I’m sorry it’s been so long. Truth is, there’s been far too much to say and far too little time in which to process and then say it. Which is a bit of a novelty now, post lockdown, isn’t it?
Anyway, rather than just reappear after a few months and dump the heavy stuff like a Fresher with an armful of stinking, weeks-old laundry, I thought I’d try and catch you up on the lighter stuff first. Because I’m nice like that. So here goes: the last few months, according to a collection of faceless photographs on my phone…
It Almost Came Home
England (men’s football team) made it, firstly, into the Semi-Finals of Euro 20/21. The Eldest was sent home to isolate, and so we decided to keep the kids up for the anti-social kick off time and let them watch this potential moment in history. Of course, we all know that the team delivered and the trophy was oh so nearly in sight… but the family bonding night we pictured was not! The kids were very interested in staying up late and sending us back and forth to the kitchen, but were not the least bit interested in the actual game. A tedious experience all round!
So. As the final approached and Husband, a firm football fan, agreed to “watch” it with us again, (over an atmospheric-yet-covid-infested pub, I might add), I was determined to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. We baked cookies, painted the windows, played blow football, vandalised our faces and learned all of the words to “Vindaloo”. Then, in what I honestly believed to be a genius move, I filled the dining room table with food. Pizza, chips, salad, crisps, watermelon, popcorn and all of our aforementioned baked goods. I put out plates, opened the back door and declared: “eat whatever you like when you like! Go outside, go upstairs, stay in here and watch. You are FREE as little hyper-active birdlings. Just do NOT disturb us while the game is on!”
And to begin with … it worked. We enjoyed the first half and I felt about as cocky as every fat white bloke in the country chanting, “it’s coming home!” Until it wasn’t. Until the Eldest put down her third plate of watermelon-infused popcorn, mumbled something about how the trampoline might have been a bad idea, stood up and projectile vomited all over the couch, rug and carpet.
“Go and get a bucket!!!” Husband yelled.
“What?! I’m not walking past that!!” I yelled back as the next splurge narrowly missed the TV. “She’s started now, might as well just let her finish!”
And so we did. As England slow-battled for the trophy in the background, we sat and watched everything I’d laid on the table fly past like a sunburnt streaker.
And then Husband cleaned it up.
“I’ll do that!”
“No I’ll do it!”
“You watch the match!”
“No it’s fine!”
“Will you sit down man, you could have been at the pub?!”
“Stop being a martyr and let me clean up the sick!”
“I want to do it!!!”
Huh? It soon became apparent that cleaning up a gallon of vomit was far less stressful for a lifelong football fan having to sit through that match. Poor soul.
Still. In the end, as you know, we lost at penalties, but that detail was also fairly lost amidst the more pressing events that followed. The three (very young) players to miss penalties also happened to be black, and the racist keyboard warriors lurking in our midst made it known. The following day was an ugly day to be English, and I almost washed the flags off the window for shame. I mean, really. Is English fandom automatically synonymous with being a big, ugly bigot?!
But then… Rashford.
But then Sterling.
But then Saka.
But then Kane.
But then every single young, male England football player coming out with statements to define a generation. As a Mackem, I’ve always seen football taken too seriously and players venerated too highly or hated too disproportionately. It’s only a game and these kids are paid way too much of both money and attention. But suddenly, here they were, again. Saying stuff that matters and saying it with grace, humility, honesty and the right kind of pride. Presenting a united front, owning up to an imperfect performance, expressing hope and confidence for the future, but refusing to tolerate or associate with racism in any form.
After the last couple of years under a hypocritical, backtracking, badly brexiting government … this inspiring take on defeat was EXACTLY what the country needed.
Ha’way the lads!
