Instagram Phyl's Blog

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The cheek of them!

Out shopping on Saturday evenning when Amaia suddenly noticed: "Asda copied my fashion, mummy! "

Phyllis Buchanan's photo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Amaia came home today with Hamish McHaggis and his diary to fill in. 

We've all been there as parents: you get home some stuffed toy for the weekend or even the week and your child/it (aka you) needs to keep a diary and do a photoshoot of what it gets up to. The teacher then reads your account aloud to the kids when it returns to its place of origin. Of course, its diary has often been filled out by the most competitive parent in town. And when town is East Ren, it can be a hoot! The toy has been to NY shopping for the weekend, had a three course meal at Cameron House and accompanied junior to skiing and tennis lessons, a swimming championship and several parties. Your mood darkens. When you have five kids, you don't go to NY for the weekend anymore, you teach your own kid to swim, dance and cycle because you still only have two jobs but you need to pay for a five bedroom house, not a three. Maybe I've done it too often, maybe I'm just getting too old  for it all but I got this terrible urge to write something inappropriate. Ranting over dinner that I was going to say he'd been to a pole dancing club and then passed out naked and drunk on the carpet, Charlotte looked a bit panicked and took over. I came back from a trip to ASDA to find Lots and Amaia had filled it out without me. My kids think I'm a batty old woman already!

Amaia's teacher was sweet. As we were only having him one night, she said she didn't expect photos or a fun-filled agenda, but Charlotte saved me from myself, this time at least!

Coffee man

Cappuccino maker

Léon drinking coffee

Léon's always been a wee coffee lover. Even at three he knew how to make an espresso!

We've told him he can have a little room of his own when Marcel goes to uni in September instead of sharing the biggest bedroom with Anna and Amaia as he does at the moment. He has been looking forward to it for years because he is a tidy child, and they are prone to leaving every toy and piece of clothing they own on the floor, but when asked what he'd like best, he replied: 'I'll have my own alarm clock, so I'll be able to set it ten minutes before the others so I can come down first and make myself a wee coffee to ease myself into the day!' I have to admit I hadn't expected that, but it made me laugh.

Maybe he could set his alarm 15 minutes early and make three cups instead of one. I'd enjoy the school run much better if I'd woken up to a cappuccino in bed!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nursery uniform

Amaia likes her new nursery jacket

Amaia: Mummy, see when I finish nursery next month, can you put my nursery t-shirts, jumpers and jacket up in a bag in the loft for me?
Me: Well, you won't need them again, you're going to school.
Amaia: I want to keep them for my own kids. I wouldn't send them anywhere else. Hazeldene is the best nursery in the world!
Me: And how many kids are you going to have?
Amaia: I think I'll have three boys and three girls. Our family isn't really fair to the boys!

Awwwh - the world of a 5 year old

Amaia: Mummy?
Me: Yes?
Amaia: Do you think Charlotte was the actress who played Rapunzel in Tangled? She's got the same hair and she has green eyes too... And I've never seen them together, you know!
(Hmmmm - I don't think Rapunzel has as many freckles!)

Imagine how cool it must be if you are five, to think your sister, who has the bedroom next to your own, is actually the real Rapunzel!

Monday, May 11, 2015


Anna's birthday - Dad, Amaia and I

Three years and one hour ago my dad died. It feels like a lifetime ago, and strangely, at the same time, it feels like an hour ago, a minute ago, less. If I close my eyes I can relive every moment of that afternoon.

At the time, I said I'd write about it when I was ready. I expected that'd be after a few days or weeks. With time it has become apparent that I would never be more ready, or less ready.

So today is the anniversary. Do I miss him more today than I did yesterday, or will tomorrow? No. Does the anniversary bring it more to the forefront of my thoughts? Not really. It isn't a calendar date that brings it back, it is life itself, at the most unexpected moments. I get up in the morning and Chris Evans randomly plays a Stevie Wonder track on his breakfast show and I think of him. Each May I see bluebells and I remember his love of the bluebell woods at his golf course. I see men in their 70s dragging their trolleys round the golf course on my school run and I can't help but think that isn't fair. He should still be out there. I read articles by Wee Ginger Dug such as his analysis of last week's election and think this would have made my dad laugh. I'm not even ashamed to admit that when I see old friends wishing their parents a happy 80th on Facebook, I feel that he and we were somehow shortchanged. Why did so many of my friends' parents get to celebrate their 70th birthday when he didn't, so we didn't?

