Tuesday, 29 April 2014


I bumped into my new neighbour today who was returning from town. She asked me if I knew what was going on and by the end of my explanation was quite convinced I was making it up as I went along!

The town has gone blue and yellow in honour of Tutti Day as part of Hocktide, an ages old tradition that used to be celebrated in every town and city. Now it's just Hungerford that celebrates the festival, described on their leaflets as "fun but serious!"

The Hocktide Council is overseen by a Constable and job titles include Portrieve, Bailiffs, Overseers of the Cmoon, Ale Tasters, Tithing Men, Blacksmith, Bellman and three keepers of the keys of the common coffer. The council appoints two Tutti Men (this year, they're women), whose job it is to visit the properties attracting Commoner's Rights. Formerly they collected rents, and they accompanied the Bellman to summon commoners to attend the Hocktide Court in the Town Hall, and to fine those who were unable to attend one penny, in lieu of the loss of their rights. The Tutti Men carry Tutti Poles: wooden staffs topped with bunches of flowers and a cloved orange. These are thought to have derived from nosegays which would have mitigated the smell of some of the less salubrious parts of the town in times past. The Tutti Men are accompanied by the Orange Man (or Orange Scrambler) - who wears a hat decorated with feathers and carries a white sack filled with oranges - and Tutti Wenches who give out oranges and sweets to the crowds in return for pennies or kisses.

The proceedings start at 8 am with the sounding of the horn from the Town Hall steps. This summons all the commoners to the attend the Court at 9 am, after which the Tutti Men visit each of the 102 houses in turn. They no longer collect rents, but demand a penny or a kiss from the lady of the house when they visit. In return the Orange Man gives the owner an orange.

After the parade of the Tutti Men through the streets the Hocktide Lunch takes place for the Hocktide Council, commoners and guests, at which the traditional "Plantagenet Punch" is served. After the meal, an initiation ceremony, known as Shoeing the Colts is held, in which all first-time attendees are shod by the blacksmith. Their legs are held and a nail is driven into their shoe. They are not released until they shout "Punch". Oranges and heated coins are then thrown from the Town Hall steps to the children gathered outside.

There's also a special afternoon event for children to meet the Tutti men and the whole day is topped off by drinks in the Three Swans Hotel.

No wonder she thought I was making it up!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Domestic bliss

As I posted a few months ago, since the McBaby's arrival, we've started hoovering about four to five times a day. That frequency rivals that of my tea-making and so it's probably not too surprising that the nozzle got blocked the other day. I put a pen, followed by a coathanger, into the nozzle to displace the blockage, only to lose them in there somewhere. Clonking the nozzle with great force onto the patio removed some of the weird fuzz that was in there, but it also meant that I have now split the hose.

I trudged back into the house and tried to find the hose online. Success! I got this email from "Partmaster" that contained this link:

"We are pleased to inform you that we have identified the item you require. To order or to view the latest stock availability and price information you should visit http://www.partmaster.co.uk/cgi-bin/product.pl?PID=3260704

Sorry, the product you have selected is unavailable on this site."

But didn't we buy a Dyson after Christmas the last time I broke the hoover? I found it in the cupboard, and switched it on to find that, unlike my life, it didn't suck. I called MrM who told me that it had stopped working last year 5 minutes after he got it out of the box and that we were now the only people in the UK with a Dyson that didn't work.

So we headed to town to look at hoovers, with me grumbling all the way there about how much I hate retail parks on Sundays. I may have grumbled so much that MrM nearly turned the car around, so our Plan B was to head to John Lewis. At least they sell cake as well as hoovers.

At the display, MrM told me I could have whichever one I wanted which was very kind of him. Perhaps he'll let me choose my own ironing board next. Anyway, I selected the Roomba which hoovers when you're out!

"No, not that one."

"You said choose one so I did."

Bravely an employee approached us and asked if we needed help.

"I'd like the Roomba but my 'husband' disagrees."

He advised us that they're great and do an average of four rooms before running out of steam and room in the cylinder. Perfect. We only have two rooms downstairs. But they don't go upstairs (or downstairs, I clarified) and are best for "busy families" which MrM and I couldn't ascertain was the right category for us.

"How about a Dyson?" he asked, to which I said that we had one but it didn't work. "That's very unusual," he said. "Have you called them?"

I assumed MrM had. For some reason he thought I had. Quite why I would have called them when I didn't know it wasn't working, I don't know, but I hadn't. So we sheepishly said we would call them before coming back to buy the Roomba/another hoover.

So after a silent car journey home, we got the Dyson out. In trying to find the phone number and model number, MrM dislodged a large piece of glass from the pipe before finding the McBaby's cricket stump in there. Apparently, hoovers don't like random bits of rubble inside them. If I'd known this, I wouldn't have contemplated a life with a Roomba to do my cleaning.

To misquote James' Sit Down: "If I hadn't seen such riches, I could live with a dirty floor".


Silent Sunday 27.4.14

Friday, 25 April 2014

Five signs you might be on holiday with a toddler

1. As you have to pack trousers, tops, socks, nappies, wipes, a teddy bear plus an extra three of everything just in case, there's only space for you to take one change of clothes. ON our last trip away walking in the Lake District, I managed to pack two tops and no trousers. Quite an embarrassing trip to one of the many outdoor clothing shops in Bowness ensued.

