Sunday, 15 December 2013

Why I've been AWOL recently - Part Three. Last part. Honest.

So Monday came, and Mr G had an early start that day, bound for his appointment in Wrexham.  I got the kids off to school, and changed into my painting clothes.  When he phoned to say he'd arrived safely he asked me what I was doing.  'Oh, nothing much, just a bit of tidying, can't be bothered today.'   I pulled out the furniture and I made a start on the painting, then when it dried I gave the woodwork a lick of gloss.  He arrived home about 1.30pm, I met him at the door.

Me:  Don't shout at me...  (Not that he ever would.  But still...)
Mr G:  You're a little sod.
Me:  In a good way?
Mr G:  Yes.

So from when I started at 9 am on Monday morning, to putting the TV bracket up on Saturday evening, we totally transformed our living room.  Dad came to help Mr G put up the flowered wallpaper, and the fire in the photo below was our early Christmas present from Mum and Dad.   We had always felt that the room was lacking something, the coal fires had been taken out before we moved in, and a real fire was something that we missed, especially this time of year.  Nothing nicer than being sat down in front of the fire on a cold Winter evening, rain lashing and wind howling outside (and boy has it been windy here!).   We just have the display on, and whether it's psychological or not, we feel warmer!

We just need some floating shelves under the TV for our boxes, and some new flooring in the New Year and it will be properly finished.

The kids decorated the tree

That big box is for me!  Yippee!
And so is this one!  Yippee!

Naked Wines delivered my Christmas wines Friday instead of Monday, which is pretty brilliant service seeing as I'd only ordered them 19 hours before.  Whether they make Christmas is another matter.  But given how much back pain I've been in this last month, it's becoming a 'Daddy or Chips' choice for me of late.  In my case 'Wine or Painkillers'.  My Doctor is fantastic but 'Painkillers until you can't bear it and then surgery' isn't an option I want to consider.  I am going to look into alternatives in the New Year, because it's getting worse and worse lately.

This year my friend H made me this beautiful peg dolly for my tree, the picture doesn't do it justice, they're so cute! 

The children made home made crackers to put on the tree and I made loads of Christmas puddings!  We tried one and Mr G's opinion was that they were so awful that there was no way for shame we could possibly give them away to friends, so we'd have to keep them all.  And eat them all ourselves.  So, I think this year's batch of puddings is one of my best :-)

Ryan and Adam took part in the school concert, this year they performed their take on 'The Lion King'.  Mr G and I were completely shocked as usual, because my boys always play everything so close to their chests.  They never tell us what they're doing, never show us what they're doing beforehand.  Never practice at home.  All we knew was that Ryan was a 'giraffe' and Adam?  Well, this is how Adam went down.

Adam:  I know what I'm going to be in the Christmas concert.  A monkey.
Mr G:  Ah, a cheeky monkey eating a banana?
Adam:  Well, no, because I don't like bananas.  So I'm going to be a vegetarian monkey.

Don't ask.  Unless he has some idea that bananas are meat or something?  We sat down to watch the show, and both of my boys performed separately in wonderfully choreographed dance routines.  I was so proud of them both.  And glad, in a way, that they'd kept it quiet from us as it was a wonderful surprise.    

And there's also this.  A contender for 'Not Quite Right' photos, this one.  Now, I am sure that to many people who do not possess the level of filthy mind as I do, this phrase can seem quite innocent.  However.  I read it, and snorted.


'You will need a suitable screwdriver to fit your knob'.  Surely it's not just me who thinks B&Q could have phrased that a little differently?  To fit the enclosed screws onto the doorknob, perhaps? 

So, now all that's over and done with, I'd like to say I can relax but I'm nowhere near ready for Christmas, I still have so many people to buy for, not a clue what to get them.  I want to have a get together with my friends before Christmas, and decide what is happening on New Year's Eve.  Mr G finally had an appointment from Walton to see a Neurologist, and when he phoned to make the appointment and he repeated back to me 'New Year's Eve?' my face fell and I shook my head.  Liverpool on a New Year's Eve at 3.30pm?  Oh no!  Luckily the Consultant has a clinic in our local hospital that day so he should be there and back in time for anything we have planned.  Not sure if my parents will make it this year, we may have my sister in law and husband down if she can get the night off work.  So I'm a bit in limbo there too at the moment, my plans all depend on other people.  However, I know that there's no point in stressing, everything always comes good in the end.  Everyone knows the pressure our family has been under this last few months so I'm sure they can make allowances for a more frugal and unorganised Christmas than I normally manage to pull out of the bag.   I'm not doing too badly under the circumstances!

Are you all ready for Christmas?   Or could you do with a few more weeks?

M x

Friday, 13 December 2013

Why I've been AWOL recently... Part Deux

So - after doing this...

... from 6.30 am on Saturday I was quite tired.  So I sat down for the rest of the night, watching the young ones dance the night away, while I had wine bought for me from my lovely son and stepson.  Result.  I knew one day they'd be old enough to come in handy for something. 

My son and stepson raiding the buffet before anyone arrived!

There was a sweet buffet set up for the kids (and big kids)!

Despite having his very long hair cut for the occasion, poor Dan was subject to the usual ritual humiliation from his older cousins.   Two of the more notable comparisons were 'Mika' and 'Jonathan Creek'.  Lol.

My boys doing the Cha Cha Slide...

And my beautiful daughter, glammed up.

All in all, a really wonderful night.  I was asked to go up on stage and I received a bottle of wine and chocolates for my help, which was really nice.  My Sister in Law also bought me a new Maneki Neko for my collection :-)  It was nice for my husband to get together with his extended family and friends without the occasion being someone's funeral, which is the norm for a lot of families, I suppose.

My new baby, third from left

Sunday lunch time we made our way home.  Mr G had a hospital appointment with his consultant in Wrexham on the Monday or it would have been nice to stay longer and recover from my hangover.  On the way home he said this...

Mr G:  I'm starting to wish that I'd done what I was told last week... 
Me:  Eh? 
Mr G:  Painting those walls before putting the tree up.

I just nodded and began to hatch a devious plan in my mind...

Why I've been AWOL recently... Part One

Remember our 'green' disaster?  No?  Let me remind you... we decided that the time had come to finally strip the hall, stairs and landing.   The walls were uneven, bumpy, cracked.  And green.  Yes.  We knew it would cost a fortune one way or another to get it looking nice.  So the plasterers came.  And they said...

'It will all have to come off.'

So, off it all came...

They replastered.  Did a wonderful job.  Really clean.  Then my brother broke his neck.  Then we had a month where we were between here and Staffordshire.  Then he came home.  Then we realised that Christmas was nearly upon us.  I started panicking.  The house was a mess.  So we decided to finish what they started.  We sanded down some of the woodwork and stained it.  Painted the walls.   Mr G decided he wanted a 'feature wall'.   I thought he was joking when he told me what wallpaper he wanted on it.

