A Festive Family Walk

It’s what you do, isn’t it? A lovely long walk with the family and a bouncy dog, blow off all those cobwebs, burn off some of those Christmas calories and work up an appetite for the next feast.

So this is how it actually goes: Husband announces: “Right, are we going on this walk or not?” and puts on his boots.

First hurdle, as always, is breaking this desperate news to my poor son, Boy Genius, who has vital work to do on his laptop in his new fleece onesie. After faking tears, then anger, then sulks, he demands to know just why he has to come. “So we can spend some time as a family just chatting,” I say brightly. “So why don’t I stay here and Facetime you?” he groans.

Leaving him to get dressed, I quickly wash up the 126 glasses that have materialised in the kitchen since breakfast, wipe down all the surfaces, and sort out the recycling. I run upstairs to put on thick socks, set my daughter’s hair and the give the over-used bathroom a quick spray n clean. This is when a Holmes-style examination of the electric toothbrush heads arrangement reveals Boy Genius hasn’t brushed his teeth since Christmas Eve. Boy Genius is summoned to the bathroom and given a stern talk, and brushes his teeth while I put away all the ironing I did earlier.

Balloon Copter

It looks so exciting!

Oooh such fun - and educational too!

Oooh such fun – and educational too!

Balloon copter in the grass


Balloon copter flopped

You can SMELL the disappointment, can’t you?

Boy Genius then decides the walk will be half-worthwhile if he brings one of his presents, a balloon helicopter from the Science Museum, with us. At least, it says Science Museum on the box, but any scientists who actually had anything to do with this ear-splitting flop want shoving in a box and out with the recycling themselves.

Back downstairs, Husband’s tiny concentration span has dissolved and he is playing virtual table tennis. Once he is re-roused, the dog is harnessed and our pockets stuffed with plastic dog-dump bags. Only now does The Festive Family Walk begin.

Boy Genius cheers up telling me the pros and cons of dual play on Portal 2. Daughter climbs trees, Husband complains about the mud, and the dog tries to savage a lovely old English sheepdog called Alfie that got within six feet of her. She celebrates this victory by rolling in fox shit.

We go home, I shampoo the dog and then we spend a lovely family afternoon dipping mini-doughnuts in warm chocolate sauce. This is our new festive family tradition.

Baby, it’s cold inside

Two greatest inventions of the last century: Antibiotics and CENTRAL HEATING.
Ours has stopped. For two weeks it was half on, and for the last week it has been totally and unutterably OFF.
How the hell did people cope before radiators? Our house is a windtunnel at the best of times (please, Santa, double glazing, please please please) but without any heating or hot water it has become igloo-esque.

Yes, yes we are all wearing triple layers of clothing – vests under t-shirts under jumpers, tights under trousers (not my husband. I don’t think anyway). But this is HORRIBLE. You feel bundled up, restricted and uncomfortable, and any kind of mild exertion leaves you itchy with sweat – and still cold.

And yes, of course we have portable heaters, and they are rubbish. They have two settings: Lukewarm and off.
The real misery is walking out of a relatively warm room into an icy blast, or waking up to a frozen bedroom and braving a sub-zero bathroom.


This is as warm as it gets in the House of Chill

So we have been going out a lot and absorbing the warmth from shops and cafes in the hope of somehow radiating it out again when we get home. But there are few things more dreary than coming in from a grey December day to an even greyer house.

You can’t dry anything, so towels stay damp and flannels continue to drip. I put the washing on top of the dishwasher to try and air it (we haven’t yet all gathered around the dishwasher to soak up the escaping hot steam, but it is only a matter of time).
Things feel cold that never usually feel cold: the bannisters, cutlery, soap, the dog.

Looks cosy eh? It isn't. It's rubbish

Looks cosy eh? It isn’t. It’s rubbish

Something happens to a house when there is no heat. The air gets very still, presumably because there are no warm air currents **science face**. It starts to feel unoccupied and unfriendly, malevolent even…
You lose your energy, you become stiff with sitting hunched up, you try not to move from room to room, you feel the dark roots of depression start to sink into your psyche, like fungal spores slowly spreading.

Only the demigod that is the heating engineer can save me from this icy abyss.