Monday, August 13, 2018

A 25 year mortgage


Twenty-five years ago today, I got the keys to my first west end flat. Top, left, 9 Havelock street. I remember it vividly... Friday 13 August 1993! There was an omen in there if I'd looked for it, I think!😉 I was never the superstitious type, but I do remember thinking it was a funny choice of day to take on a twenty-five year loan.

Our removal men dumped all our furniture (most of which we'd bought at the Barras and various other second-hand places) on the pavement as they couldn't block the single-lane one-way street. An old busy body came marching up the street and looked us up and down... Are you moving in or out? she asked, or rather demanded. In, I replied tentatively. Good! she spat back, 'cause I hated the people before you - loud, dirty, loose morals... OMG, I thought, what have we done?!

Not only did it turn out she lived in number 9, but she lived directly beneath us and having been there since 'the Clydebank blitz', she assumed the role of close-matriarch and acted as if she owned the whole block and made all the rules! She was an absolute nightmare. On numerous occasions I found her in my kitchen going through my fridge and when I learned to lock the storm doors we used to see her beady eyes peering through our waist-height letterbox at various times of the day and night! 

When we decided to sand our floorboards, I elected André to go down and ask if there was any time she was usually out so we could do it then so as not to disturb her. I won't live below sanded floors, was her ever so helpful reply! Every time I hammered in a nail to hang one of my photos, she was up like a shot screaming through our letterbox, and eventually being completely ignored by us as we hid inside giggling. 

After about two years a nephew turned up and carted her off to an old folks' home and peace returned to Havelock street!

So if things had remained as they started out in that flat - with both of us young and reasonably happy, my mortgage would have been up today. No more sending £1000 a month to the Bank of Scotland - boy would that have been nice! But it wasn't to be... we drifted apart and separated 12 years later and so my current mortgage still has twelve more years to run (assuming we get to stay here in the UK).

Would I trade my current husband for no mortgage? You bet I wouldn't! I am older and tireder now, but he and our kids are definitely worth £1000 a month!

Summer holiday 2018

We took off a week at the beginning of the holidays when Thomas's sister was here, and another last week as we had some odds and ends to get sorted. The first was a holiday in the sense that we went up north with a tent for four days in the sunshine. The second was less so as we had one day trip in the grey to celebrate Charlotte's magnificent straight A school-leaving results (she got an A in all 17 SQA exams she took in high school 🌝), but we mostly spent it getting the cooker fixed, and filling in tax forms, having meetings with the accountant, attending family birthday celebrations etc.

Neither, of course, was a holiday in the normal sense. When you work for yourself, a holiday isn't a week's paid leave. It is a week you don't work, don't get paid and which therefore results in your chasing your tail for the following month trying to fit in the five days you dared not to work. Unpaid holidays and contractual obligations are the bane of the freelance life...

As a mixed EU couple, facing mounting concern over a no-deal Brexit, what we really needed this year was to get as far away from the UK and its mind games as possible. While many of you are worrying about the financial prospects of a no-deal Brexit or which brand of baked beans to stockpile, those of us in a 'mixed' marriage face the prospect on March 29 that he loses his right to work and live in the UK, to renew his mortgage package and continue using our GP, on the very same day as I lose my right to flee to the continent with him. In the no-deal scenario, everything that has been negotiated for EU citizens hits the fan and no guidelines for their treatment will exist. We will have to rely on the unilateral goodwill of the Tory party (don't choke on your breakfast!) When we apply to renew our mortgage deal next summer, our bank will have no guidelines on whether he is eligible so I can probably work out the answer to our application already. We are hearing daily of EU citizens whose landlords are refusing to renew their leases as they do not know what their tenants' status will be. And where does that leave children like mine? UK citizens whose parent has no rights in the country in which they were born?

