It’s winter here in Australia, and if you live in the Northern hemisphere you probably don’t believe me, but actually it gets really quite chilly. A couple of days ago, it was hailing as Little Girl and I picked up the children from school (Big Girl and Visiting Child, whom I look after in the afternoons). Getting fed up with the cluster of parents and children waiting for it to die down, I did my best prim British nanny impression, Mary Poppins style, and told the girls to come along, they weren’t made of sugar, we’d all get wet and cold and that was alright because as soon as I got them home we’d turn the heating on and warm up. So off we went, the three little girls obediently trotting at my heels, drove home through some really quite unreasonable weather, and ran for shelter at the other end.
At which point I discovered that there was a suburb-wide power outage. My home is entirely electric; there is no gas or oil heating. There is an old wood oven in the kitchen, Aga-style.
So I sent the children upstairs with a slice of chocolate cake each and an admonishment to “run around, or something” while I tried to light the old stove. It was already getting dark, of course, which may explain why, in searching for the firelighters, I opened a precariously-balanced cupboard and smashed three large casserole dishes. It’s quite hard to ensure that you’ve swept up all the shards of china from three large casserole dishes, in the glooming, which would be why I then snapped at Little Girl when she wandered downstairs – barefoot, naturally – to enquire mournfully ‘We watch Pe’a Pig now? Peeeeeeease?’.
Rang the electricity company. Power might be back on by 9 pm. Rang Lovely Husband, who is sympathetic but oh, did he say, he has to work a bit late tonight?
At that point, down on my knees in the semi-darkness, trying to see shards of china while shooing away small children, worrying about dinner, I had this faint, theoretical thought that went ‘this would have been about the time when I would have felt Very Justified in having a glass of wine‘.
And in that moment, I felt so much better. I was still cold, and it was still dark, and the kids were still bickering. But I wasn’t drinking! And thus a successful evening was born.
Once Visiting Child had been despatched, not visibly shivering but relieved nonetheless, to her mother, I handed each of my girls a torch. ‘Right’, I said, ‘we’re going to have an adventure. How many clothes can you both put on?’. Once swathed in layers, we ran to the car and I introduced them to their first ever pizza bar. ‘Can we help choose the flavour, Mummy? What flavours do they have?’. There are more flavours in this pizza bar, daughter mine, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Also, there are olives. Fill your boots.
By the time we got home, LH had arrived and succeeded in lighting the wood stove, which meant that once the girls were tucked up in their warmest pyjamas and three blankets each, we could heat coffee and lentil soup and glean a little bit of warmth from the stove. ‘It’s just like camping’, he said, ‘all we need is some chocolate and a glass of port’.
‘You might. I’m very happy with my coffee’.