School Clothes and Climbing Frames: 2013 365 Challenge #178

In the boat with Iggle Piggle

In the boat with Iggle Piggle

I had a morning away from the laptop and away from writing today. Foolish, maybe, with pressing deadlines looming. But I think sometimes the body and mind need to be replenished. Sitting in the lounge editing for long periods of time is playing havoc with my knees, as I end up sitting with one leg tucked under me without realising.

I do now have a study, but it has a plastic roof so is impossibly hot, and too sunny to see my screen.

So, today, I got out in the sun. Mowed the lawn (and a metal dog bowl, oops), cleaned out my car, and went to collect our new (second hand, thank you ebay) climbing frame. It’s brilliant.

Unfortunately it was still assembled when I arrived and it took the two of us half an hour to get it into enough pieces to fit in my Saab. By the time I’d reassembled it at home, I didn’t have a nail left whole. But we’re so happy with it, and the kids love it. They’ve been climbing and building tents all afternoon.

I also learned first hand today how much nicer it is to complain politely. Valerie, over on Speak Happiness, advocates it, and I admit it’s not always my strong suit. But, today, it felt good. The saga is all about my daughter’s school uniform.

Fabulous new climbing frame

Fabulous new climbing frame

On advice from friends I ordered it all from the M&S website, as they have 20% off, and you can’t always get everything in store. So worth paying the delivery charge. Only apparently I ordered all the wrong sizes (they come up large), so I was a bit worried that I should have just gone into town.

Anyway, yesterday I got an email saying it wouldn’t be delivered until August. Arrggh. Not much time to try stuff on and no opportunity to get the discount on extra things. So today I dragged the poor kids into town after playgroup and we hit the shops. On our second M&S, and with much cursing and searching and some distraction of small boy with ipad, we found all the items we needed, tried them on and bought the lot.

Got home, attempted to cancel my online order: couldn’t. Called them and they said, Oh you should have an email, it’s out for delivery. Due tomorrow. Well, if I’d seen the email I would possibly have been less polite! As it is, I couldn’t fault their charming customer service. The lovely Richard promised me he would try and stop the delivery, or refund it if I managed to turn it away at the door.

Really, though, they need to sort their emails out. I very nearly shopped elsewhere, but their uniform is good value. Thank goodness it will be so much easier with my son. Today I bought three styles of dress, two lots of trousers, two different colour tops, tights and socks, and she already has two different colour jumpers and a cardigan. None of which can be passed down, as none is unisex. I’ve always said I’m happy to have one child of each gender, but clothes is definitely one area where I’m not!

Oh, but she’s going to look adorable! 🙂


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“Good afternoon, is that Ms Carleton?”

“Yes.” Claire looked around the tiny courtyard garden and tried to work out who would be calling her. She didn’t recognise the voice.

“Ah, Ms Carleton, my name is Roger Hazleton.”

Claire searched her mind for a clue, but none presented itself. He wasn’t a client. God, I hope he doesn’t work for Cocoa Cola or the YHA. Now was not the time to discover Carl’s assignment was indeed a genuine one, only to admit she was spending the weekend at a wedding.

“You recently contacted our newspaper with regards to your blog, and the possibility of writing a regular column for us.”

Claire’s heart began to beat a little faster. She had forgotten about her impetuous email to as many editors as she could find, after Kim’s suggestion that she try her hand at freelance journalism. She never expected anything to come of it, except the satisfaction of doing something that would irritate Carl if he found out.

“We have looked at your blog on the YHA and are impressed with your writing style. And your sense of adventure.”

Claire tried to gauge whether the man was being sarcastic. Deciding he had to be genuine, if he was bothering to contact her, she bubbled with enthusiasm. Roger’s next words stalled her.

“Unfortunately, we can’t offer you anything for your existing journey. There isn’t quite enough excitement to captivate our readers.”

With a wry smile, Claire thought that he would have a different view if he knew the half of what had happened to her since she left home in a battered Skoda, two months before.

“However, I wanted to ask whether you had any intention of continuing your adventures overseas, for example the hostels of New Zealand or Australia?”

Claire’s brain fizzed with the unexpected idea. Her skin tingled. With in-held breath, she asked the burning question. “Why, are you offering to pay for me to go?”

Roger laughed, as if Claire had told an entertaining joke. She laughed too, realising she would only look like an amateur if she confessed she was serious. Clearly that was not what was on offer.

“Wouldn’t that be lovely? No, I’m afraid you would have to pay your own travel expenses, although we would, of course, pay you our standard freelance rate for your column. We can discuss the details later, if you’re interested.”

Claire felt like she’d been walloped with a wet flannel. Leave the UK? Travel somewhere hot and sunny, with attractive surfer dudes and long sandy beaches. It sounded even better than the Maldives. Then images crashed in on her daydream: The look of smug victory on Carl’s face, if she were to resign; Giving up her salary, her career, for a short-term opportunity to earn peanuts; Another stretch of time sleeping in bunk beds. The appeal quickly tarnished.

“Roger, I am flattered by your offer. I’m glad that you believe my writing would appeal to your readers. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to travel overseas at present, unless my expenses were covered.”

There was a slight hesitation and Claire imagined Roger steepling his fingers, trying to decide how to respond. Would he shrug and tell her she was making a mistake, or would he be graceful. She heard him suck air in through his teeth, and prepared herself for rejection.

“Well,” he stretched out the word, as if it were being pulled from him. “I suppose we could advance you a week or two’s salary, if that would help?”

Claire didn’t need solutions, she was already too tempted.  Her mind crowded with all the reasons to stay. Ruth, Sky, Kim, they all needed her here. A thought popped into her head unbidden. Josh lived in Australia. With his wife and children.

“I’ll have to think about it.”

“Of course, I understand. I’ll email you our terms. We’d want to get started as soon as possible.”

Claire hung up the phone and dropped it into her lap. Looking round the raised beds and red brick walls of the hostel garden, she tried to imagine temperate rainforest and endless desert. Ayers Rock and the Sydney Opera House. Her lips twitched and she felt a smile light her face.


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