Brick wallpaper?  Really?

Mr G decided to install his tree in the corner.  To start off with it only had a few pinecone tree decorations on, but we've added glittery ones, snowy ones and jingle bells which look a bit like berries.  The effect at night is stunning but photographs don't do it justice. 

We'd been given an old, heavy mirror, which we masked up and spray painted gold.  Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Hung up the kids portraits and some tea light holders...

We put up some matching rollerblinds as our old blinds wouldn't fit after the walls being replastered (D'oh!)

So just to show you the contrast, here's a before and after...

I was so relieved that it was finally done.  Time to put my feet up?  Not quite.  We had two days before travelling to Lancashire to my Sister in Law's house, to prepare the buffet for her 50th Birthday party.  I was twitchy.  We had all the stuff to decorate the living room.  Wallpaper, paint, cushions, curtains, rug.  All we needed to do, was do it.  And I knew that the day after we came back from the party,  I would be wanting to put the tree up.  And once the tree was up, that room wasn't being touched until the New Year.  So - my suggestion was, paint the side of the room that the tree was on, put the tree up, and then we could work on the other half of the room over the next week or so.  Mr G vetoed me.  He'd had enough.  We'd leave it until the New Year... (to be continued).

Friday Flashback - my Wedding Day

When I woke up this morning, I wasn't planning to take a trip down memory lane.  But I am so glad I did.  I was tidying round the living room and put something into the cupboard and Mr G asked me if I would get the video camera out.  This is something we hadn't used or looked at in years.  He connected it up to the TV and we watched our wedding video, from February 2002.  02.02.02 at 2.30 pm to be precise! 

We married on a shoestring, literally.  We had no money to speak of.  Off the peg suits for us both, very cheap rings - because the rings were merely symbolic, for us it was about the vows, not what carat gold the rings were or how much they cost.  I didn't have a bouquet, but a friend's young granddaughter waited for me outside the hotel when I arrived with a bunch of freesias - my favourite flowers.   We arrived at the ceremony together in a chauffeur driven white Rolls Royce - a gift from his then workmate Nigel, who ran the business with his family.  Nigel actually driving us too, which was lovely.  We didn't have a proper wedding video, nor photos taken, relying on family and friends to take plenty and then give us copies.  We didn't have a honeymoon either.  One day, maybe?    Despite the lack of fanfares and tiaras and champagne, it was the best day of my life.  I think Mr G agrees.   It went so fast, and I have an appalling memory, so it was lovely to look back at the two videos taken by my nephew and my Father, and piece it all together.

I cringed a bit as I arrived in view, completely dressed in lilac from head to toe.  I had a thing about lilac, but let's just say it's not the most flattering colour for a big girl.  Who was also three months pregnant.  And no, it wasn't a shotgun wedding, we'd been engaged since October 1999.  Honest.  We watched as the registrar gave her speech and explained what would happen.  Then.  Mr G began to say his vows.  And he managed one line.  Before his voice broke and he started crying.  And stopped dead.  Complete deathly silence in the venue, before everyone starting whispering 'Awwwwwwww!'

Mr G - You're a bitch.

Me - Why???  *Gigglesnort* 

Mr G - Look at you there.  Look!

My back was to the camera and Mr G was facing it.  Tears streaming down his face, so completely choked up that he couldn't speak.  Me?  My entire body was convulsing.  You cannot see my face, but I'll leave it to you - dear readers - to decide.  Was I too, racked with sobs?  So overcome with emotion that the man of my dreams loves me so much, that he can't get his marriage vows out? 

Nah.  I was laughing at him.  Laughing may not be strong enough a word there.  He had tears of joy, I had tears of mirth.  And that pretty much set the standard for our marriage.  He makes me laugh every single day.  One way or another.   Either with him, or at him.  It doesn't matter.

Cutting the cake

We watched the rest of the video which was a pretty bittersweet experience for us both.  His parents were both there, they've now since passed away.  My dear friend Emma was there, she passed away a few years ago.  My Grandmother, also gone.  The friend who was my witness, we haven't spoken for nearly 6 years, as it was a toxic friendship, she was passive aggressive, very critical and backhanded in her words and I decided I deserved better.  But it was still sad to end a friendship of 15 years, no matter how badly I felt I was being treated.  A cousin I no longer speak to.  Several couples who are no longer together.   The only constants are my parents, my cousin and her (then boyfriend) husband (by the way, you can catch her over at Netty Natters for baby talk, reviews, recipes and really great photos, and a brilliant series of posts on a Monday entitled 'Mock my Man Monday' - which she really should start a blog hop off with... HINT), and Mr G and I.  Our Best Man hit the nail on the head when he said in his speech that my husband was the nicest person you could meet, and that nobody had a bad word to say about him, if anyone deserved happiness it was him, and he was so glad he'd found me.  I hope I have made him happy.  

First Dance as Man and Wife to Semisonic's Secret Smile - our song

I realised that we're so lucky to have remained the same.  Much changed, but essentially the same.  Older.  Wiser?  Greyer, definitely.  Crazier.  Grumpier.  But still happy.  Still very much in love.  It's our 14 and a half year anniversary of meeting on Christmas Day (yeah, we still count the halves!) and although we've been through some pretty grim stuff these last 14 years, individually and together, it just goes to show, if you face things together, support each other and give as much as you take, then you can get through anything and come out the other end, smiling.   I'd marry him again tomorrow, thank you Mr G for putting up with me.  I know I drive you mad.  I'm extremely hard work most (all?) of the time.  But I'm a good cook.  And I love you ;-)

Friday, 22 November 2013

Getting there slowly!

I'm not as stressy as I was in my last post.  My brother is actually home from hospital.  Yes, home.   I'm torn between feeling glad he's not in our local hospital and feeling that he should still be in hospital due to the nature of his injuries?   Still - he's home, he's alive, and he's getting better, which is the main thing.

Christmas is going ok.  Three of the four children have their main presents sorted.   Last weekend I finally found the time to defrost my 'frost-free' (my arse!) freezer, and so this week I managed to go out and do a 'big shop'  for the first time in about six weeks.   As  you can imagine, buying things by the day for a family of six can prove quite expensive.  Things are settling down, and so we decided that we'd have a crack at the hall, stairs and landing before Christmas comes.  Remember that?  The green gloss?  The dust?  The 'it needs to all be knocked off?'  Yah.  That.  All lying in limbo since my brother's accident.