2. Rather than soaking up the sun, you spend HOURS on the beach watching a toddler throw a stone at a time into the sea.

3. You fork out piles of cash to see the local attractions, but your toddler either sleeps through it, or turns his back on the amazing sights and decides to jump in puddles for the afternoon.

4. You can't find a nice place to eat that will take toddlers, so you either eat at 5pm or you have to go to a chain that you'd never go to at home.

5. If you think that recording of The Wheels on the Bus is annoying, just wait until you've heard it for the 129th time.

What are yours?


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The allotment

A long Easter walk we'd planned got panned five minutes in when the McBaby managed to put his hands in some dog poo that the dog's owner didn't feel necessary to clear up. As well as Toxicariasis which could cause blindness, we were also faced with getting a toddler absolutely covered in foul smelling dog poo home and into the bath. Still furious with him, myself for not stopping him and the dog owner, MrM suggested a trip to the allotment might calm me down.

So we got digging and finally sowed some plants and seeds! We couldn't find the trowel anywhere, so used the McBaby's pink beach spade. He was most put out about this and wouldn't let us use it. We distracted him by enlisting his help to fetch water in the watering can and marking off his own garden within the allotment where he will be growing sunflowers and tomatoes.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Happy Easter!

We're off to the Lambourn open day tomorrow, so in the meantime, check out the card and Easter basket the McBaby made for me. Apparently, there was some chocolate in the basket when it left the nursery. It did not make it home.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Did you enjoy the jam tart we made you?

Lovely guy at McBaby's nursery:

"Did you enjoy the jam tart we made you for mother's day?"

Me: "Er what jam tart?"

"The little monkey must have eaten it! We made you a jam tart on Friday". Pauses. "Did you not get the cornflake cakes or the biscuits last week or the sponge the week before either?"

Someone's got a sweet tooth, just like their mum!



It was the armbands that gave me a clue.

Usually when the McBaby asks for "waty", it means he needs a drink of water. But on this occasion, he wanted to go swimming.

I had a look on the local leisure centre website to see if we could go swimming. After getting a blank page three times, I finally ascertained that there was something called "Aquazone" going on. I typed "aquazone" into the site's search box to see what that mean and it said "no results for your search."

So I put us into our swimming outfits and then put him in the car much to his annoyance. "Waty!" he shouted, as he marched down the street towards the leisure centre. When I eventually put him in the car (sadly, I had to take his armbands off to do this), and we arrived at the leisure centre, he couldn't contain his excitement and bounded up the reception desk.

"Sorry, it's swimming lessons," she said as a heartbroken McBaby peered through the glass at two people in the pool, cordoned off into their own compartment taking up less than a quarter of the pool. The majority of the pool was being unused, creating devastation as I explained to the McBaby that he couldn't go in.

I asked about the sister leisure centres in the two neighbouring towns. "Same story", she said. "Are there any other pools anywhere?" I asked. "Well, there's the private place down the road". Yes!

I called them from the car, via that directory enquiries number with the runners. They put me back through to the leisure centre we'd just come from. I tried again, finally getting through to the posh one who said it was adults only.

I tried the hotel where I used to work. No day passes. But would I be interested in joining?

Then I tried one in town that we'd considered joining some time ago as it's gleaming clean! Yes to day passes! And the toddler goes free! And I'd get a tour!

I headed there along the main road, with the McBaby now purple in the face shouting "WATY, WATY, WATY" for 20 minutes only to sense halfway there that someone's nappy needed changing. Let me say that again, someone's LAST swimming nappy. I stopped by the orange supermarket and as he was so upset, and as I'm so responsible, decided that I would run in and out. Except I joined the slowest checkout queue in the world. What seemed like an hour later, I ran back to the car and we went to the posh gym.

We pulled up, got tutted at by a posh lady on the way in (not sure if this is because I look foreign or because we didn't arrive in a 4x4 or if it was because I'd brought our swimming stuff in a Tesco carrier bag). And because of that, the McBaby REFUSED to go in. He lay down on the floor and shouted "NO!"

So we're back home, in our swimming suits. "Waty day."


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A tenth series.....

"The writing team behind "The Adventures of the McBaby" is pleased to announce a 10th series starting today. The sitcom about long-suffering MrM and his ridiculous sidekick MrsM was first shown in 2004.

Critics said it would never last after a patchy pilot episode but the show took off quickly when the characters shared a flat in the first series. In series three, MrsM moved to London and MrM moved to Margate; the pair later reunited in West Berkshire for series five.

Further episodes took place in France, Hong Kong, New York and Toronto, as well as Hungary (remember the episode where MrM turned out to be fluent in Hungarian?), India (where MrsM repeatedly got mistaken for a waitress by the tourists) and a cliffhanger in Norway and a race to get to work on the Monday morning before the Duke of Kent got there.

Writers set the last two series in West Berkshire with the addition of a new character. Originally, there were fears that the series might have jumped the shark with the addition of the "Scrappy Doo" type character but the McBaby has proved to have added to the laughs.

Head writer Unpreparedmum said: "Happy anniversary MrM!"