There goes Christmas for another year - done! (but not dusted). A combination of ice and illness has now transformed us into a clutch of activity-averse, pallid-skinned yawners, lumbering in slow motion from one warmish-spot to another, our pathetic radiators (‘OK, we give up’) providing less heat than the steam off a cuppa. The children are flicking switches, topping up their pouches with chocolate, and lying amongst banks of handcream, Florentines, cranberry chutney, sweet wrappers, teddies, books flicked and left, Wii discs out of boxes, CDs, DVDs, malting tinsel, pine needles, all the rubbish chocolates, and things half-put-away by me before exhaustion set in at the thought of the BIG SORT OUT required to find crevices for all the new junk.
But that's what holidays are for, isn't it? Unwinding, emptying your head - I get that, dood (at least I try to). Why not watch morning TV!!? For a long time? Why not? Why not sleep till 1pm? Only nutcases and competitive freaks would consider squeezing five minutes flute practice out of their over-pushed children, or dragging them out in the cold to experience the snow upon their mitts, or getting homework done before the first day of term - honestly, those poor kids! Not me, no. This emancipated mum rejects middle-class pressures (for two weeks) and will provide instead a loving and cosy nest for her little chicks to snuggle in…
But occasionally my stomach goes flip. Oh no! We are dumbing down! Why won’t the girls select the Plight of Wild Black Bears in Minnesota instead of Friends, just occasionally? What is wrong with us that we don’t want to do anything?? Oh no, oh no! Something has gone terribly wrong. Get your violin out! Read the damn book! ‘Have you got any homework?’ I ask Maddy. ‘Mummy! Not now!’ as if I’d suggested skinning a rabbit. ‘But you are doing nothing, I believe’ I dare to utter. ‘Actually I’m exploring my ipod touch’ (eight days and counting) ‘and later I’m meeting a friend to eat crisps and sit down’.
Apart from the occasional neurotic flare-up on my part (six gigantic pink and lime storage boxes from Wilkinsons – put things in boxes, it doesn’t matter what!) I'd just about got the hang of the slothing, when blow me, Bonnie started getting all active! ‘I’m opening my Slime Set’ she said. ‘Wonderful darling!’ I shouted, hoisting myself out of my coma of low level housework. Father Christmas had given her various arty sets to keep her busy for a few months, but no, she was going to do them all today, starting with mixing up the olive oil, sugar and lemon facial scrub (‘You can use some when I’ve made it Mummy!’) requiring vigorous whipping according to Bonnie’s take on the directions. So I’m wiping it off the walls while she tips the remainder on the floor and starts on the second row of her knitting, which I’ve been passing from one surface to another since Christmas Day. ‘Mummy! Are you listening to me? I’ve dropped a stitch!’ and it’s off with the marigolds (support the creativity – do not complain!) to check the knitting and stand in the lemon glue.
At this point, I introduce a reminder in my getting cross now voice that she needs to clear up one activity before starting the next. ‘Yes, Mummy’ and she floats a paper towel down to my feet for me to use, simultaneously beckoning, ‘Come on Mummy, I want to make the pyjama case in my Girls Annual!’ I leave my shoes in the oil slick and get her some old pyjamas to cut up. ‘Mummy, I thought you wanted me to learn how to sew! Why aren’t you helping me?’ Up I come off the floor again where I’ve discovered oil and sugar to be a challenging combination for one who does quantity but not quality cleaning. We discuss cutting and stitching and I thread a needle, all on tippy toes because of sticky feet. She does a couple of enormous stitches then Maddy appears, having risen alarmingly before mid-day to train Bonnie in using her new Wii game. ‘May I go Mummy? Please?’ I pretend disappointment for a millisecond, then smile ‘Oh, go on then’, because I only want her to be happy..