Christmas Joy?

One of several bags of out-grown toys
One of several bags of out-grown toys

Well, against the odds and working like maniacs, we’ve, somehow or other, managed to just about, nearly, finish the decorating. I’m not sure how we fitted in the room clearance, painting, shopping for new furniture, the car boot sale to get rid of outgrown toys and living in a house which looked like it should be the star of Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders – but we did. And it looks great and the blood, sweat and tears and five hours of sorting out cupboards (yes, really) has all been worth it.

Just in time too as it’s nearly Christmas and we still didn’t have a tree despite the girls’ cries and pleading. This isn’t because I’m anti-Christmas tree but because there was nowhere to put the damn thing. But now the house is back to normal, it was time to remedy this situation. Now, only once in my adult-home-owning life have I had a real Christmas tree. This was the first year I left home when I swore I would not follow my parents’ example and have the real McCoy ever, single year. It would be beautiful. It would be sustainable. It would make my new flat smell delightful. It would make a right bloody mess all over my brand-new carpet. I only ever did it the first year and then followed in my parents’ footsteps and bought an artificial one.

This year, however, I had a real hankering for a real tree. I’m not sure why. I can only think twenty years had dulled the memory of the pine needle mess. So, yesterday, I was excited with the thought of us all going as a family to choose a tree. I was excited but, unfortunately, the rest of my family weren’t.

My daughters’ (who are clearly teenagers in the making) weren’t even dressed when my husband returned home from work at two o’clock in the afternoon. They both seemed to think that lounging around in their PJs was preferable to getting dressed and going and picking a tree that they had been wanting for the past three weeks and asked if we could just get the one out of the loft instead. To be honest, their complete lack of interest in something I had been looking forward to all week was a blow but I sucked-up the hurt and agreed. Then one of my daughters changed her mind as she decided she couldn’t wait a year to get a real tree. Then she asked what a real tree was. “Err, it’s like the one in the loft but made of…err…tree,” was the best I could come up with.

My other daughter then decided that if her sister was going to pick a tree she would too but made it very plain that this was only under sufferance and that she wouldn’t enjoy it at all. “I bet it’ll smell horrible in the shop,” she declared as I bit my tongue very hard. Then my husband, who I had mistakenly seen as an ally, got out his tape measure and went to measure the boot of the car. He came back in and announced we couldn’t possible buy a tree any bigger than six-foot as it wouldn’t fit into the enormous, gigantic boot of our estate car. At this point, I wanted to shout, “You miserable lot! Sod the real tree and just get the artificial one out of the loft again!!”. But I didn’t because, it may not have been how I imagined it, but I was going to get the tree I wanted. So biting my tongue again so it was practically bleeding, I climbed into the car with the rest of the Grinch family.

I’m pleased to say, that once we arrived at the Garden Centre and saw the trees, my family cheered-up and got well and truly into the Christmas spirit. The girls bounced around with squeals of delight as we chose the tree and my husband even joined in without getting out his tape measure to check the chosen specimen would fit into the car.

And, of course, it didn’t so we had to wait at the Garden Centre whilst he took the tree home and came back for us. We even bought a second tiny, table-top tree for the Dining Room and some Christmas foliage in his absence. He didn’t even pull a face as we showed it to him. The Christmas tree spirit won through in the end.

Guaranteed to cheer up Scrooge himself
Guaranteed to cheer up Scrooge himself

Sweet Krampusnacht

After banging on about my Krampus Cracker story, thought it was time to share it with you all. The inspiration came from the commercialisation of Krampus in Europe and the States with chocolate Krampus being made and Krampus parties being thrown. I tried to imagine how Krampus would feel about this.

 

Krampus sighed as he bit the head off the mini chocolate replica of himself. How has it come to this, he thought. I used to be feared and dreaded. People were terrified of me. Mothers told their children terrible stories about how I would haul them kicking and screaming off to the underworld if they weren’t good.

For years the stories had been repressed, first by the Catholic Church and then by the fascists, as the tales were believed to be too frightening, too horrifying to be heard. Krampus had been forced to hide away in his cave, biding his time until he was heard and remembered again. He knew the time would come. Stories of demons and devils and bogey-men were never forgotten for long. So he had waited patiently until, finally, the moment arrived.

Krampus had shaken with delight when he heard his name being whispered once more. He’d dusted off his chains and bells. He’d polished his horns and sharpened his fangs. He’d even bought a new bunch of birch twigs from a woodsman who lived nearby. Krampus could hardly contain his excitement when the whispers became louder and louder until they had turned to shouts which hurt his ears and set his fangs on edge. But, somehow or other, he’d managed to control himself and keep his emotions in check. That was, until tonight – Krampusnacht.