So.  First thing on the list; carpet protection film.   We've had new skirting boards and door frames put on, so we've decided to stain those.  This meant other door frames and the bannisters needed stripping.  Cue Mr G's sander and then; 'You know what would make this a lot easier?  An angle grinder?'   So, I bought Mr G an angle grinder.  Did it make the job easier?  Oh yes.  However.  We have smoke alarms in our house.  And BY GOD I don't know what this Council have done to them, but I think they're wired up to the mains, and are battery operated?  But - even if you isolate them in the mains, you can't actually get in to the casing of the feckers to take the batteries out?  Albeit temporarily?   Remember smoke alarms of old.  You'd slightly char your toast and the thing would start this cute bleeping?  You'd get a tea towel, or a copy of The Mirror, and waft at it, and it would stop?  Oh.  These things?  I spray deodorant?  They go off.  And they don't cute bleep any more.  I actually couldn't hear by the end of the day.   We steamed the wallpaper off?  They went off.  We stripped wood with the angle grinder?  They went off.  And went off... and went off... and... went off.  I felt like I had been cast back to the early 90's and had spent an evening in the Octagon with a rave group.  The kids were panicking about them going off in the middle of the night and scaring them.  Mr G solved this issue (or so HE thought) by putting food waste bags over them (no, I'm not kidding).  This did work, but then they went off three times between 8 am and 8.30 am.  As if to spite us. 

Mr G wants a feature wall at the bottom of the stairs, you won't believe what he wants.  Or maybe you will.  Mr G has a tendency to be quite ironic.  He's like rain on your wedding day.  Which, incidentally, but no surprise, we did actually have.  Bought the emulsion for the walls that have been plastered and lining paper for those that haven't.  Today, we gave the plaster a coat of half and half emulsion and water, Mr G painted the ceilings, and I gave the woodwork the first coat of woodstain.   Neither icing sugar, nor plaster can hold a torch to the dust that Mr G has managed to coat my house in with his ******* angle grinder.  There was not a room that didn't have a light dusting of sawdust over... everything.  Food.  Plates.  My ironing pile.  My clothes drying on the airer...


Number of times the smoke alarm has gone off over the last three days - 77 (including one continous alarm that Mr G couldn't be arsed switching off and I had to put my ear muffs on for)
Number of times I've wanted to shove Mr G's angle grinder up his arse - 76
Best question I've been asked today - 'Is 'anus' a bad word?'
Best compliment I've received today - 'Cracking tits, Gromit.'  (Mr G getting an eyeful, coming down the ladder)

How was your Friday? :-)

M x

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Panic over... new panic begins...

What a month.  That's the only way I can describe it.  I have a friend who says to me; 'Who needs Eastenders or Corrie, your life is like a soap opera in itself.  What's happened since I last saw you?'  And she's right too.  You name it, it's happened to me or around me somewhere along the line!  

My brother spent nearly a month in Critical Care in North Staffordshire University Hospital.  I cannot put into words how impressed I am with that place.   The hospital is clean.  It looks clean.  It smells clean.  It is clean.  People are visibly cleaning.  The staff?  Wonderful.  Across the board.  From Reception to Doctors.  We were never an imposition.  If they had to do something to my brother while we were there, and we were in the way, we'd apologise, to be told 'Don't apologise, it's your visiting time.'  If anything was being done, or had been done in our absence, it was explained to us.  Whether we'd asked to know or not.   

He is now awake.  He had to have a tracheotomy to help him to breathe, but that has now been removed, so he can speak again of a sort.  He has done a month in his 'halo'.   He is also now back in our local hospital.  The less said about that, the better.  I feel terrible saying that, but those of you who are local to me will know what I mean by this comment.   I wish he was still in Stoke, despite my parents being away from their home, despite the hassle in our being able to visit.  He seemed to be properly cared for there, and now, just shoved (and I mean literally shoved) onto a normal ward.  There's already been one horror story within hours, so when I go to visit in future I'm going armed with my camera.  If I witness anything like was reported to me yesterday, I'll be documenting it.  At the end of the day, it's no good saying 'Oh it's free healthcare, you should be grateful.'  The standard of that care should be excellent across the board, in every hospital in the UK.  It shouldn't deviate from Trust to Trust.  And that won't change unless people start opening their mouths and complaining if there's a valid complaint to be made.  So, we'll see how this one pans out.  The important thing is, he's on the mend.  Still a long way to go yet, but if his recovery continues at this pace hopefully he'll be home in time for Christmas.

Which leads me to the new panic.  Christmas.  Ordinarily, I love the Autumn.  From the minute the children go back to school, and the nights start drawing in, that nip in the air.  Our local town has a Fair every year, then it's Hallowe'en, then Bonfire night.  Then you know, Christmas will soon be here.  It's like a mental countdown.  Well, this year, we missed the Fair, my friend had the children Hallowe'en while we were in Stoke, and Bonfire night we were visiting too.  So, my Christmas radar is well and truly off target.   Christmas is in - get this - 46 days.  FORTY SIX days.  That's 45 shopping days.   Usually I've bought everything by now.   And wrapped it.  This year?   I have the stuff I picked up in the January sales.  That's it.  My Christmas savings are... gone.  Due to the cost of travelling back and forth to the hospital.   It's going to be a barren one this year.  I don't mind that, Mr G doesn't, and I'm sure my family and friends will understand this year if all they receive is a token bottle of wine or box of chocolates.  But children, especially those of a certain age, don't get that.  Because their presents aren't my problem, are they?  They're taken care of by a certain magical dude, at no cost to me.   I'm trying not to stress too much about that.   Failing miserably.  But trying all the same. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

What a week... an update on my brother

I don't think I have ever experienced a more stressful week before.  With the exception of Daniel's brush with Meningitis, but even that - after the space of a week - we knew he was on the mend and would survive.  I am physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted, but I'm plowing on, because it's all you can do, isn't it?

He was moved to a hospital in Staffordshire on Friday night, and I assumed my standard initial stance of being frozen.  Rooted to the spot.  What did I do?  Did I stay?  Did I go?  Who would look after the children?  Nothing is ever easy and straightforward when you have four children.   It's such a big ask for anyone.  Saturday came and went and I received updates from my parents.  Sunday morning I received a message from them which sent me into a tailspin and made my decision for me.  He was in Intensive Care.  I phoned a friend, asked her if she would mind the children, and Mr G and I went down to Stoke. 

It was a shock to see him.  He was in an induced coma.  He was wearing a 'halo' neckbrace - which is a shocking thing to see, it's screwed into his skull.   We spoke to him, we told him who had been asking for him, and all the messages.  Wearing grim faces but using happy voices we joked with him - because that's the sort of person my brother is.   I didn't want to risk him being able to hear us, and us being maudlin.  We had to take it in turns to see him, as it's strictly two to the bed.  

We went down again on Tuesday, our cousin came with Mr G and I.  I actually walked past him.  I didn't recognise him.   I'm not going to go into too many details here, because my brother is a very private person, but he is in a critical condition.  Attempts to wake him from the coma haven't been successful as he's panicking too much - which - anyone would, I suppose.   They are bringing him round but having to sedate him almost immediately.  He's having difficulty breathing, despite being on life support, and he's picked up an infection from the local hospital (surprise surprise!) and also has a chest infection.  