Shortly after this, we went back to Church for the first time in almost 18 months. Upon arrival, my tribe split up and I realised that we are no longer at the stage where I need to follow them everywhere. Big moment! The Eldest sat with the teenagers, The Middle Man sat in the pulpit and The Youngest snuggled up to another teen in the front row, whilst everyone else beamed at the sight of them over their masks. “How wonderful to see children in this place again!” I sat in peace, heard a full sermon and only had to leave to take someone to the toilet. I mean, Husband complained afterwards that The Middle Man was actually kicking the communion rail while he tried to preside, but I ask you… if the congregation didn’t see it, did it really happen…?!
The following Sunday, however, we stayed at home and began another parenting adventure. Recognising that we had slyly reverted back to shouting, threats and bribery we decided to … well… reframe the threats and bribery into another fad altogether less shouty. (Let’s face it, it’s all the same but different!) So we very prayerfully introduced ‘family points’ – whereby each family member has a jar of points that they earn or lose for contributing positively or negatively to a peaceful, joy-filled home. We made the ‘rules’ together and decided on a list of quality-time-based prizes. I’ll be honest, I’m struggling with consistency now, but it worked really well over the summer and resulted in lots of lovely one-to-one dates with our kids.
It also resulted in a sickeningly successful wedding attendance down south, during which our uber cute offspring not only sat quietly during the service and smiled for pictures, but also walked around with clip boards taking note of and counting family points at every opportunity. I mean really, who do we think we are?!
Everyone was fooled.
Next… Our garden parasol blew away in a storm and mysteriously returned two weeks later. It still hasn’t said where it went.
The Eldest donated her hair to The Little Princess Trust and The MiddleMan got fake married. Untrue to form I put the too-cute-not-to-share photos on Facebook, someone saw them, asked him about it and he gave me the glare of death. “How does she know?!” Uh oh. Once again, his life is not mine to share… (OK, except maybe facelessly and anonymously in a way that I deem appropriate, right here? Time will tell…)
We enjoyed holidays to Lincoln and Bridlington for family and friend reunions, while a lovely parishioner brought us ice cream all the way back from Cornwall in her caravan freezer! (So sweet!) Meanwhile, back home, a family of four moved into our house. Just, you know, for a week or two while they rented out theirs… (9 weeks on and they’re still here… More on that later!)
Given that our planned holidays were people-heavy and our house was now home to others too, we booked a very last minute trip to the lakes to get away on our own! Booked the night before, in August, we arrived to find an empty field housing three poo-blocked portaloos, one water tank and zero bins. It was perfect!
We were one short, safe walk away from a crystal clear lake during a heat wave. Who needs a shower?! And… at the very point where it stopped being bliss and the Middle Man had a full blown tantrum on a boat and was dragged off and refused to move…
At the other side of the lake, at a random stop, in the one and only coffee shop, stood a-smiling and a-waving… MRS H! And Mr H, and LollyPop and her wonderful maternal grandparents.
Seriously. What are the odds?!
The Middle Man was soon up on his feet and engaged in a competitive game of Uno, whilst the girls got a tour of a hotel room and we all had tea and cake. And that was it. One very brief hour during which we were picked up, reconnected, and sent much happier on our way!
You see, it’s all very well reinforcing your little household… but don’t ever underestimate the value of your village! Family is a much wider term than we are often led to believe.
On the way home we stopped for chips and sunset. There was a brief panic over a lost wallet, but we prayed it away. (The wallet was returned after a few days- and we still enjoyed the view! Amen).
Besides this, there’s been one or two incidents of note: such as the Youngest shoving her sister’s lip balm up her own bottom in an act of revenge, and Husband farting so loudly that The Eldest jumped off his knee and burst my lip! We had a reunion during which a friend was told to isolate, mid meal, by Track and Trace. And then Husband took The MiddleMan to London for his birthday, during which he sent me the most magnificent Insta-versus-reality pictures of him looking miserable in various locations. Oh and we’ve played Uno. Lots and lots and lots of Uno. (Including, would you believe, on the London Eye.)
So now, apart from the plethora of deep reflections and God stories which I hope to follow soon … I think we’re all caught up!
Much love and if you got this far… bravo!! Thanks a bunch for reading, you are now free to go!
God bless you and yours. Amen xxxxx