Easter Craft and a Sunny Park: 2013 365 Challenge #79

Balancing boy 'All by myself'

Balancing boy ‘All by myself’

Today started slow after the slough of despond yesterday. Thank you to everyone who liked the post: it helped drag me back out the self-pitying doldrums. Sometimes I just need to grow up and accept that life is hard! Thankfully hubbie took the kids long enough for me to write my post and have a shower this morning so I started the day feeling half human.

It helped that the sun put in a rare appearance. I was able to chuck the kids outside to play in the sandpit and on their bikes and scooters. Daddy did gardening, so I could make some tweaks to my Dragon Wraiths book cover knowing the kids were being watched. It hasn’t resulted in any new sales but it made me feel better.

Easter craft (they ate the chocolate nests!)

Easter craft (they ate the chocolate nests!)

I took the children to a local preschool in the afternoon to do Easter craft. I wasn’t sure whether to go or to leave the children out in the sun, as the forecast for tomorrow is rotten, but hubbie made the decision for me by having the kids dressed and shod by the front door in record-quick time. I think he was ready for a few hours’ peace!

We spent a wonderful but hectic two hours making chocolate nests, chicks, bunnies and Easter cards. My children love craft but generally end up painting everything brown including themselves so it was lovely to have them follow instructions and make specific things. Although that always leaves the problem of what to do with their creations! I have drawers stuffed fulled of pictures and paintings but nothing is named or dated!

Hurrah no muddy dog to clean

Hurrah no muddy dog to clean

Aaron and I even made it to our village park this afternoon. I’ve missed our trips to the park. It’s only a short walk away and it’s a lovely one with slide, swings, playhouse, zip wire and climbing frame. I push the kids on the swing and throw a toy for Kara. We all get exercise and I don’t have to rub down a muddy dog.

For the last six months though it’s been far too wet with most of the equipment lethal or out of order. We walk to the park only to end up sheltering in the playhouse waiting for the rain to stop. It makes parenting harder than it needs to be.

The kids had a final mad run round the garden (they were ‘tidying up’!) when they were meant to be eating their dinner. I didn’t have the heart to call them in: with the forecast for wet and snow again tomorrow, who knows how long it will be before they can run around in socks and tops again?


Claire lent against the door of the Skoda and gazed up at the dark building set against winter trees and leaden sky. I can imagine how this might make you think of Gothic horror and mad women in the attic. It’s pretty gloomy.

“Amazing building, yah?”

Claire jumped at the sound of the voice. She turned and saw a snow princess walking towards her. She blinked, wondering if her concussion was more severe than the doctor had suggested. As the woman strolled nearer she realised it was a beautiful blonde wearing cream snow gear, wrapped up against the chill. Claire looked down at her Helly Hansen jacket and wondered when it had become so shabby.

“One expects to see Mr Rochester doing a rising-trot up the lane, doesn’t one?” The woman smiled, dazzling Claire with her even white teeth. “Hullo, I’m Catherine. You can come in and have a gander if you like?”

“What? You live here?” Claire shook her head, gritting her teeth against the pain.

Catherine laughed, a cascade of chiming bells. “Wouldn’t that be super? No we’re here for the weekend for a wedding.”

Claire tried to imagine staying in the house. “I think I’d be worried about Bertha Mason setting fire to my bedroom while I slept. Is it very dark and spooky?”

Another tinkling laugh followed Claire’s statement and she felt the blood rush to her cheeks.

“Hardly. Come in for an espresso and see for yourself. You can park your car.” She looked at the Skoda, noticing it for the first time, and raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows. Claire’s cheeks flushed hotter and she turned away, letting her hair drop over her face. She listened mutely to the instructions on where to park before climbing into her seat.

I could just keep driving. I’m not that interested in seeing the Hall that inspired Rochester’s house. Does it matter if I am rude to a complete stranger? She looks like it would bounce straight off her super-ego. Claire thought about the blog, the chance to have something different to write about and sighed. Maybe I should accept. How hard can it be to be civil for half an hour?


Claire entered the building and stopped in the hallway. She felt her jaw drop and shut her mouth with a snap. “It’s tiny. I was expecting some rambling mansion. This isn’t Thornfield Hall.” She thought about the place she had imagined during A Level English. Her teenage dreams of being rescued from boarding school by a brooding stranger.

“Wait until you see the roof. Tell me then if you can’t envisage Bertha jumping off.” Catherine’s eyes blazed and she tugged Claire’s arm to lead her through the house.

Claire had an impression of dark beams and ornate ceilings before she was blasted by a gust of arctic air. Huddling into her jacket, she squinted against the wind and looked at the view.

“Wow.” The vista stretched all the way to the hazy-blue horizon, miles in the distance. In the space between hills huddled together beneath the grey winter sky, wearing trees like ruffled blankets. A low mist clung to the valley, like the smoke billowing from a crypt in a vampire movie. Claire shivered.

Catherine strode to the crenellations and peered over before turning towards Claire. “Come and see the lambs. They’re so cute, frolicking around like babies.”

Claire walked a step closer to the edge and felt her heartbeat quicken. I don’t know this woman from Adam. Why has she brought me up here? Images of the attack the day before swam into her mind. What if she’s crazy and wants to push me over the edge. She might be channelling Bertha’s ghost for all I know.

When she came no nearer, Catherine’s brows furrowed. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t like heights,” Claire responded, trying to keep the wobble from her voice. “I need to get going anyway. I have stuff to do.” She realised how rude that sounded. “Thank you so much for showing me round.”

