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Saturday, July 04, 2015

Bloody cars

So one day into my attempt at positive thinking - that would be yesterday's resolution to drive nice places all summer and pretend we're on holiday in Scotland, everything has hit the fan in our usual fashion :-(

I go out this morning to go out shopping and the big car (that is the car that was the little car till the last winter because it is a five-seater, now, in comparison to the blue biscuit tin,   it is positively huge because I can get four of my five kids into it...) and it is dead as a dodo. Worse still it tells me there is a fault with the immobilizer. This is not a dash message that would necessarily have made me suicidal a year ago, but given it was one of the last
messages the people carrier sent out before it died spectacularly in a January snow storm, forgive me if I wasn't calm.

I opt for a trip into town in the biscuit tin while Thomas calls the breakdown service. Five hours later I am meant to be relieved as it has been diagnosed with a dead (and needing replaced at about £100) battery. But, that was the very first ailment the people carrier suffered. Today, I have mentally been through how to get my kids to school on the days Thomas is out on business with no car when they go back after summer (because Thomas needs a car to go into the office two days a week). I have mentally been through how get anywhere all summer with seven people and one four-seater car. It may not be dead this time but reality has come crashing down. Last year the Citroën dealer mechanic told me that modern cars tended to last between eight and ten years, the black car is seven years old. It has done 5000 miles less than the people carrier had done when it blew up. So I need to work out how to reach a point some time in the next year, before it starts draining the empty coffers on a monthly basis, where I can replace it. There's no visibility, so I guess it will be a bit like sitting back and watching the car crash that is our life, slowly as a spectator. I can hardly wait for another year of stress. After eight in the trot, we should be getting quite used to it by now. Whoop-de doo.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Trying a new approach

One of the main problems of working for yourself in a freelance-like capacity is visibility. Although work is not dire at the moment, we are both receiving fewer hours than we'd like and have no visibility beyond the autumn so we need to stockpile our earnings rather than spend what we earn. That means that although the microwave isn't working, we don't buy a new one. It means that although the mattress on our bed has springs sticking out of it, we have lived with it for the best part of two years. Although part of the facade of the house has cracked and fallen off, we are going to attempt to fix it ourselves. Although we needed a seven-seater car when our old one blew up in January, we bought a four-seater because it would do and so on. But most of all it means that when life is at its most stressful (imagine six years of not knowing where your next month's salary will come from when you are responsible for five children!) and you need a night off, a night out, a trip to a café or cinema or, most of all, a holiday, you resign yourself to another year without. Although we have visited relatives, you tend to do that when you have foreign ones, Thomas and I have been on just one holiday with the kids in nine years and that was driving about England with a tent that was too small for our family cooking on a camping gaz stove to save money! And together, we've only been away two nights without kids in that time! Those include one night in Rome in 2007 when my ex-husband babysat, so I couldn't sleep for worrying! And one night this year in Perth at a political conference when my seventeen year old babysat, so I came back as early as I could to see he'd managed ok without me!

It is strange to think that the whole of the little ones' childhood may pass without once doing what we naturally do. I think that when this situation began we assumed it would last a year or two, not a decade or more. My little ones will not know what kind of person I really am - they won't know I love to sit at a café and watch the world go by, because I never take them to a café. They won't know I love the sea. I've never taken them on a beach holiday so they'll probably assume I am not! I've taken them to France just once (on a business trip) despite it being my other home. They don't know Thomas is a great lover of Spain and a fluent Spanish speaker because they have never been to Spain. They rarely see us foraging our way through a European vegetable market filled with excitement. There's a whole world out there and not getting to see any of it is so frustrating. My children never see us heading off for a city break, so probably think we're not travellers and yet travelling has always been my whole life. At fourteen, I sold my bike so I could go to visit my German penpal and from that moment on until the recession my life was spent on and off trains wearing a rucksack. There is never any respite from the stress of our daily life.

So faced with the depressing thought of a summer day trips where I have to leave at least two family members at home, or drive everywhere in tandem, I have decided to attempt a positive approach. I am going to try to pretend I am a tourist on holiday in Glasgow! We started last week with a trip to Chatelherault country park and this week, when the temperature hit a staggering (for Scotland) 30 degrees, we took a train into town and went for a walk around Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. If we try to drag all kids out at least once a week to somewhere we have never, or at least rarely, been and look at it with tourist eyes, we might even be able to convince ourselves we've had a fun summer.

We can try at least. Let's hope the weather doesn't let us down.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Amaia: I would really love it if you could find Gruffalo dressing-up costumes for me and daddy. I could sit on his knee and we could play 'The Gruffalo's Child' together!

This was Amaia's request this morning. What a sweet image that brings to mind!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Changing technology

Discussing Jurassic Park over lunch, I asked Léon if he had seen it when he was little:

'I'm sure we used to have it but it was on one of those weird, black cuboid tape thingies'.

My nine year old doesn't know the word for a VHS video cassette! OMG I feel so old suddenly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A not very sporty girl

Growing up I hated school sports. I didn't mind the term when you had to do Scottish dancing but other than that I dreaded PE. I was always the last to be picked when the class team leaders were picking two teams for rounders or similar. I couldn't run or hurdle or high jump or long jump. You name it, I was mediocre at it. So sports day was not the highlight of my year. We were made to walk a mile to the sports'ground before starting. I enjoyed that bit, it was just the sports themselves I hated. I won two races growing up. In fact I would go as far as to say I came last in every other race I took part in over the seven years of primary school. The two races I won were the 1972 Bunny Hop race, where I was the only child not to be disqualified. I was four years old and I actually did bunny hop. The others, who were all more competitive than me, ran and were disqualified! So I won by being the only contestant still in the race at the finishing line! In 1977 I won the Walking Race at Bellahouston Sports track - I bet you can guess how I managed that one too! Yes, everyone else was disqualified for, running! So sports day always left me feeling depressed and inadequate. 

When I had Marcel and Charlotte I was surprised to find they won races, and even reached finals. They weren't the most sporty kids in school but were definitely in the top 15% so they did not stand out as diabolical. Léon isn't really a ball games kind of guy - it must be the glasses - but he too is fast and rarely last. Then came Anna. Anna has my sporting ability and Thomas's rolled into one, coupled with a vaguely Nordic Weltschmerz when it comes to her sporting ability. She looked utterly miserable yesterday as she came last in the sprinting and last in the egg and spoon race. Like me, there was no question of her cheating so every time the potato dropped she stopped and carefully balanced it again as others shot past her holding it on with a thumb. 

In the afternoon she was asked by her teacher to draw her favourite moment of sports day and it just broke my heart, wee soul... She's captured exactly how I used to feel about sports day, and it's only made worse by her labeling of herself in last place with a sad little smile and her putting on of a brave face in the title: I liked the egg and spoon race!