Mr G went to see him yesterday with my Uncle.  I came down with a horrendous cold on Tuesday night, and although I am desperate to be there with him, for once I had to use common sense.  The last thing he, any other patient, or the staff need is someone being selfish and bringing germs onto the ward.  Especially that ward.  Mr G said he looked better - visibly.  

I need to be closer.  I know that.  And we've scoured the internet for ways to do this, but sadly everything boils down to money, doesn't it?   We checked the weather to see if it was suitable for camping, but the temperatures forecast for that area are very low.  Which of course they will be, pushing the end of October.   If we had someone to mind the children, I would sleep in the car.  But I can't expect the kids to.  We checked hotel and B&B prices, and for 6 of us maybe we could manage a day?  Which defeats the purpose.  We checked caravan sites that had statics for hire in Staffordshire, to no avail.  So we cast our net further, Shropshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Wrexham, Denbighshire, but nothing that we can afford.  Because it's that most wonderful time of the year, isn't it?  Half term!   The prices have skyrocketed.  We even looked into hiring a campervan but the most we could afford it for is two or three days.   And then wouldn't be able to afford to eat, or put fuel into it...

Tomorrow, we all go down.  Do tagged visiting/sitting in the car with the kids.  Then between the two visiting periods we're going to take Mum and Dad out for Sunday Lunch somewhere, so they get something proper to eat.  They've been surviving on sandwiches and crisps and cakes for a week now.  I think it would lift their spirits to see the grandkids too.   

Everyone has been so kind, the staff are wonderful, the other people in their shared house have all pulled together and supported each other.  One family in particular have been especially kind to my parents.  Buying takeaway and insisting that they choose food, and paying for them too.  Making meals and insisting they eat with them.  I said I would make a curry and take it down on Sunday.  The family are Muslim, so only eat Halal meat, but they said a vegetable curry would be most welcome.  So I'm going to make a start on a Vegetable Jalfrezi, and make some Pilau rice.  Need to nip to Tesco for a few spices that I'm out of.  That will keep my mind occupied for a few hours, plus I will feel better knowing that I'm repaying a kindness made to my parents.  Everyone there is in the same boat, with a loved one in Intensive Care.  

My sister in law has a couple of days off work next week, so she is going to have the children while we visit.  This means we will be closer and may even be able to stay for both visiting sessions.  Adam isn't happy as he will miss the local fair, but he's only 7.  He doesn't really understand the gravity of what is going on.  We've promised them that we will do something to make it up to them, take them for a day out when things are settled down. 

Friends have been amazing.  Both his friends and my friends.  I've had more dealings with his friends to be honest, my phone has been beeping, with text messages, Facebook messages, to the point that I could gladly throw it through a window.  But I won't.  Because I'm so grateful that people are thinking about him and they care.   It's getting to the end of each day, and wanting to sit down and speak to my friends, but I just don't have the time or energy.  I have people praying for him, of all religions.  His name is on healing lists in Spiritualist churches.  Someone I don't know only through a shared group contacted me asking for his photo and name and she and a colleague are practising Reiki on him, another friend is also doing this for him. 

So that is the update.  No news is good news, they say.  Keep him and my parents in your thoughts and prayers.  It's going to be a long road...

Saturday, 12 October 2013

I need my friends and I need your prayers

Little did I know yesterday morning, when the electricians arrived and I hurriedly put my unfinished post into draft before the power went off, that it wouldn't be published and I would be writing a completely different one today.   So, instead of whining about the mess everywhere, today I'm letting you know that my little brother had a seizure, and in falling (on concrete steps) he has broken his neck in five places.   He also has extensive facial injuries and underwent surgery in the early hours of this morning, finishing at 4 am.   He may be paralysed, so scars are the least of his and our worries.  He has been taken from the local hospital to one in England.  Apparently the emergency services control didn't deem the fact that he was bleeding from four places - including a quite severe head injury - an 'emergency' and wouldn't send an ambulance, leaving him in this condition with a very frightened friend.  At his friend's insistence they eventually sent a Doctor from 20 miles away, who took one look at him and said 'He needs an ambulance'.  No shit, Sherlock!  Five minutes later, the blue lights and sirens arrived.   When this is over, I will have someone's job for this.  That is in black and white.  If ever a 999 recording needs to go AWOL - this will be the time.  An HOUR suffering with the pain of a broken neck, because somebody at the end of a telephone didn't deem their 'one ambulance left, and there might be an emergency' worthy of helping him?   I call a broken neck a f**king emergency, I don't know about you?   For the sake of a 7 mile journey to the hospital?  You send a Doctor from 20 miles away, when the hospital is... 7 miles away... you're in an ambulance, so with the sirens, what... 5 minutes max?  Opposed to one hour?   What DAMAGE was done in that one hour, by my brother alone?  By his well-meaning friend, trying to make him comfortable?  Recovery position versus broken neck - discuss?   I have to actually stop talking now because I'm getting really cross.   Really, really cross.  

Hard to believe that one week ago he was here helping to celebrate my son's 18th birthday.  It really does go to show you don't know what life is going to throw at you.   It can turn around in one minute, one small thing can change everything forever.   Look after those you love, sort out your petty differences, always say I love you.  I've said it before because I've lost people I've loved with all my heart, some have died, some are still with us but not in my life.  Luckily my brother is still alive, time will tell to what extent he recovers. 

Please pray for his recovery, and for my parents.  I may not be around much in any capacity for a while now, but I really need the support of my friends and family.   The messages I have received have been touching and show how loved my bro is.  Keep commenting, tweeting, Facebooking, emailing me, texting me but I will be keeping my phone lines free.  I really do need your prayers, healing energy, magic dust - whatever Higher Power or God you believe in.   Even if you don't believe, pray for him anyway.  Send it all their way.

M x

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Party preparations!

Good morning my lovelies!   Another early one after another late one, I'm going to be in bed come 2pm, mark my words!   Yesterday was spent in the kitchen making the sweets for tonight, this is how I got on.

First of all - the Reese's dessert.   How did that one go?  Well... it was a bit hit and miss to be honest.  

They look pretty good!

I am a good cook.  Or so I am told anyway.  But I always have to follow a recipe.  The recipes that I have seen for these have all been US recipes, and the dreaded 'cup' measurement.   So I had to Google how much in weight a cup of butter was, a cup of icing sugar was etc.   Mr G, Denise and I sampled one square between us.  There was definitely too much butter in them, this made the peanut butter layer very greasy.  Not inedible, but not perfect either.  Next time I would lower the butter.  But they taste really nice anyway :-)  The recipe(s) I used can be found here at Your Cup of Cake  and Michelle's Tasty Creations.  (No it's not me!). 