As the sun slipped away over the horizon, Krampus had rushed out of his cave with a deafening roar, whipping and thrashing his chains and bells around his head with a ferocity not even he knew he possessed. He had stomped into town baring his fangs and brandishing his bundle of birch twigs at all he passed. But no-one had been scared. Nobody had screamed, trembled and tried to run away. Instead they had laughed, pointed and taken photos of him on their phones. One child had even dared to hand him the mini chocolate replica of himself with not just a smile but a hug.

I’ll show them, Krampus muttered, ripping off the replica’s arm and swallowing it whole. They’ll be sorry when they see who I really am, he growled, stuffing the mini chocolate Krampus’ legs into his mouth. Just let them wait. I’ll make sure they’ll never sleep soundly in their beds again, he snarled, ramming the remainder of the sweet-tasting figure between his lips. But first, he said, licking his fingers, I’ll have to have another one of these.

 

 

More Krampus Crackers

Krampus Cracker!
Krampus Cracker!

I wrote previously, in my post Launch Night, about my experience of being involved in Krampus inspired writing project in Leeds. I had a fantastic night listening to many of the other authors’ take on the Krampus tale and sharing my own too.

 

I’m pleased to say that two other blog sites have and are currently publishing all twelve of the Krampus tales, complete with the fantastic illustrations that go with them. If you have five or ten minutes to spare, put your feet-up, grab a cuppa and a biscuit of two and enjoy. You can find the stories at:

http://www.bigbookend.co.uk  and http://www.thestateofthearts.co.uk (which includes my story).

Another very unexpected and massive bonus was the Liars’ League in London selected two of the stories to be performed at their Christmas evenings. Liars’ League take fiction and have it performed by actors, which makes a fantastic change from writers having to get up and read their own stuff. But I guess it’s easier to do that in London where there are a plethora of actors than in East Yorkshire where there are not so many. I was very excited, proud and pleased as punch to be chosen as one of the two. You can see the reading of my story on their website where there is a YouTube link. Just check out their website at http://www.liarsleague.com and look for Sweet Krampusnacht.

All in all, I truly wonderful experience and I am so glad I submitted despite only ever writing one piece of flash fiction before. I guess that’s all you can do – keep doing what you do and, fingers crossed, someone, somewhere will like it.

 

Further house reclaimation

One of several bags of out-grown toys
One of several bags of out-grown toys

Now that the excitement of the Krampus Crackers launch night has died down, I decided it was time to get back to my latest project – reclaiming my house back from my children. Or, more correctly, claiming it back from the hundreds and hundreds of their toys.

I broached the subject carefully and with much fore-thought with my husband who, luckily, agreed with me. Actually, what I did was stamp my feet and act like a petulant child until, sensibly, he agreed with me. You may think that this might be enough to have me jumping for joy and reaching for the paintbrushes but we’ve been at the discussing redecorating point many, many times before. This is usually as far as it gets due to lack of energy, will-power and interest. However, this time I’m determined not to let the feeling to do something pass me by so I decided to tackle the first and biggest hurdle to reclaiming my house head on. I spoke to my daughters.

Divide and conquer is a tactic used by many strategists and if it’s good enough for them it should surely work on two six-year olds. To be honest, I’ve tried it many times before and it’s rarely been successful. There’s always one child who digs their heals in and turns on the tears, scuppering my plans. I wasn’t holding out much hope of it working this time either due in a large part to the fact that one of my girls seems to have an obessive hoarding condition.

This condition manifests itself in the inability to throw anything away. A selection of items that I have found squirreled away under her bed include; a yogurt pot lid, pairs of old knickers that no longer fit (clean, I’m pleased to say) and an old dirty tissue (which certainly wasn’t clean). Her latest trick to try to hold onto everything she has ever owned is to beg, plead and cry that it is needed for when she has a baby of her own; though what a baby would want with a yogurt pot lid, old knickers and a snotty, used tissue is beyond me. My counter defensive move is to promise to put things in the ‘loft’. If she every looks in the loft she will be in for a big shock. Perhaps, I’ll just have to say that ‘loft’ and ‘bin’ are very similar words.

So you could have blown me down with a feather when said child agreed to my demands of sorting and getting rid of some toys. She even helped me, which was when I was expecting her to change her mind and turn on the tears. But she didn’t. Granted, the pile of things to get rid of was not as large as I would have liked but it was much, much, much larger than I was expecting. Which goes to show, no matter how well you think you know somebody, they can always surprise you. Now, I just have to find a home for all the toys before she changes her mind.

