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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Modern times


So I was sitting in the TV room reading to the youngest two, one on either side. Anna was on my left. She started twiddling my engagement and wedding rings around my finger. Then we had a surreal conversation that really makes you wonder how the kids of today's minds work.

Anna: Is this your wedding ring mummy?
Me: The flat one is my wedding ring, the one with the diamond is my engagement ring.
Anna: They're nice.
Me: Yes.
Anna: I guess they are a nice way to remember daddy.
Me: Well yes, but I live with daddy, so I don't need them to remember him by.
Anna: I know but they'd come in handy if say you ever ran away with another man and you wanted to remember daddy after you'd gone!
Me: I'm not planning on running anywhere Anna, I love daddy. (What a bizarre thought! Given I have been divorced, I know exactly how likely I'd be to want to wear my rings to remember an ex-partner!)
Anna: Well I guess they'd work if he got killed by a bus too!

Jeezo - what do the kids of today watch on the telly?!

Monday, November 23, 2015

That didn't take long

Edinburgh streets

I remember the first time I moved away from home and from Glasgow for any significant time, that is to say for a stay of more than a couple of months. I was 19 and I moved to France at the end of August of 1987. For the first few weeks I stayed with my then boyfriend (now ex-husband) in Besançon, then I went on to a teacher training course in Nancy and finally I moved to Bruyères in the Vosges around the second week of September. Bruyères was to be my home for the next ten months. I knew no one and no one I knew lived within about three hours of where I was. I met my German flatmate a couple of days later and she was in the same position. We were to become close, simply because we were the only two strangers in that very close-knit town.

For the first few weeks, I wondered what I had done. There I was in a town of 4000 inhabitants in the middle of nowhere. The kids I was teaching had little interest in learning English. The boys wanted to grow up to work for the forestry commission. The girls wanted to have kids and bake cakes as their mothers did. I felt at the same time that  I had landed on the moon, and gone back in time by about a generation! I couldn't begin to imagine I would ever feel at home in a tiny village after a lifetime twenty minutes from Scotland's largest city. If my degree hadn't depended on it, I'm not 100% sure I'd have returned after Christmas but when I did, something had changed. I suddenly started to feel at home. I began to appreciate the slower pace of life. I liked the loss of my anonymity. When I returned to France, I liked the fact that the woman in the Post Office asked if I'd enjoyed my trip back home. I liked the kids waving to me as they drove by. I had become part of a community. And when I drove out of that town for the last time the following June, it was blinded by tears and with a crowd waving me off. Slowly that had become home and Scotland had become abroad.

Marcel acted very bravely when he left home. He's only eighteen and although he's fairly mature and worldly wise for his age, he looked a little out of his depth as he opened the door to his student room for the first time. After a month, he'd grown up enough to admit to Thomas, who was through in Edinburgh for a meeting so had taken him for a pizza, that the first few weeks had been terrifying. Worse than back in my day when we had communicated through snail mail, he'd spent his first few weeks watching his large group of friends from Glasgow, none of whom had had the balls to make the jump, still socializing together as he sat in a strange city alone. He wondered what on earth he'd done. And of course, given he got into Glasgow uni too but turned it down, he definitely had a feeling of 'if only'.

Fast forward to last Friday. He turned up here as he'd been invited to a party. He seemed lighter and happier. He's grown greatly in the last ten weeks. I asked how he was and he explained that this was the first time he'd come home and realized home was away and away was home. He went on to clarify that when he left Edinburgh he'd said goodbye to his flatmates and the caretaker in his building because he knows them well. At the bus stop into Edinburgh he'd spoken to a little old lady who is often at his bus stop, he'd greeted the bus driver who he also knew and had spoken to the Polish lady in the coffee shop who serves him when he passes, but on arrival in Glasgow he became anonymous. The bus drivers, the shop owners, the people at the bus stops were strangers. So although he knew the city well, he felt more at home in Edinburgh than Glasgow.

Although that brings a secret tear to my eye, it makes me immensely happy at the same time. He now has the tools to go anywhere and do anything he wants, whether that is on the other side of the world, or one day back here, only time will tell.

A special bond

Largs with Brita and Peter

When Marcel moved out, I wondered what effect that would have on the relationship between him and the very youngest of his siblings. I wondered if the fact that they were so young would make them less close. It seems those worries were unfounded.

I walk into a room and find that they are chatting together on Skype, often initiated by the youngest ones. They jump with joy when he comes through the door and rush over to sit on him. They trip over their tongues trying to fill him in on what he's missed. They ask how long he's staying over and over.

Tonight, as he went to catch the last train back home, Amaia spontaneously came out with: I love Marcel so much, he's my second daddy!

Monday, November 16, 2015

The madness of the five child household!

"Put your shoes away in the shoe cupboard Amaia, please"

Two hours later... Wow, I love it for its innovation - this is a first!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Learning to spell - sort of

Lunch up Arthur's seat, Edinburgh

Amaia: The other day the teacher was going over the letter O with us.
Me: So did you all have to put up your hands if you knew any words beginning with O?
Amaia: Yes. Some of the boys and girls only knew little words like on or off but I knew a big word so I put up my hand.
Me: And did the teacher pick you?
Amaia: Yes, so I said orthodontist because I remembered that Marcel and Charlotte always used to go to the orthodontist.
Me: I bet she was impressed.
Amaia: Yes. I was thinking about it later and I was annoyed with myself.
Me: Why? Orthodontist is a good word.
Amaia: I know but I remembered later that we went to Edinburgh last week and I could have sounded really clever if I'd mentioned that we climbed Orthur's Seat!

Hmmm - really clever? Maybe not...

The four seasons of Wednesday walks at Whitelee





Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New room

After Marcel moved out, we promised the girls we'd redecorate their room (and then Léon's). In the days when we had only the oldest three kids, it had been Marcel's room and he had painted it bright red. Later we turned our bedroom into a home office, which took us down to four bedrooms forcing the three youngest to share the original master bedroom. During this time we'd made it space-themed. The girls were just desperate to make it brighter and more elegant. Anna decided she wanted turquoise, Amaia wanted lilac so we decided to compromise to keep them both happy. They weren't let in on what we'd bought and Charlotte and I spent most of the October holiday locked inside. We told the girls they weren't allowed in. Lots even told them she had chosen black for their walls and was painting it Halloween-themed. Amaia looked dubious but said that would be ok - ever the tactful. Finally, with a day to go (we'd finished the painting but not the tidying), they could no longer be contained, so Thomas blindfolded them and brought them in. They seemed very pleased with the result of the make-over.

Finally, today we added the finishing touches, so that's one room down. Now we're onto Léon!