Mr G wanted a Lemon Drizzle cake.  I use a Mary Berry recipe for this, but I had put my written copy in a safe place (ahem!), so safe I couldn't find it.  After searching online I found a recipe of hers, I don't think it's exactly the same as the one I normally use, but it will have to do.  It was for a traybake but I used a loaf tin.

Lemon Drizzle

Made some chocolate cupcakes for the children to have tonight.  This is also a Mary Berry recipe, I doubled the amount of cake mixture and it made over 40 cupcakes.   

The plasterers came... one of them was laughing at me as he came into the kitchen to get some water.   He looked at my icing sugar coated work surfaces and I asked him who was making the most mess.  The look on his face told me it wasn't him.   Has anyone got any tips for the mess icing sugar makes?  I've tried putting the extractor fan on.  I even bought a mixing bowl guard from Betterware, you stick your electric whisk through a hole and it supposedly stops splatters, but there isn't that much mobility to be able to work around the bowl, your beaters tend to stay in the centre?  I think I'm going to have to hook it up to an extension and go outside with it in future ;-)  

It's getting there slowly, isn't it?  They'll be back on Monday, and it's looking like a bigger job than they anticipated.  Although they've been very tidy and kept the mess to a minimum, oh my God - the dust?   Mr G has been an absolute little starlet getting it all cleaned up as best he can.  Ah well, it is what it is, everyone will just have to take me as they find me today.   And on that note, I had better go and get my oven switched on!   

Friday, 4 October 2013

If it's not icing sugar, it's brick dust/Daim Bar Cheesecake recipe

So, I've been up since 5.30 am with a coffee, couple of Co-codamol, a spasming back and what feels like the start of a sore throat.   Let me give you a little update on what's been going on this week.  You can laugh, while I sob and rock as I type, ok?

By Wednesday night the house was wonderfully tidy (ok, wonderfully tidy for MY house).  Aside from actually preparing the buffet on the Saturday, my Party 'to-do' lists had diminished to - last minute steam mopping the floors, cleaning the bathroom and downstairs toilet, party music playlist shoved on my MP3 player, baking cakes and making the desserts, putting up the gazebo frame and buying fresh bread, salad and cold meats.   I was doing so well?  On the ball or what!  The wine order had arrived from Naked Wines, and had been sitting happily in the reasonably empty and freshly painted porch.  I'd shown great restraint all week, and feeling quite smug with myself, I decided to relax, open a nice bottle of Merlot, and listen to some music upstairs.  

Yesterday morning, I wake up at 5.30 am again, head slightly pounding.  Ok, slight understatement, it felt like someone was playing the bongos in my head.  I made the packed lunches, tidied around, sorted Adam's swimming stuff out, and decided to make the cheesecake so I could freeze it.  One less job to do...

Daim Bar no-bake Cheesecake

By noon, I was dying.  I said to Mr G that I had to go and have a power hour on the bed.   After half an hour I heard voices downstairs.  It was the plasterers.  Half awake, half asleep I heard them knocking on the walls upstairs and downstairs... then I heard those magic words. 

'This can't be patched, it'll all have to come off.  If we knock the loose bits off, it'll all come off.'

I sat bolt upright and texted Mr G.  Did I just hear what I thought I'd heard?  Next minute, it sounds like my house is falling down.  Incoming text.  It's all coming off.   Wah.  Wah indeed.  I was stranded in our bedroom.  Until 3.30 pm.  Mr G had the hoover out before he'd closed the front door on them and made me stay in my bedroom.  Because he knew if I had seen the amount of dust, that I would have gone into meltdown.

Oh.  My.  God

So this is the stairway wall.  Mr G commented that it was very... cosmopolitan... that bare brick was all the rage and perhaps we should leave it like this.   They're back this morning, at 8.30 am.  The day I am supposed to be cleaning, baking and mopping.   Popping into town for last minute bits.  Yeah.  So that teaches me a huge lesson here, stop being so insufferably smug, and don't drink wine on a school night. 

The cheesecake recipe if anyone wants it, I've diverted a bit from the usual recipe, using more cream and cream cheese than usual, because it can be a tad rich.  The Daim bars add so much sweetness to it.

1.  Melt 200g dark chocolate with 150 ml of double cream, stirring until melted.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Blitz 300g digestive biscuits in a food processor.  Add 75 ml of melted butter, and 1 heaped tablespoon of brown sugar.  Press this into a greased, lined cake tin.  I think mine was 8 inch, but don't quote me.  I am evidently not the best judge of many things.

3.  Whisk 250 ml of double cream until thick. 

4.  Put 400g full fat soft cheese into a mixing bowl and whisk to ensure there are no lumps.  Whisk in the thickened cream.

5.  Add about a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

6.  When the chocolate cream mixture is cool, fold this in to the cream and cheese.

7.  Crush up some Daim bars, in this instance I used bags of Mini Daim, as they were on offer.  Fold them into the mixture.   Spoon this over the biscuit base.

8.  Top with more crushed Daim bars or mini Daim.  Pop in the fridge, or wrap well and freeze. 

So, that's this week's madness.  It was all going so well too... I should have known, shouldn't I?   So today I will be baking and making desserts, here's a little taster of what one of them contains. 

The restraint I have shown for these Reese's to have lasted the week!

So, with the alarm due to go in four minutes, I am going to go for a quick shower, see if that wakes me up.  Happy Friday everyone, make it a great one :-)

M x

Monday, 30 September 2013

I'm officially the Mum of an adult, so...

... does this mean I have to grow up now?   On Saturday my eldest son Daniel turned 18.  I don't think the enormity of this has sunk in yet.  When it does, I will be as gutted as I was turning 30.  I mean really distraught.  Yet - I'll be 40 in three years and this doesn't bother me in the least.   Strange.

I was quite a young first time Mum, I had Daniel when I was 19 years old.   He's been quite the little fighter from being in the womb.   I was six days overdue when he was born, and I didn't go into labour, I had a placental abruption and had to be rushed to theatre for an emergency C Section.   I've never seen so much blood in my life, and didn't realise until I was much older just how dangerous that was.  Then when he was two years old he contracted Meningitis and Septicaemia and it was touch and go as to whether he would make it.  Little did I know that it would be my complete ineptitude as a Mother at that time that probably saved his life.  He was whiny and had a temperature, and guess who didn't have any liquid paracetamol?  This was in the days before 24 hour supermarkets.   As it became apparent that this wasn't just a fever, we phoned 999 and he was having seizures in the ambulance.  When we got him into Casualty, the consultant asked had we given him any paracetamol and I said no.  He told me I'd probably saved his life, because it would have masked the symptoms, and that he'd stake his career on it being Meningitis.  Would I give permission to treat for that instantly before doing all the tests, as Dan didn't have time for the results to come through.  Of course I said yes.  He was very poorly, in a coma, hooked up to all manner of wires and drips and machines bleeping.   When I asked the nurses and consultants if he would be ok, they either wouldn't answer, or they would say 'Touch and go' or '50/50'.   They did all the tests after he'd started treatment, and indeed it was Meningitis, but oddly enough it was a rare strain that hadn't been seen in the UK since the 1980's!   But the recovery he made was almost miraculous, for a child who was staring death in the face, he walked out of that hospital a week later.  It made me take stock of my own life, made me realise that we're really only here once and we should be happy.  I made some big decisions of my own as a consequence. 

