’ over.  Arrive at 5.30pm and leave at 9am the following morning.

Now, as you know, I will volunteer for most things however, I draw the line (and it’s a very thick black line drawn with an extremely permanent pen) at being in charge of large groups of other peoples children overnight.  I will help.  I will mop up the bodily fluids.  I will not be in charge.  I will run meetings, I will do the paperwork but this Tawny Owl does not do overnight.

I also don’t like sleeping on the floor.  It does me no good.  I do not pay the osteopath the amount I do to undo all her good work but sleeping on a mat on the Church Hall floor.  I volunteered to be the off-site overnight emergency contact.  I got to ‘sleep’ in my own bed – and said I’d stay on site until the girls went to sleep.  Sleep??  Went to sleep????  Who was I kidding?

I left at 11pm.  ‘Midnight’ feasts had been consumed by 9pm, stories read, lights were out.  Then the toilet trips started.  In the space of 2 and a bit hours, there must have been the best part of 300 toilet trips. It was biologically/physiologically impossible.  They didn’t care.  They pee’d and giggled and giggled and pee’d. Most of them were still awake when I left.  I didn’t sleep much at home – I kept waking up wondering if the phone was going to ring…

I was back on site by 6.50am – principally to get the kettle on for the 4 heroine leaders who’d stayed overnight.  25 over-excited girls running on pure adrenaline (it sure as eggs wasn’t the regenerative power of sleep) required a lot of tea and the patience of an army of saints…  It reached the point where I could take no more (despite a couple of danish pastries) so what did I do?  Dig deep, draw on my years of Guiding experience, push myself to the next level?  No.  I hid in the toilet.  Took a moment (or 5) and regathered myself enough to go and teach them to sign the favourite Little Green Frog in Makaton.  Then I hid in the toilet again and nearly fell asleep.  Classy huh?

For those of you who leave your children in the loving care of the volunteers of the Guide and Scout Associations…this is what it does to us!  And we do it, for free.  As we handed them back to their parents, with fixed grins and wishing them luck for dealing with their over-tired daughter for the rest of the weekend, the words “when we do it next year” were uttered.  We’re planning a different hall this time – with more toilets.

The rest of the day was sponsored by Twinings Earl Grey and Pepsi Max and I admit to raiding the cooking chocolate box.  Just so tired.  It’s like a hangover but worse.  I can do staying up late and getting up early (occasionally) but it’s the graft of looking after 24 kids that aren’t yours, plus 1 of your own.  I took to the sofa.  I was asleep by 9.30, ignoring the amorous intentions of my DH (yeah right darling…)

So how to spend Sunday…? a luxurious lie-in, breakfast in bed, leisurely morning with the papers, F1 Singapore Grand Prix… I can dream.  A mad morning of shopping, homework, family visits and a party for the Cheetah Keeper to attend.  Guess where it was?

Yep.  Back in the Church Hall.  27 hours after leaving, I was back there.

The thing with the Cheetah Keeper and his nosebleeds is that parties are difficult.  I am completely happy leaving a pre-filled syringe of medicine with some hosts, others I’m not.  Yesterday was a ‘not’ day.  I was staying.  I may as well move in.

This party was a joint 6th birthday for two children in the Cheetah Keeper’s class.  It was the first ‘big’ birthday party the parents had ever done.  Both cultural backgrounds meant that the room was full of extended family and friends not doing anything.  The catering operation was phenomenal (and delicious).  The balloon art was eye-watering.  The entertainment for the children was… non-existent.

Not prepared to watch the boys attempt to beat the proverbial out of each other, Tawny Owl took over.  I sorted some games, I split up the fights, I co-opted another mummy (Reception teacher) to help.  I provided the best part of an hour of entertainment.  I got them all sitting down for food.

I enjoyed the grown-up catering and then guess what I did next…

Hid in the toilet.

The parents have yet to say thank you…