So, this year we could really have done with seven weeks island-hopping in the Cyclades or sitting wifi-less on some remote Mediterranean olive farm. As someone who works from home, I usually crave people on a holiday. My ideal is a city break or a busy beach just to remind myself I am not alone and isolated on this planet, but this year, I really think escaping the world would have been nice. Spending some time alone and unstressed with my husband would have been wonderful as it would have helped us to have built up some mental strength to face the terrifying seven months that lie ahead.

Already yesterday Whatsapp was buzzing with the mums in Anna's class trying to arrange the p7 prom in June 2019. I had to tick that I was interested, but in reality, I have no idea if I will be there taking photos of Anna in a pretty dress, or if I'll have had to pull her from school and leave the country. I'm already a nervous wreck and term hasn't yet begun.

Yesterday Anna actually said to me - When you take this year's back to school photo mum, we should try to make it extra-special in case it is the last ever one here in my home. Ten year olds shouldn't be living with stresses like that!

I am starting the new term more exhausted and stressed than I finished the last one and that is so far from what I need right now.


Monday, August 06, 2018

Happy Birthday


One of these babies weighed in at just shy of ten pounds, starting out life in 3-6 month clothes and looking somewhat like a sumo wrestler, the other was closer to six pounds and looked tiny and dainty. One of these babies is eight years, 207 days old, the other was eight today... So of course, it goes without saying that Amaia wishes her baby cousin a very happy birthday. LOL. (The second photo is just for proof).



I didn't wake up dead

I mentioned my little hang-up back in December... But it would appear that I woke up alive yesterday and even made it all the way through to midnight. I think that might take a few days to digest. I have become the primary Phyllis, after five decades as the subsidiary Phyllis. So from here on in, I'll be winging it, I guess.

Dying yesterday would have sucked. It would have felt like no time at all. My own son is 21. Hers was 24 so there was very little difference there, though obviously she didn't also have kids all the way down to eight. I don't feel terribly different to how I felt at 25; she probably didn't either. Life can be so cruel and unfair at times. My dad never did get over it enough to talk to me in any depth. Only on the day his dad died when I was 22, did we come anywhere close. It took reading his memoirs to really get a feel for how he had dealt with his mum's early death. Everything about my childhood would have been different, had that bit of history changed. I'd have known my granda, or rather Linda would have, as Phyllis the 2nd would never have existed. Instead he was a distant, quiet man, whose façade was impossible to penetrate. Dad would have had a lighter heart too.

I'd like to have known her. Like her son (my father) after her, she died of something that is completely curable today; it was simply caught too late and that is fate's cruellest blow.


I guess from here on in, I should try living a bit for both of us. Here's to Phyllis the first. RIP.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Now you see me, now you don't!

Charlotte has been in Madrid since June living with a Spanish family with two little girls who need a daytime adult to supervise them while their parents are out at work. We've had weekly face-times lamenting the 40 degree weather, the hardships of having your own pool and the sheer trauma of being forced to the restaurant every other night as a thanks for her babysitting! Finally on Wednesday, the parents' own summer break began so she came home to Scotland, fully five days after the wonderful Scottish heatwave threw in the towel.

She turned up in shorts and looked positively frozen. It's fully six weeks till uni starts but only two till the wee ones return to school. Four whole weeks alone, twiddling her thumbs in the drizzle lay ahead.

By day two she was twitching about the weather. I, half-jokingly, said - Why don't you log on to the site where you found the first family, in case anyone else is needing help with their kids. Some people may have contacted you, if you've not been on for a while... 

She logged on for the first time since May. Several emails awaited... She opened the first - a photo of the biggest dog you've ever seen greeted her - someone needing a doggy-sitter wasn't really her cup of tea. She's never been overly fond of dogs, having proclaimed at five that the only good kind of dog is a dead one, preferably with no teeth! 

Message two was from a woman with a Russian name based in Spain. All it said was 'I need an au pair' - no when, no mention of ages, numbers, genders of kids, no info at all. Still - it was a possibility...