Baby Dan and me

I won't inflict the horror of a recent photo of Dan and I together on you, let's just say it's nowhere near as pretty as the scene above... the years haven't been kind to me...

Dan also faced another big issue in his life, a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome when he was ten.   He handled that with a maturity I've never seen before in a child so young.   He almost collapsed with relief when I explained to him, and he told me that he knew he was different from everyone else, and now that he knew he wasn't imagining it, it was something that he could learn about and find ways to cope with it.   He has always been a joy to parent, whether he was a baby, child or teenager.  He doesn't bring trouble to my door.   He's intelligent, sarcastic (I don't know where he gets that from...), has a way with the written word (again... not a clue), polite, he asks for so little.  He has a group of wonderful friends who have always accepted him for him, and it's lovely to see him so comfortable with people that he is a complete equal, and he doesn't feel shy or awkward.  I'm really proud that he's my son.  Awwwwwwwwwww :-)

Dan wanted a house party for his birthday, but unforeseen circumstances cropped up, as they usually do in my life, so we're having the party this Saturday night instead.   Daniel opened his presents, he had a new laptop from Steve and I, and a lot of money gifted.  His father came down to take him out for a drink, and then in the evening, his friends came around for pizza and beers.  

Benn - who doesn't drink... drank more than anyone

I made a small birthday cake, and have ordered one from a local cakemaker for the party this weekend, to take some of the stress off me.  I always try to do too much and end up unable to enjoy the main event. 

So, as per usual with a house party due, we're making sure everywhere is clean and tidy and mowed and strimmed and wiped and rejigged and repainted... Yeah.  Meh.   I've got a few ideas for some nice desserts that I'll try and blog about.  One recipe has popped into my life three separate times this past week, so I have to take notice of what that's trying to tell me.   It involves Reese's Peanut Butter cups which should be enough to tell me it needs making!   So hopefully, come Saturday night I will be organised, stress free and able to actually relax and enjoy one of my parties.  What normally happens being, no matter how prepared I am, I am like a headless chicken, still cooking, red faced, sweaty, unshowered, in an apron and drunk by the time my guests arrive.  Will Saturday be the first time things go to plan?   Will I make it to the shower in time?   Will I be sober before the first guest arrives?  Tune in next Sunday to find out... ;-)

M x

Friday, 13 September 2013

And just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse...

2.5 kg of chicken breast has spoiled in my crappy, rubbish, good for nothing fridge.  I have had to scrape (and I MEAN scrape!  Bottom of the freezer 'barrel') tea together for five of us six, yes that's ME not eating, just in case you needed to ask.  I didn't fancy a bag of microwave steam veg.  Mr G like a zombie on the sofa because he's taken tablets that have rendered him practically useless, and unable to drive.  If he perks up at 8pm when the rugby comes on, I'm cancelling Sky Sports.  Oh and the minute the microwave pinged, it packed up completely.  Deadsville.  So even if I had fancied the steam veg, I was knackered.  It's about 4 months old.  Receipt?  Box?  Don't be silly.  This is me we're talking about here!

And the pièce de bloody résistance...

Adam:  (Runs in from school)  Mum!  Mum!  Great news!  I'm going to be learning how to play the trumpet!

Me:  *Gritted teeth and fake smile*  That's WONDERFUL Adam!  Now, has Mummy got any wine.  It's 5 o'clock somewhere...

But I have no wine.   Or milk.  But the wine part is killing me.  The milk part will kill me in the morning.  

That is all.  As you were.  This too shall pass...

FTSF 35 - My best summertime memory this year was...

The children going back to school.  No, I'm joking.  The holidays went by so quickly I could have done with an extra couple of weeks with them.   We had a lovely long holiday, many (expensive) days out, meals out, but there's one day that sticks out in my mind as being the best.   It was almost free, it wasn't the sort of thing I'd usually go for, but seeing as we'd doubled the length of our holiday this year, we had to look for things to do that were reasonably cheap or free.

A fun day, organised by the businesses around Palace Gardens in Paignton, Devon.  We packed a picnic and walked up.  We'd seen the flyers and posters around the town, and what had sparked my interest was that there was an Olly Murs tribute artist performing.    There was a stage set up, a Bays Beer beer tent (Mr G was in tears of joy...), free face painting, free bouncy castle, actors from the Palace Theatre dressed up as Pirates doing balloon modelling, and a gazebo where ladies from Child Friendly Matters had all manner of toys and circus-y type bits and bobs for the children to play with.

When we first arrived, there was a performer called Dan the Hat on, I don't know how to describe him really, he was a juggler, did tricks and was very funny.

Mr G found the beer tent...

Look at that smile...

We were serenaded by Karl Lewis aka 'Almost Olly' and he was absolutely fantastic.  We may have gone home earlier only the compere said that Karl would be back later to do another set - as himself.

Then came the special mystery guest, a Madonna tribute, Tasha Leaper, who was also amazing and got the crowd up and dancing.    And vogueing.  Except us.  We were sat down drinking beer.

The kids went off and queued for about an hour to get their faces painted...

And after Karl's last set rounding off the afternoon, Caitlin wanted a picture taken with him before we set off back to the apartment.  I wish I'd had a photo taken with him actually... he's a bit yummy and could have gone in the photoframe that Mr G has designated for Adam Woodyatt.  Meh, see previous post...

All in all a wonderful day, brilliant entertainment, not once did the children complain that they were bored, not once did they ask for any money, Mr G got his Bays Beer that he'd been craving for a whole year.  If we'd had more days like this this Summer, I'd be going into Autumn a lot richer than I am now!   Just goes to show that it's not always how much you spend that determines how good a time you'll have, doesn't it?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

I could scream...

But I won't, dear readers, instead I shall take all my frustrations out on this blog post.   There have been a few funny moments these last few days but I feel so overwhelmed that I could crawl under the duvet and just cry.

My whole house - the entire house - is wrecked.  Every single room.   I did skirt around the issue that we'd started stripping the hallway before my 'Autumn clean'.  Well, we reached the bottom of the stairs, and had to stop because of the double mattress that had been there, on it's side, since the end of July.  Caitlin had a high sleeper bed, but it was too high for her room, so we bought her a double bed.   Mr G decided we would dismantle the high sleeper, erect the double bed, and then we could continue with the paper stripping.  The thing is, putting a double bed into Cait's room - the smallest room in the house - means that she had to lose some of her furniture.   Which means she now has clothes everywhere and nowhere to put them.  And the boys room has a mattress, a wardrobe and a chest of drawers that doesn't belong to them.  So, yesterday morning I was making a good start on her room and Mr G decided it would be a good idea to decimate our bedroom too.  Incorporate the leftover furniture into our room.   And then he comes out with this.   And the sentiment behind it is a bit rude but... I'll keep it as clean as possible. 

