The Calpol Christmas

Here’s our Christmas in numbers:

Number of bottles of Neurofen for Kids the children went through: 2.5

Times I watched the Miranda Christmas Day special: 3

Number of times I had to rifle through the recycling bin searching for presents I thought

I had accidentally recycled: 4

Hours spent searching for the correct kind of Calpol in various supermarkets on Christmas Eve: 1.5

Presents unwrapped and re-wrapped because I had totally forgotten who they were for the second I’d wrapped them: 5

Number of new socks I received, despite heavy hinting: 0

I usually get into a bit of a pre-Christmas panic in my determination to make everything as perfect as possible for the kiddos and end up with some sort of seasonal anxiety crisis. I know, really, that the perfect Christmas is as mythical as a unicorn – all that counts, really, is that everyone is happy and healthy. The kids don’t care two hoots about whether you went on a raid in poundland or ordered exquisite handmade gifts from Hamley’s – they mostly just like the unwrapping. It’s just me that minds the plastic tat.

But this year, I really did think I’d got it sorted. They’d dutifully written letters to Father Christmas, and I’d picked the least irritating and most realistic things from each list and purchased them, along with some really cool bits from lovely independent shops and some ace books, and by the 22nd, all but the biggest of Polly’s were neatly wrapped. That was when things started to go less well.

Actually quite badly.

Just as I lifted the animatronic dinosaur she’d asked FC for and had been talking about for weeks from its box to wrap, Polly came crashing through the living room door, coughing and complaining that she couldn’t sleep. There went the element of surprise, as well as the carefully-told story about Father Christmas bringing it.

Which meant that I had two days to get a replacement gift from Father Christmas, with about  minus £20 of the Christmas budget left.

Having avoided the evil Amazon for most of the year, I then had to sign up to their Prime delivery service and order one of the things she’d mentioned in the letter, which I managed to find on Amazon half the price anyone else was selling it for. Bastards.

I got so excited by the power of next-day delivery that I ordered a few more things on there too. Dammit.

But by Christmas eve, I really thought we were sorted. After a lovely day with family and friends, and a weird ceremonial throwing of porridge oats out on the front lawn ‘for the reindeer’, I settled down with a sherry. The replacement gift carefully wrapped in the right paper (i.e not the same as the stuff the kids had witnessed me purchase in Wilkos) and safely hidden, mince pie, carrot and sherry left out for Father Christmas.

The first child arrived downstairs about 9.30pm, complaining of a sore throat. The next appeared about 10. At 11pm, when I had drunk the sherry we’d left out, Polly came down again, wailing about her throat and the fact that someone had moved Father Christmas’ sherry.

At midnight, we crept upstairs, presents ready to deliver. Polly was awake.

At 1am, Rich went upstairs and snuck the stockings downstairs. As he went back up, he heard Polly, in a very clear voice “Daddy! The stockings are missing. Mine AND Tilly’s!”

How, asked Rich, have we raised the kind of daughter who launches a full scale investigation into missing stockings at ungodly hours of the night? It’s all very well and good to nurture curiosity in your children, but this is absolutely the kind of thing that makes you regret such efforts.

Tilly was wide awake too.

Rich reassured them that the stockings were there,really, they were just ‘hidden under some things.’ He returned downstairs. Finally, about 1.30 am, the stockings were delivered and we managed to go to bed.

At 2am, Polly came in crying with a high temperature.

At 3.30am, Tilly appeared in our room, wide awake and already unwrapping. We told her she had to wait.

At 3.45am, Tilly re-appeared, brandishing the plate we’d left out for Father Christmas. “He’s left the mince pie!”

At 6.30am, both girls were ready to unwrap, even though Polly was clearly quite poorly. Tilly went to wake Will, who shouted “I just wanted a LIE IN.”

Tilly reminded him it was Christmas, and that he had a stocking full of presents. He shot out of bed. Stockings were unwrapped. The best thing was the talking moshi monster Father Christmas had delivered via an excellent Bargain Tat website, for £4.99! It talked high pitch nonsense a LOT.