The girl sighed. “That’s fine. It was super to have someone else to talk to. My family have gone fishing and I can’t stand it.” She pulled a face. “Slimy, wriggling things.”

Claire felt her heartbeat slow at the woebegone look on Catherine’s face. That damn mugging has me jumping at shadows. Maybe some people do just want to chat because they’re lonely. She looked at her watch. There was plenty of time to get to the hostel before reception closed.

“Did you mention something about coffee?”


The Rain Came Down and The Floods Came Up: 2013 365 Challenge #77

Nice weather for ducks and dogs apparently

Nice weather for ducks and dogs apparently

My kids sing a song they must have learned from nursery. I don’t know it* and they only know one line but it’s definitely becoming the anthem of our winter here in the UK:

The rain came down and the floods came up.

They sing the one line, together with actions, over and over when we’re in the car, until I feel like I’m in a Stephen King novel.

*Turns out it’s called The Wise Man built His House Upon the Rock. And I thought it must be from a Noah and the ark song.

Don't think I fancy the river today Mummy

Don’t think I fancy the river today Mummy

We did indoor play again today, meeting up with an old friend and her family. It’s great to combine forces at these places so you can take it in turns to be the hamster in a cage. Taking the Daddies is even better because little girls love spending time with Daddies (it doesn’t have to be their own: Amber does adopt-a-daddy all the time. Sometimes with people we don’t even know which is a bit embarrassing).

It snowed heavily while we were tucked inside but it soon turned to rain and the roads were flooded as we drove to my parents’ house. If it keeps raining we’re going to be Oundle-on-sea (we’re on the edge of the Fens which, if you don’t know the UK, is a large area of reclaimed wetland. It’s very flat.)

At least the dog likes the wet weather. She is part labrador and has webbed feet so she loves being in the water. Normally she swims in the river but, when it’s swollen with flood water, she doesn’t fancy it. Instead she races up and down the flooded fields at high speed. I tried to take pictures but I only had my phone with me. But you get the idea!

Blurry Action Shot: Even Kara loves jumping in muddy puddles

Blurry Action Shot: Kara loves muddy puddles

We saw friends of ours out puddle jumping in the afternoon: the three little kids all in waterproofs and wellies. I felt guilty because we were watching our second movie of the day, wrapped up in the lounge. Our kids have had way too much screen time this winter. I don’t mind the rain but when it’s zero degrees outside that’s too chilly to get soaked! (They have colds, so that’s my excuse sorted).

Anyway, today’s installment is going to be written in the morning as I have a date with the Got To Dance final on Sky One tonight. I’ll be bereft when it’s over but I’m very much looking foward to the final live show.

P.S. We ended up watching the final with a small child asking questions all the way through. We made the mistake of letting her watch the Little Princess episode ‘I don’t want to go to bed’ at bedtime, which is all about a little girl who doesn’t want to sleep alone. Big Mistake. HUGE. We’ll have days of her not wanting to sleep alone now. Must delete it from the Sky Plus!

Never mind, the final was still great and the right person won. If you don’t watch it, check out the video of Lukas McFarlane’s first live performance. Awesome.


Claire turned and studied the ornate building of Castleton Losehill Hall as she walked away from reception. I thought it looked like a gothic mansion when I arrived. I never imagined I’d be living one of Ann Radcliffe’s more lurid tales while I stayed here.

Meandering through the corridors and courtyards of the hostel that morning, with a bandage on her head and purple bruises on her cheek, it had been easy to picture herself in the pages of a Victorian drama. She’d ignored the giggling kids as she’d perched on a bench, lost in a nineteenth century world of mad counts and ephemeral ghosts.

Maybe Sergeant Cornhill was right, maybe I do have concussion. Claire tried to remember what the woman had told her the night before about the symptoms of a head injury. Confusion, inability to make decisions, tiredness. How is that any different to how I feel on any normal Sunday morning? Her laughter sounded fake even to her. Maybe I will pop in and see a GP before I head to the next hostel. Seeing as I don’t even know where I’m going today.

Claire stopped on the path and stared at the dirty-grey clouds scudding across the sky, strung out like dingy washing. What am I doing? I need to at least know what hostel I’m going to. Her only thought, after her morning of musing and wandering, was to get away and put the events of the previous evening behind her. Now the idea of driving past the scene with no clear intention or destination made bile rise in her throat. She hitched her rucksack up on her shoulders and headed back into the hostel. Maybe I’ll just have a quick look at the website, at least find the nearest hostel. I’m meant to have a quiet day today anyway, Sergeant’s orders.

Claire walked through the glass lobby and scurried to a corner before the manager on duty asked her what she was doing back. She wasn’t sure if she was allowed in the building after check-out and her head ached too much for a confrontation.

Within the space of a few minutes she had loaded the YHA site on her iPad, thankful that she still had it to plug the aching hole left by her stolen phone. The nearest hostel was apparently Hathersage. When Claire read the description she laughed loudly before wincing at the rattling pain it caused in her head.

A bustling Derbyshire village popular with everyone from fans of outdoor activity breaks to literature and history buffs. Walk the Charlotte Brontë Literature trail, taking in North Lees Manor featured in Jane Eyre and visit the oversized grave of Robin Hood’s sidekick, Little John.

 She smiled as she reread it. Well, I’ve lived the Gothic story, why not go and wander in the home of the finest Victorian novelists? Maybe I’ll meet the ghost of Heathcliff or the mad woman in the attic. Maybe I’ll be the mad woman locked in a garret. It might be nice to hide from the world for a while. Claire thought about the phone call she needed to make; the thank you that was going to stick in her throat like dry toast.

Yes, I think it might be nice to hide.