Mr G:   (Fiddling around with headboard)  There you go.  Now when you're... erm... not underneath... you can look at a picture of Adam Woodyatt.

Now, I must explain.  Mr G had hung a photo frame slap bang in the middle of our headboard.   My British readers won't need an explanation as to who Adam Woodyatt is, possibly my overseas ones won't either.   He is the actor who plays Ian Beale in the soap Eastenders.   He is a brilliant actor, and when I've seen him on TV as himself, he comes across as a lovely guy.  But.  It's Ian Beale.  And to say I was mortified that my husband thought I wanted to look at a photo of him when... you know...  The look of abject horror on my face.

Me:  What.  The.  Absolute.  Eff word?

Mr G:  What?  You've got a big thing about him, haven't you?

Me:  Er, no?  Adam Woodyatt?  Seriously?   Have you been smoking crack?

Mr G:  Maroon 5?

Me:  That's Adam LEVINE.  LEVINE.

Mr G:  Who's Adam Woodyatt then?


Mr G:  Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

*Edit - for the benefit of those who need the gravity of this explained with pictures...

Adam Levine

Adam Woodyatt

Mr G was already seriously pissed off with me yesterday, because I'd fallen asleep with my MP3 player on.  I try to listen to an hours guided meditation at night.  Unfortunately, it's a 4 beautiful gigabytes of meditations, mantras, affirmations, audiobooks.  Sounds of nature...   And I'd had a bottle of wine, on a school night.  So, I think I fell asleep 3 and a half minutes into the meditation.  At some point I'd woken up and just thrown the MP3 player on the floor, making a half hearted attempt to switch it off.  And failed.  So...

Mr G:  I didn't sleep last night.  That bloody MP3 player.  I couldn't switch it off.   Some bloody woman wailing.

Me:  That would be Maakaral Shivaya Namah mantra.  Yes she is a bit... shrill.  Why didn't you wake me?

Mr G:  I did!  You said 'Oh, sorry babe' turned over and went back to sleep.  I couldn't turn it off.

Me:  Well you should have woken me properly.   Taken it out of the room.  Taken it downstairs.  Put it in the bathroom.   Or, OR!  Here's a novel idea!   Take the bloody headphones out of the MP3!  Oooh look!  Silence!  *Sarcastically mime pulling headphone jack out of imaginary MP3*

Mr G:  Here's another novel idea!  *Sarcastically mimes wrapping headphone wire around imaginary neck and pulling tightly*

That would be my neck, yes...  Oh well, back to the clearing.   Meh.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Back to school - belatedly!

Trying desperately to catch up with my blog posts, I haven't done our holiday, we've been camping, days out and most importantly, the first day back at school.   Everything is displaced at the moment, there's clothes that haven't been kept from the holiday, there's bags of... crap - there's no other word for it - that the children brought back from holiday in my bedroom (where else?).  I usually like to spend the first week they're back at school cleaning up the mess they created in the previous six weeks.  But if you read my previous post, you'll see that the lovely Mr G had other plans for me.   So, on top of the absolute disgrace of a mess my house is in, it's now covered with flecks of 1960's wallpaper and flecks of snot green gloss.  And I can't find my bed.  This is going to take until at least Christmas.   Anyhoo, back to the matter at hand.

It was a big day for two of my four, especially for Cait, who was starting high school - the same school I started 26 years ago.  Thankfully - I don't think any of the teachers I tormented are still there... according to my brother his card was marked from his first day because of the, erm, grade A student sarcastic, stroppy, insolent nightmare that I was during my time there.   I had a distinctive maiden name.  There was no way he was getting away with it.   Adam was also taking the leap up into Juniors.  Dan went into Upper 6th, or year 13 as it's now called, and Ryan into year 5.

Caitlin ready and raring to go

My troops

In size order...

Stripping and getting plastered - The Frazzled Shell way

Capture your attention?  Yeah, I know what you're thinking.  You naughty lot.  Tut tut.   First of all, a huge welcome to all my new blog followers, you really don't know what you've let yourselves in for, do you?   If you'd like a follow back just give me a shout out in the comments with your blog URL.  I'm up to my neck in it at the moment, so can't check your details manually as yet. 

Why, I hear you ask.  What on earth is the matter, Shell?  *Sigh*.  Well... we've lived in the 'new' house for nearly four and a half years.  We had a mad rush to get everywhere important decorated before we moved in.   Mr G wasn't in the best of health at that time, was having all manner of cardiac related tests, and I had one week to pack up the old house, with four children, husband in and out of hospital, decorate the new house, move out and move in.  We enlisted all our family and friends and to be fair, the amount of work we achieved in such a small time was pretty amazing.   We looked at the woodchip and the wallpapered ceiling of the hallway, stairs and landing (WHY?  For the love of God, why wallpaper the perfectly smooth ceilings?) and decided it would take too much time, and would have to wait.  So they just had a lick of paint.   It's quite a big job too.

Ohhhhhhh dear...

The kids went back to school on Tuesday, and at lunchtime Mr G said to me;   'Soooooo - when are we doing this hall, stairs and landing then?'   My heart sank.  I know this man inside and out, and I knew that what he actually meant was;  'Get some old clothes on, cocker, I'm going to the bottom shed to find the wallpaper scrapers'.  Why he doesn't just say what he means is another matter. 

Top layer - woodchip.  Not the nightmare you'd imagine, that was coming off with just a scraper.  Then underneath, as you can see from the above picture, a rather fetching... I don't even have the words for what that is, tartan?  Check?  At some points, down the stairs, there's two layers of that underneath, same colour, different pattern.  And then.  Oh.  When we get down to bare wall...

It was acceptable in the 50's?

The picture doesn't do it justice.  Two rather fetching shades of green.  Green GLOSS!  The wallpaper sticks to the dark green and it's melting under the heat of the stripper like chewing gum.   There are huge chunks of plaster falling off from around the windows.  I really, really don't want to wallpaper, I was praying for nice smooth walls, and maybe had whoever painted these walls not used a yardbrush and rake to do it, they might have been.  It's too much to rub down, so we need to have all the walls skimmed now.   Lord knows how much that is going to cost us, I'm dreading getting the quotes in for the work.   In my circle of family and friends, I have a curtainmaker.  Policewoman.  Teachers.  Counsellor.  Baker.  Plumber.  Computer expert.  Hairdresser and barber.  Florist.  Solicitor.  Electricians.  Gardener.  Cooks.  Mechanic.  You name it, I have a friend I can blag for 'Mates Rates' or barter with a curry and chocolate cake, but no bloody Plasterer to be seen anywhere.   So, I'm thinking  (and we all know how dangerous that is, and if you don't know, you'll learn quickly).  How hard can it be?  Plastering?  You can find guides to do anything on the internet, correct?   


