Monday, 7 November 2011

Remember, remember...

I have not been a great mother this week. Sadly, I have not been a great writer this week either. Or a great wife. It's been a dodgy week for greatness, or even mediocrity to be honest. The annoying thing is that on paper the potential to be a great mother was high: two events in one week. Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night. All I needed to do is facepaint three witches, trek about in the dark and rain for an hour pestering perfect strangers for a tonne of minging Haribos, and then a week later take them to a firework display and buy them a crappy burger for ten pounds and one of those vile plastic light-up things that whizz and whirr and cost another ten pounds.

My middle witch
On Monday the girls plead to go trick-or-treating with their friends. Now, I hate trick-or-treating. I fundamentally disagree with charging around en masse and demanding sweets from people who I know don't want to see us. I hate the sugar-crazed eyes, the gluttonous counting of e-numbers, watching my usually polite children fail to thank the slightly nervy old dear who looks on in undisguised horror at the multitude of hands diving in for grabfuls. So I plead  louder than them. I point out the cold and the wet and the dark. And when that fails I tell them I am tired from not-writing all day. (Not-writing is guarenteed to put me in the blackest of moods, especially if I have sat at the computer to write for hours on end and not-written. They know this, bless them.) But even this falls on deaf ears; the thought of mountains of sweets blocks their empathy entirely. I change tack. "I've got an idea," I say in my most excited voice. "You go and dress up, and when you're ready, go outside, ring the doorbell, and trick-or-treat me!" Three blank faces. "Come on. It'll be fun!" I try a whoop, whoop. And finally they trudge up the stairs.

Is that a face in that scary fire?!!
Bonfire night comes. The perfect opportunity for me to repair the damage and be the very-best-mum-ever. Problem. I hate fireworks (loud, anti-climatic, potentially lethal). And bonfires. The big ones. I actually quite like bonfires of the small and contained variety, the ones you can sit around, a handsome boy playing guitar softly in the background, a glass of wine and gentle chat, and perhaps a long stick to poke dying embers with. But those big blazing ones that look like they might topple over at any moment give me the heebie-jeebies. I manage to suggest a gathering at my parents' house with their cousins, successfully avoiding the massive display with the grubby burgers and the flashing tat-for-cash. The slight problem? My sister, father, husband and brother-in-law are extreme pyromaniacs and love nothing better than rummaging about in emormous fires searching for burning branches to hold aloft to the cheers and screams of our delighted children. So, rather than a friendly fire, we have a ginormous fire. All I see when I gaze on its vastness is two hours in A&E, and I retreat into the shadows to grump, trying not to shriek "please be careful!" every five minutes. Watching from the darkness, however, I can see how much fun everyone is having. Eyes glint in the firelight, sparklers whirl madly about, marshmallows toast on spindly sticks, and then I have a stern word with myself. "Don't be a killjoy. Pour yourself a drink, get a smile on your face, and go and enjoy that towering inferno with your kids." So I pop a Quality Street in my mouth and grab a sparkler, and burnish the following across the darkness: 'remember, remember be more fun in December'. I do this three times. A few moments later my littlest girl rushes up to me and says "mummy, isn't this the best fun ever?" And I can't help but grin at her.

On the way home I tell the girls we are going all out for Christmas this year. We're going to out-Christmas the Christmas best of them, even Delia and Kirsty. Christmas music will play all day every day, there will be gingerbread making, christmas cake baking, and unpoliced glitter shaking. We are even going carol singing on Christmas eve. At which point my husband groans and puts his bonfire-sooty hands over his ears. "Enough! Enough! Please stop," he begs. "Can't we have a quiet one this year? Just us. No fuss. Look, I tell you what, you guys can get dressed up warmly and then knock on the door and sing carols just for me!"

I guess his fun was all used up on November...


  1. Delighted to find someone else who thinks trick or treating is morally, culturally and socially reprehensible. Yet another American import which should have been stopped at the border and told to go home with its tail between its legs. However, I love a good bonfire!

  2. Love it :-) Am with you on Hallowe'en Hatred. And - how fortunate for me - the boys are young enough to believe me when I tell them a box of supermarket fireworks in the back garden will be as much fun as the epic organised one (ha! fools!). By next year I hope the will have forgotten how utterly crap it was ;-)

    But I love love LOVE Christmas and cannot wait. Not sure I could bring myself to allow the boys to shake glitter with gay and unpoliced abandon though. The thought makes me twitch and reach for my hoover...

  3. PS cooool pic of beth!

  4. Can we have a bonfire at Christmas...please, please, please?!

    Bonfire night was awesome and supremely more enjoyable than Hallowe'en- where the highlight of my night was walking the kids through the cemetary (had to be pretty brave myself)- kids dressing up was fun and I put on copious amounts of black makeup (inner goth was loving it)!

  5. A small log, maybe two. The venting of the 'inner goth' is indeed the single most alluring part of Halloe'en. Tho might have given the dark and rainy cemetary a miss!

  6. I think your blog might be American...time says 12.04...

    Also - is there a definitive way of spelling Hal-o-een?

  7. So it's not just me. Our village is so titchy trick or treating was all done in 20 mins (had to force the 11 yr old to dress up on pain of 'now sweets')and it was actually nice to see the neighbours. I got out bonfire night because of my course (I'm very busy learning to not write). Felt like victory on both counts. Cathy D #professionalkilljoy

  8. Thanks for your comment, Cathy. From your blog post it sounds like you are very much learning how 'to write'...but yes, 'not-writing' is a skill that lots of us seem to possess in abundance (hence I am commenting on a comment on my own blog, rather than working on the book...ho hum...back to work I go).