She opened the third one and was greeted by a woman on a carousel smiling with two kids around the age of Anna and Amaia. Her message read 'Divorcee seeks company for three week holiday to Alicante. Your duties would be to play with my girls on the beach all day and swim in the sea. I will provide you with your own room in a beach house. I also need someone to accompany me to the restaurant every night at my expense!' Start date was to be next week and finishing fully seven days before freshers' week at Glasgow. It's a hard job obviously, but someone had to make that sacrifice!

Looks like Lotsie is off to Spain again! Tickets booked already. She might just have time to wash out her bikini from last time! God, I wish I was eighteen again. I have Charles Aznavour playing on a loop in my head... Il faut boire jusqu'à l'ivresse sa jeunesse... Wonder if anyone on the internet is looking for a fifty-year-old au pair...🤔

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Highland games

Pollok park

I think I need to educate my half-foreign offspring a bit more on Scottishness...

Today we went to see Dundonald Castle. As we arrived in the town there was a large sign advertising their Highland games which seemed to be taking place in August. I overheard the following conversation between Anna and Léon.

Anna: What on earth are Highland games? Do they race Highland cows instead of horses?
Léon: Don't be daft, it's when men in kilts flick those big stick things!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Camper vans

At the ripe old age of fifty, I wonder if I have finally got slightly too old for tent camping. I don't think the person who invented double air mattresses had fifty somethings (or forty somethings, in the case of my dearly beloved) in mind! In some fantasy world, where I actually have enough money, I often think it would be nice to have a camper van. I've never fancied a caravan, not since my dad's pal managed to coup his on the way down the Ayrshire coast when I was a teenage new driver, but a camper van would be steady to drive, be weatherproof and you could have a decent bed and even a wee toilet. The problem that always strikes me though, when I'm mulling this option over (other than the lack of money in my bank account for a spare car!), is that we often go to Italy, where the streets of the old towns are narrow. Sometimes I struggle to squeeze my rented Fiat 500 down them, so a camper van would be a non-starter. The same can be said of many of Scotland's more remote single-track roads with passing places, so holiday weekends would be out too. If only there was some way to drive a camper van on holiday but also have a car ready and waiting when you arrived...

Silly I know... and then we went camping in Drumnadrochit! There were many camper vans around the field where we had our tent. They all looked the same but one caught my eye. The van had a Dutch number plate but was flying a Croatian flag, and contained a couple who spent all their time in Croatian football strips watching the world cup on a tablet... intriguing. It caught my eye because unlike all the other camper vans they had actually brought their car too, and what a cute little thing it was! Older than the ark, I wondered how they'd actually trusted it to get from Zagreb/Amsterdam to the north of Scotland, but still I had to get a photo. You see it was a saloon Chuggy, except it wasn't... maybe it was some iron curtain Chuggy clone from the 50s or 60s, I don't know but isn't it cute?



And as for their wee camper van - it seemed perfect when you looked in - bedroom, kitchen, loo, exactly what you needed! For the whole three days it was there, I kept passing the little Chuggy clone and smiling to myself that they'd had the balls to bring it this far. During the day they went out on the small roads in it, and at night they cooked and slept in their van. I did think that as there were only two of them, it must have been very lonely trip up to Scotland in tandem, all the same.

On the last day, we all had to be out by midday. As we were taking down our tent, I noticed they were taking down their flag pole! That's when I caught sight of the little sliver of turquoise barely visible inside! OMG. How cool is that?!


Somehow everything that had been on the floor of their van had been pulled up to the ceiling, freeing up the space to pack the wee Chuggy thing as it was small enough to fit in!!!

Now, that has really got me to thinking. We'd need a tiny car that fits in a camper van. I'm thinking something like this that they are selling on ebay today would work. What do you reckon?! 😜








Small nations





Tiny nations full of ideas and brimming with self esteem. Currently, living in basket case that is Brexit Britain, I despair as our futures move further and further away from their potentials and the ideals of social responsibility and diversity that I hold so dearly. This could have been us if we'd had balls in 2014, instead we are being dragged into a ring-wing isolationist nightmare that I want no part of for my family. It's truly heartbreaking to live through.