I'll leave you guessing as to whether I'm serious or not ;-)  

Saturday, 24 August 2013

This ain't a holiday... it's a bootcamp

No, not Fall Out Boy's new song, but a very apt blog post title.  Up until yesterday I haven't blogged for about a month, and during this time I've been trying to get my head together and we've all been away on holiday.  A rather long holiday.  Sixteen days to be precise.  As it drew closer and closer, I started dreading it, but I was having to keep quiet about that because, let's face it - how ungrateful does that seem?  Dreading a holiday?   Truth was, it flew.  We probably did less this time around than we'd usually do in a week, but it was nice just relaxing and not trying to cram as much into one day as possible.    The bootcamp part?   Well, Mr G and I wore our pedometers for the whole time we were away, from morning until night.  And those 16 days we walked... 174 kilometres.  That's 108 miles in real money.   The poor children didn't know what had hit them.

So, like that frightful bore who invites you round for a meal and drinks before foisting their holiday slides on you, only - unfortunately, you don't get a meal, and you'd be safer taking a bone from a Rottweiler than touching my wine, let's dive straight in.  The sooner this is over and blogged with, we can get back to my ritual humiliation and tendency to make everyone feel better when they hold up their own family against my benchmark of lunacy :-)  

August 1st and 2nd - Drayton Manor Theme Park, staying at Drayton Manor Hotel.
My youngest, Adam, has an obsession with Theme Parks.  He knows their names, what rides they have, where they are, and is committed to visiting as many as possible.  We'd done Camelot, Greenwood, Alton Towers and Woodlands, and he was very enthusiastic about visiting Drayton Manor.  We thought it would make sense, seeing as we were halfway to Devon once there, to tack this visit on to the start of our holiday.  Break the journey, so to speak.  

Drayton Manor Hotel

We arrived just as the park opened on the Thursday morning, and we had to go to the Hotel to pick up our park tickets.  The Duty Manager asked for our name and said 'So, that's six of you staying, three adults, three children, two rooms, adjoining, and park tickets for 3 of you.'   That was me, up since about 5 am straight into 'You had BETTER be kidding me!' mode.  Thankfully, I'd taken both lots of booking confirmation bumph from Thomas Cook, the one I'd got when I made the reservation, and the one I'd had posted to me.  In all fairness, the Manager sorted this out in about five minutes and provided a safe, locked room to keep the one bag of valuables we had with us that we couldn't leave in the car.  We could check in from 3pm but we decided we'd check in when the park closed.    

We had a wonderful day in the Park, we'd been told by so many people that it wasn't a patch on Alton Towers, but you know - it depends what you're looking for, doesn't it?   In my humble opinion, Drayton Manor knocks spots off Alton Towers - but - I'm a 37 year old ride-hating coward.   I didn't like the queue lengths in Alton Towers, and I didn't like the way that the park was so spread out, all we seemed to be doing was walking, and I am one of these useless people who cannot ever make sense of those maps they give you.   Drayton Manor, on the other hand, was much smaller, the rides were close to each other, there seemed to be more for my younger children to do, Caitlin is off on the big rides now with Daniel, Adam and Ryan are still too young - and a tad scared, but they're too old for the 'baby' rides.   If you're a thrill junkie, I can see how Alton Towers would appeal more, but there was still enough to keep Daniel and Caitlin occupied, and for us as a family, Drayton Manor wins hands down.  I was quite proud of myself that even I bit the bullet and went on some rides myself.  I even went on Ben 10, twice!   I went on the Stormforce 10 and we were soaked to our underwear.  Waiting in the queue for the human dryer?  It broke down just as it was our turn.  Story of our life that...    

The hotel was absolutely spotless.  When we got to our rooms we weren't disappointed.  Our room had a double bed, with a pull out double sofa bed, and the adjoining room for the boys had three single beds.  There was a fridge and a phone - and everyone had the stark warning not to touch either of them!   Kettle with plenty of coffees, tea, milk and biscuits.  A safe for our valuables, and a lovely bathroom stocked with toiletries. 

The boys room

Our room

We're a family of six on a budget, so I checked out the meals that the hotel provided, or in all honesty the prices of the meals - and I knew weeks before that we wouldn't be eating there.  I checked Trip Advisor for takeaways in the area, and found reviews for The Dugout Fish Bar a mile down the road in Tamworth.  Once we'd unpacked, it was getting on for 8pm, so we popped there in the car.  They were queueing out of the door, and it took us about 30 minutes to be served.  But that wasn't poor service, there were lots of staff on, and they were all at it, serving, cooking - it was just busy.  We couldn't believe the range of choice in the chippy, you name it, they did it.  Steve went for the Doner Kebab, I had a Chicken Kebab which was lovely, and the kids had sausage and chips.  It was really reasonably priced too, and huge portions.  As we were leaving, the queue was the same, snaking around the shop and out of the door, and I asked the girl at the end of the queue if it was always this busy, and she said yes, because it was the nicest chippy in the area.  She wasn't wrong.

Mr G's Full English...

Adam opted for the fresh fruit salad.  After his Full English...

We'd taken the breakfast option with the room, and I have to say I was glad we did.  There was a fantastic array of food to choose from, the Full English had bacon, eggs, sausages, beans, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes and black pudding.  There were cereals, toast and bread, croissants, pastries, fresh fruit salad, fresh fruit, yogurts, and fruit juices.  

Apart from all the various rides, Drayton Manor is home to Thomas Land, which I can imagine is magical for little toddler fans.  I tried and tried to get a picture of him when he pulled into station but kept missing him.  Here's the green one for you.

The green one...
The fat one...

Drayton Manor also has Dino Trail which really impressed Adam who is dinosaur mad, and they also have a zoo with a fair few animals, I was quite impressed.   We loved the meerkat house, it was so hot there that they were all inside; they're cute.  I'll give them that.  But oh my, they stink.  Absolutely stink.

Dino Hunters...

Smelly little buggers!

It was great to have two days there - not as urgently needed as when we went to Alton Towers for two days, but it was nice to make sure that we'd definitely been on everything we'd wanted to at least once, and then finish off and pick our favourites for the next day.   We couldn't fault anything about the trip, the weather, the park, the hotel, the food, the room, the staff - all brilliant.   We'd definitely go again - financially we might not be able to stay in the hotel every time, this was a treat, but we noticed that they had a campsite :-)  I can make a mean fry up on our camping stove, and we'll have the Dugout for our tea.  Sorted!