So in the aftermath, life has become a list - a list we add to every day, a list of moments and memories he missed out on. Some are momentous: like the birth of his granddaughter, of course, but even just from my own immediate family's point of view he missed Charlotte taking a stance against her father which led to his three oldest grandchildren changing their lives entirely, and their subsequent name change to Buchanan, which I hope would have blown him away. He missed my son achieving remarkable school results and getting into Edinburgh university. He missed Marcel's trip to India. He missed Charlotte growing up into a strong, clever and beautiful young woman confidently following in her brother's academic footsteps, with a rather different, calmer personality. He even missed seeing her in a dress for her prom. We didn't get to throw him a Golden wedding anniversary party last month, the same month as his friends, because he didn't make that milestone when they did. As I picked my mum up alone that night I watched the hundreds of guests stroll out laughing and smiling and realized that the whole family had missed out on that celebration. Until that night, I had thought of it as something, they had missed out on as a couple without measuring the greater joy that would have been had by it. He wasn't there when my friend died unexpectedly just a few months after he did. He missed Scotland's political awakening. Despite last September's defeat, he'd have enjoyed participating in that, and would still be fighting with us, as it was so dear to his heart. He didn't get to hear Léon learning to play the violin. And the girls were just four and two back then. Now they are clever, confident, capable little girls who would have loved nothing better than a Pumpa hug. Of course, there are the silly things too - we never got to introduce him to our hamsters - he hated cats till we got cats, maybe he'd have been amused by Rosie and Lily! He never got to taste Thomas's homemade wine, or see my little car or photograph the flowers in my garden or simply sit with us and keep our family complete. It's all our fates, of course, but you would have put money on him still being a Pumpa at just 72, would you?

So every day my heart aches for my mum, who shouldn't be alone and for my kids and Derek's who should still have a grandfather, and a little for us too - I miss sharing our life with him.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A strange thing happened

A strange thing happened to me last week...

It was Wednesday evening. Marcel asked if I'd drop him at work. Léon was on cooking duty and had asked to make fish fingers. After a quick glance I realized we needed a few extra so I intended to go to the supermarket, drop Marcel and then come home. As I was considering this plan, however, mum turned up for a chat and things got pushed. I realized I'd have to do it in the reverse order. Then I realized that if I didn't go to ASDA till after Marcel's 6pm drop off, dinner would be late. I hatched a plan B. Drop Marcel, nip into the wee Coop corner shop and be back by 6-10pm.

So after dropping Marcel I rushed, absent-mindedly into the corner shop. It's a shop I almost never use but I knew the freezer was at the back of one of their three aisles. I picked up my fish and joined the back of a short three-person queue. In front of me was a man who looked late 50s in a fleece and woolly hat, in front of him was an elderly woman. There was less than a metre between each of us. The man turned to me and looked me up and down. I thought to myself 'You are a bit forward!' as he made me feel vaguely ill at ease but said nothing and continued waiting politely in the queue, mulling over the coming election. He turned away. Then he turned back, looking somewhat disgruntled and stared at me again from top to bottom. I was obviously familiar to him, I was obviously displeasing to him. I searched my memory for who I could have annoyed but no one came to mind. He lent forward and whispered barely audibly to me 'I don't know if you read my message?' It's always so embarrassing when you know someone but you can't place them, don't you find? So with lightning speed I calculated the variables in my head. He knows me, he has sent me messages I should read, I have no idea who he is. I narrowed him down to two possibilities: someone I know through one of the kids' schools, (did I dodge a request to help out at the school summer gala day or disco?) or someone I know through politics (it's true that over the course of the campaign I have received numerous requests to canvas, drop leaflets, man SNP stalls, participate in something for Women for Indy (I ruled that one out - he didn't look like a WFI kind of guy!) - maybe I did omit to read or reply to all of them and with the election the following day, of course he'd be annoyed if I ignored him, whoever he was... Grasping for an extra few seconds to choose between the two options before trying 'Do I know you?', I looked at my feet, and saw his: sandal-like shoes, jogging type trousers... I looked at him from bottom to top and finally the penny dropped in all its shock. It was my ex-husband! It was a man I had barely seen in nearly a decade but I genuinely had not recognized him. I hadn't even come close. Maybe if he hadn't had on a hat? But I had no inkling who he was! He did look very vaguely familiar but it took three questioning looks and several minutes for me to place him. The rest of the conversation is irrelevant here, but I never believed I would come this far in such a short time. Ten years ago I was living with a man who I cannot even pick out of a line-up anymore. How surreal is that?

And as I stared at my present, in some alternative universe, standing before me, I felt a strange calm and contentment. That present, with that future is unimaginable to me now. I am so happy with my current life (money stresses slightly excepted!) and that future left me completely cold and unmoved. For years even the sight of his name attached to an email or text filled me with dread, but he has become a stranger, an irrelevance who no longer has any bearing on my present. And for that I am immensely thankful.

I definitely made the right call nearly ten years ago.