Krampus Crackers UK

If you are in Leeds this Christmas, stop, have a coffee & look out for Krampus Crackers

Tiny Owl Workshop

The ever wonderful, Vicky Pointing has gathered some fabulous elfin helpers and rolled and folded and prettied up hundreds of Krampus Crackers in time for Xmas.

Each cracker contains one Krampus tale and an illustration. The stories were chosen by Vicky and writer and fellow judge, Steve Toase, and they’ll be available at cafes around Leeds.

More soon!

Krampus Cracker elves

Vicky with Krampus Crackers

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Launch night

Krampus Cracker!
Krampus Cracker!

IMG-20141204-WA0000

Last night was the launch of a Christmas writing project which was conceived by Tiny Owl Workshops and brought to life in the UK by a lovely lady called Vicky Pointing. The project took the story of Krampus as the inspiration for twelve pieces of flash fiction, which have been written by twelve different authors. If (like me before the project) have no idea who Krampus is, he is the anti-Santa Klaus. A goat-like demon who would frighten children into being good or else haul them off to the underworld.

I was really happy, excited and proud to be chosen as one of the writers. The stories have all been illustrated by professional artists and have been put into Christmas crackers which are to be left in cafes around Leeds. If you are in Leeds this Christmas, look out for them!

Apart from the obvious high of being chosen as one of the writers, I was pleased because this was only the second piece of Flash Fiction I’d ever written. I love Flash Fiction. It’s great to read if you only have five minutes to spare with a cup of coffee. It’s also great if, like me, you would love to write a novel or full length play but find that after a week or two (maybe a month if I’m lucky) you get fed up, bored and want to start something new. That’s why I like blogging. It gives me a finished piece in one sitting. I think you have to just accept the kind of writer you are. I’d love to be able to write long, beautiful prose but that’s not who I am. No matter how much I try long and want it, I could never do that.

The launch night itself was fab and not just because of the three free glasses of wine I drunk. Nine of the authors were there and it was amazing and interesting to hear their takes on the story of Krampus. The venue, Outlaws Yacht Club in Leeds, was amazing too. It was a quirky, shabby-chic kind of place, with art work on the walls and home-made Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling which made me want to replicate them but knowing that there was no way I could. I’m definitely a writer not an artist, more’s the pity.

The end of the night meant a mad dash to the train station to catch the last train back to Hull. Lots of running with a big Mary Poppins type handbag on one shoulder and a bag with a full set of the Krampus Crackers in the other. As I was doubled over, huffing and puffing when I finally made it to the platform, I realised that I couldn’t have done either the writing or the running two years ago. To quote Fat Boy Slim, “You’ve come a long way, Baby.”

House reclaimation

These don't belong in a dining room!
These don’t belong in a dining room!

When I first started this blog, one of my intentions was to decorate my bedroom. My house hadn’t been decorated since before my girls were born and my bedroom really needed some attention. The only problem was that I’m not very good at decorating. In fact, I’m being kind to myself here – actually I am totally rubbish at decorating. But, never mind, I had time on my hands with my daughters starting school and it seemed like a good project to undertake. Two years on, it’s still not completely finished due in part to me being rubbish at decorating and in a much larger part to not liking decorating. My husband, who is quite good at decorating, also hates doing it and works seven days a week so it’s the last thing he feels like doing when he gets in on an evening. Consequently, the bedroom ground to a resounding halt.

Added to this is the added joy of being a parent. Being a parent is great but, and I’m sure most parents will agree with me, would be even better if your house and life wasn’t overtaken by masses and masses of toys. I have never been one of those parents who insist their children get rid of toys if they are not ready to. I think it must be hard and scary to be a child sometimes with, for the most part, your life in the control of adults. For a child, your things must become very important to you and a way of asserting your own little bit of independence; so who are we as adults to insist that some are got rid of? That’s why when one of my girls tells me the really can’t part with a teddy that they didn’t even know they had which still has a tag on its ear, I let them keep it and comfort myself that this hoarding tendency won’t last forever. I hope or they’ll be future stars of Channel 4s Compulsive Hoarders programme.

This is probably another reason why I gave up on decorating. What was the point when virtually every room has been invaded by dolls, prams, teddies, games and books? OK, I don’t mind the books but you get the picture. However, this week I seem to have awoken from this malaise and in have decided to reclaim my house. After all, my girls are seven in a couple of months and its high time some toys were given away. More importantly, I’d like to be able to have distinct rooms again, you know, like a dining room and a living room without having to look at a bright orange and green cooker and a box of Barbies.

The only problem in reclaiming my house is that I’ll have to also decorate (sob) and confront my daughters’ hoarding habits. Hmmm, perhaps in the New Year.