Polly had fallen asleep, still feverish. We delayed the main present unwrapping until she was awake. The other two watched Cartoon Network whilst I made a large coffee. This, and the fact that the car developed a new random battery / electric fault and refused to start, kind of sums up our Christmas. The kids tag-teamed some kind of viral infection, we dispensed so much Neurofen that it got to the point where we were dosing up Will in the interval of the (excellent) pantomime that we went to from the lid of the bottle, as I had forgotten the syringe. “That’s about 5ml, right?”

But despite all of this, and the outrageous fact that I did not get any new socks – I refuse to let that one lie – we had a pretty lovely Christmas. I gave up trying to make everything special, and instead we just chilled out and watched films, read books and hung out with family. We went for the shortest boxing day walk ever, and had naps.

I hope I remember this next year, when I start hyperventilating because I can’t make very nice mince pies, and the presents don’t look Pinterest perfect. No one minds. Christmas is not about any of that, and we know it.

May all of our Christmases by slightly and delightfully imperfect.


Challenge what the future holds…


A great word, although not always meant as a compliment. Sometimes people use it to mean vague and irrational.

Quite a lot of people I follow on Twitter describe themselves as dreamers, in a creative way. Which is lovely.

I love dreamers. I love people who are not so deeply rooted in reality that they have the freedom to imagine how things could be different. Better.

For others, for themselves, for everyone. The ability to imagine a better world is a powerful thing. But it’s even more powerful if you do something about it. People who not only can imagine how things could be different, but also make it their work to help make that change happen, those are the people with super powers.

I used to think that you automatically got more cycnical as you got older. Wiser, therefore less hopeful. Youthful optimism is, afterall, youthful.

But what if you don’t grow out of your dreams, but grow into them? I think that, if anything, growing older and wiser means holding on to your dreams, not letting them go, but with a more urgent need to see them fulfilled. Or even just to see yourself start work on them.

I don’t think I have ever quoted Des’Ree before (she of the excellent most/toast rhyming couplet) – but I’ve had the lyrics to ‘You Gotta Be’ stuck in my head today, and they are not wrong.

Listen as your day unfolds, challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky…

I can’t stand looking at the word ‘gotta’, frankly, but she does have a point.

Challenge what the future holds. You have got to be bad,(ish) bold, and wiser.

We tell children to dream big, all the time. We tell them to strive for what they want, to believe they can do anything they set their minds to; we tell them the sky is the limit (well, only if you speak in management cliches to your kids, which would be weird.) But we do encourage them to think big, dream big, aim high.

What about grown ups? Maybe we should all wear our dreams on our sleeves a bit more. The things we dream of, they get more realistic anyway. Life, and experience will colour them in a little, and shape them differently, That’s not wrong, it’s good. Dreams can grow and change too. Maybe we should stop describing ourselves as dreamers and talk about what our dreams really are, and how we are going to make them happen.


Chasing paragraphs

Should I write a blog? What do you think?

It’s a question people often ask. Not necessarily to me. (I am no blog-oracle.) I asked it once, twice, probably more times than I remember.  And I like to think that there is always a reason to write. You don’t have to publish it.

But always write.

Write because you’re passionate.

Write because you’re angry.

Write because you’re scared.

Write because you’re lonely, write because you’re curious and you want to see what might happen.

Write because otherwise you might not remember. Write because it makes things clearer, less real or more real.

Write because it’s powerful.

In the last three years, I have written hundreds of blog posts. Some better than others. Many dull and far too long. But out of all those words, good things have come. And tonight I sat and I tried to write something about why I blog, and where it has led me, and why I fell in love with writing all over again, and I couldn’t do it. There were too many things competing for space in my sentences, too many clauses.

So instead I wrote the list above. When you try to explain why you love something, it’s hard. It feels like it shouldn’t be, but it is. And no, I didn’t miss the irony in the fact that I couldn’t write about writing.

Writing online is a powerful thing. It’s dangerous, sometimes.

But I would never trade those boring posts and torturous paragraphs for not doing it.

On Friday, someone took the time to tell me how much something I had written meant to him. ‘It mattered, and you wrote about it,’ he said. And that’s it, that’s the point. Write about things that matter to you. And sometimes, just sometimes, they will matter to someone else too.