‘Why are you so quiet? You are lost.’ I hear you say in the Kenyan fashion – which means ‘where are you?’ ‘Where have you been?’
In fact, nobody has actually expressed an interest as to why I haven’t updated in a week, but I’ll press on nonetheless. The fact is things have a little been busy of late, as is usual for this time of year. Last week I had hoped for a quiet one, but events, as usual, conspired against it.
1. It was my daughter’s birthday party. I was tremendously relaxed about this. She wanted a cinema trip, a mini disco and a sleepover for eight friends. What could be easier? I’d just send out for pizza. It was only when I was faced with the gaggle of seven and eight year old girls that I remembered the noise levels involved. Corralling them inside the cinema was as easy as herding cats. Once watching the film that some of them pointedly told me they had already seen loads of times before, they kept popping to the loo or standing up on their seats, then crashing down and hurting themselves.
Once my husband and I had thankfully got them home, the real fun began. ‘Are you still my friend?’ rang out more than once above the disco music. I sent in our best weapon, our ten year old daughter, to negotiate a truce. One little girl stomped upstairs and said, ‘nobody is playing with me, they are all so mean!’ I suggested a warm bath. Pick up at eleven am the next day could not have come soon enough.
2. My parents-in-law have been staying for nigh on a month. They were no trouble. They went away to the beach for ten days in the middle of it all and were quick to offer to shop for meals and do school runs. The only problem was that I had to fast-track my Christmas shopping so that I could send things back to England with them. This meant a trip to the Masai Market followed by some frantic wrapping up. Nothing like being catapulted into the Christmas spirit. Somehow I am never ready for it.
3. It was my birthday. It wasn’t a big, important birthday, but my birthday nonetheless. Ahead of time, it was with mild irritation that I found I was copied into a group email circulated by my husband to his friends asking who was ‘on’ for a Rhino Charge dinner at the Carnivore on 25th November. This evening in question has, over the years, become one of my pet hates. It’s expensive and boring. I’ve attended many.
This time, I put my foot down (in front of my in-laws – wince!) and said I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than do the Carnivore again – but what to do instead? I thought of a lunch, but after a little ground work I discovered my friends seemed busy with school runs and the like that day, so eventually I settled on suggesting a girls’ night out.
Such a shame that a girls-night-out in Nairobi means that you are actually asking your friends to take their life in their hands, running the gauntlet of highjackers and thieves or certain death, to venture out unaccompanied in order to share a paltry drink on a friend’s birthday. Plus, from my side, there’s the added stress of who, in these circumstances, will actually pitch and, let’s face it, have you really got any friends anyway?
In the end, we were ten and I had a fine old time. The ‘Carnivore’ boys intercepted us at the end and we danced til 1am. Everyone got home safe.
4. The next morning, our five year old had a dance exam. I was never really convinced by this idea but I learned that all her ‘group’ at school were enrolled, so it would almost have been cruel not to have signed her up. The only problem was that my daughter could not have been less interested. She blankly refused to attend weekend rehearsals (my husband dragged her along once and she resolutely sat to one side). I managed to convince her to attend the exam, but only after we had had a huge row about the fact that she would be compelled to wear pink. After struggling her into her leotard and shepherding her over to the ‘hair arranging’ station, wanting to avoid yet another fight, I pretended I had some very important texting to do outside. When I returned, my daughter looked up at me doe eyed. I hardly recognised her. The hair that usually hangs unruly all over her face was scraped back into a high bun. She looked furious.
Parents were not allowed to watch the exam, which was a good thing since that morning, I needed a strong coffee. ‘How did it go?’ I asked when she re-emerged. The ballet teachers also came out of the sacrosanct room, laughing. ‘I fell over.’ My daughter said, deadpan.
5. Sports days. In their wisdom, the older two daughters who are at the same school, have sports days on consecutive Wednesdays, first the juniors then the seniors. Even though it’s rainy season, it’s always a sweltering afternoon in the hot sun and us parents squash up under an inadequate shade of a row of gum trees, either shooting out into open ground with the camera when it is our own darling’s turn to run, or kicking ourselves that we missed the one race our child was in, due to having arrived ten minutes late. To endure this not once but twice, is hard work.
6. The saving grace in all this has been the construction of our entirely and not at all credit crunch friendly, hedonistic swimming pool! (photos to follow). Our garden lawn is now criss-crossed by dirty great trenches intended for power lines (KPLC – where are you?) but the enormous, cemented hole in the ground is beginning to look a little prettier as the tiles are now being laid. After a couple of months, Gladys and Florence have got the morning distribution of tea and bread down to a fine art. To cheer ourselves after a long day, each evening my husband and I take a cup of tea outside so that we can gaze at the hole. We also have an inane chat with the foreman who is probably dying to get home by then. (he must love that!)
After the 6am alarm clock went off this morning, my eldest daughter came in for a snuggle. I was still fast asleep as I’d already had an interrupted night with the youngest who arrived at around three to say she couldn’t wait to open her advent calendar and at four by the middle one who had apparently had a bad dream, but it wasn’t that bad and she was too embarrassed to tell me what happened in it.
Anyway, the eldest arrived saying ‘Mum, I really need a mirror for my dressing table with lots of drawers in it to keep all my things, like the one in that magazine.’
I said drowsily. ‘You are getting a swimming pool you lucky things. Christmas is not just about thinking up all sorts of things that take your fancy. And what about that Nintendo DS that you just HAD to HAD to HAD to have last week?’
Response – big sigh.
‘But Mummy, I don’t want a swimming pool. I want a mirror.’ Grr.