Shrinky Dink knickers!

I have to admit to being a teeny bit negligent in the washing department recently.  Also the folding and putting away facility seems to have closed down.  The end of the school year means that I have no urgent need for clean school clothes for my children.  Of course my husband still has to go to work and I just about manage to make sure he is provided for – he is very stoical about these things and knows I will resume normal business soon.

However, we did have a little girls’ knickers crisis the other morning as they had run out of clean knickers.  Clean knickers were retrieved from the heads of various stuffed toys, and we then had a wrong colour knickers crisis.  It was duly pointed out that there was a choice between wrong colour knickers, no knickers or dirty knickers.  It was also pointed out that the stuffed toys were NOT going to wear dirty knickers and they could manage for a day without their ‘directional ear trainers’.

Once my sulking daughters were clothed and eating their breakfast I told them the story of my bad knickers day when I was a child …

… long, long ago I used to go to a rather posh school with a strict dress code.  Our uniform was bottle green – even the knickers.  Of course, being a rather naughty little girl I didn’t always wear my bottle green knickers.  The only day we HAD to wear them was when we had gym or netball.  (For some bizarre reason we did sport in our knickers and a gym shirt until we were in senior school, then we got to wear a sports skirt.)

One morning I was getting ready for school when I realized it was a netball day and I didn’t have a clean pair of uniform knickers.  I raced downstairs and broke the bad news to my mother.  We were both worried and close to panic as my rather posh school was also rather strict and not only would I get into trouble for having non-regulation knickers but my mum would too.  My mother, however, was resourceful.

In between cooking breakfast for our lodgers and making packed lunches for my brothers and me, she managed to wash a pair of my knickers.  This was great, I had clean knickers but they were wet.  How on earth could we dry them?  We had wrung them as dry as possible, but the seams were still wet.  My mother had the amazing idea of drying them in the oven!!  Brilliant!!  My mum put my nice clean knickers on a baking tray, popped them in the oven, then resumed her busy morning routine.  I had my breakfast and got my school bag ready.

Then I waited for my knickers.

I didn’t dare interrupt my mother who was doing her usual morning magic of extreme multi-tasking.

I waited for my knickers.

I didn’t dare stop my mother from going upstairs and getting herself ready for work.

I could smell something nasty.

“MUMMM!!!  MY KNICKERS!” I finally managed to scream up the stairs.  My mum raced down the stairs, crashed open the oven door, avoided the billow of poisonous smoke and snatched out the baking tray with something on it that was smelling and smoking badly.

As my mother burst out laughing and I burst out crying the smoke cleared enough for us to see that my nice, clean bottle green knickers were now very black, very small and very brittle.  In true 1970’s style, my knickers were mainly made of plastic, so they melted rather than dried.  Without knowing it, my mother made the first pair of Shrinky Dink knickers!

Of course I didn’t get to wear my uniform knickers to school that day.  As my teacher blasted me out for wearing the wrong knickers I kept silent about the early morning trauma, instinctively knowing that I wouldn’t be believed.

I put some washing on, while my daughters continued to laugh.

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Fiddlehead ferns and a whiff of nostalgia

I was trying to do some fast shopping the other day and was zipping around the aisles extra fast.  I was on the final stretch – fresh fruit and veg – well, as fresh as it gets in a big supermarket!  I was speeding towards the salads when suddenly I screeched to a halt.  Among the washed and bagged lettuce and the sprayed and sterile vegetables were fiddlehead ferns.  They were in a big bag, looking greenly fresh among all the processed stuff.  They weren’t processed in any way … just … picked.

I was instantly transported back to an English springtime in the Forest of Dean, when my children were toddlers.  A short drive from our house was the most magnificent bluebell woodland.  For a few weeks each spring, these ordinary woods are transformed into a spectacular display of nature at her best.  There was a bumpy track that I would push the buggy along, my older daughter trotting beside me.  We watched those bluebell stems rise out of the ground as the leaves in the beech trees above began to unfurl their pale green leaves.  The leaves grew and darkened and the bluebells blossomed into a carpet of perfumed mauve that covered the woodland floor.  As the bluebells reached their peak the bracken was rapidly pushing its way up and the fiddleheads were visible through the bluebell leaves.  Within days the bracken (or ferns) had pushed past the bluebells to dominate the woodland floor.  Both my girls loved to toddle off in pursuit of the perfect bluebell while I wistfully looked on.  I would be remembering the days of my childhood, when I could gather great armfuls of bluebells to fill all the vases on my return home.  Now, we are not allowed to pick any wild flowers.

There were many woodland walks near our village and we had bought an all-terrain, 3-wheeled double buggy to cope with the bumpy tracks.  Pushing both my little girls around could get pretty tiring so I usually stuck to the bigger tracks.  Occasionally I would get a little bored with the same old tracks and would branch out down smaller paths.

One day I must have been awfully bored, as I decided to take a steep path UPWARDS!  I was following the dry bed of a stream, so it was pretty bumpy.  My dear babies were fast asleep, drooling slightly and looking gormless.  Onward and upward I valiantly marched, not really noticing that the path had got steeper and narrower until I stopped to get my breath and my bearings.

The path I was following was getting rather faint and I took careful note of the direction it took.  The gradient quickly became steep enough that I took more of a weightlifter’s pose as I walked – one leg outstretched, the other leg sharply bent at the knee, arms straight out above my head, holding a great weight.  My children seemed to be getting heavier by the second.  I looked up to find that I was wading through undergrowth rather than following a path and the pointed front of my trusty buggy was all snarled up with brambles, which was why I couldn’t move.  I put the brakes on and moved around to the front of the buggy, only to jump back and apply the other two brakes quickly as the buggy had started to roll down the hill.  The brakes didn’t work.  I was a bit upset about this until I realized that we were on such a steep angle that grappling hooks would have been better.

Forwards was no longer an option, so I had to do a careful reverse back down the cliff face.  By the time I got home I was an exhausted, sweaty mess.  As usual the children would sleep soundly until I gently parked them by the front door, hoping to have a few minutes peace.  As usual, they woke up the minute I thought I had succeeded.

I miss those baby days, days of walking through the cool woods watching the bluebells and ferns.  However I don’t miss them enough to even consider eating fiddlehead ferns, so I grab my bags of sanitized salad and beat a hasty retreat.

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