Thursday, June 28, 2007

THE FUN BEGINS!


I always knew it was only a matter of time before the kids started having fun with it...
What? Language of course! I left the kids in Tesco with the trolley at a checkout while I ran to get some forgotten item on my shopping list. I returned 2 minutes later to two evil grins - Tell mum your new words Pudge, they urged. Pudge turned, grinned and said Vendetta! Revenge!, and we know it can only get worse, no?

Monday, June 25, 2007

SURPRISED BOYS


surprised boys
Originally uploaded by phyl1
Isn't it funny how sometimes you take a photo and as soon as you see it you remember a similar one you took years previously? Léon was fooling about on Charlotte's bed the other morning when the smoke alarm in the bedroom went off (Marcel was cooking pancakes in the next room). He looked very surprised. I instantly hunted out this other photo of Marcel himself, taken in 1998 when he was shocked to see an alien TV presenter one night on a French games show.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

ITSY BITSY EAVESDROPPERS


juice for pudgy men
Originally uploaded by
phyl1
I dropped by my parents' house today for 15 minutes. Mum was upstairs, dad was at the computer having just come in from golf. He mentioned to me in passing that he was parched and wouldn't mind some coke. Pudge seemed just to be wandering around aimlessly, but obviously wasn't because his face became serious and intent. He disappeared into the kitchen for a few moments then returned trying, with difficulty to carry a 2 litre bottle of fizzy apple juice that he had taken, himself, from their fridge. He put it down carefully at dad's feet and announced 'pumpum juice!' (My kids all call my dad Pumpa.) Isn't that just the cleverest wee guy in the world? Makes you wonder though just what else he's soaking up of the conversations around him...looks like I'm going to have to ban Marcel from watching Gordon Ramsey in his presence!

Monday, June 18, 2007

DECEPTIVE WEATHER


Ryanair B737 London Luton
Originally uploaded by
kpmarek
The sky was blue, the sun was shining - basically it looked like perfect flying weather last Friday. Surprisingly, the London - Rome flight was amongst the two or three worst of my life! By the time we touched down in Rome, I felt I'd been on the spin cycle in a washing machine - the turbulence was so bad the air crew even dived into the back of the aircraft, hooked up their drinks trolley and strapped themselves down. I remember flying into Heathrow at Christmas ten years ago in a gale force wind that had delayed the flight 48 hours, lightning was flashing all around and the sky was a weird rust colour...even that flight wasn't this bumpy. Odd...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

LANCIAS

Italy is hoaching with Lancias as always, I noticed two models in particular - this fancy saloon model - the 'Lancia Thesis' and the equivalent in their range to the Nissan Micra or the likes called the 'Lancia Ypsilon'. What puzzles me as that they don't seem to sell in the UK market, or if they do no one buys them. I imagine the likes of the Thesis would appeal to the drivers of the Toyota Avensis, the Alpha Romeo 156 or equivalents and the Ypsilon to the drivers of all medium range cars - Fiat Puntos, Nissan Micras, Ford Fiestas etcetc. So what's the story?

FURRY JEANS?


An Italian clothes shop
Originally uploaded by phyl1
It was 32 degrees celsius in Rome and yet the clothes shop was selling these!? It is too hot for normal jeans let alone furry ones! (And I thought Italians were generally known for their good dress sense ;-) ) What are they thinking about?

WEAPONS AND AIRPORT SECURITY AGAIN

Well that's even more stupid! I am on about that gap again... You may have read on Friday that huge shops like Boots don't sell toiletries that correspond to the crazy new airline rules, well I was wrong! They do - but only in the airport branches, isn't that clever? You try all your local stores before your holiday, you can't get what you need so you make up a bag for the hold of the aircraft unnecessarily or you decant toothpaste into old aspirin bottles etcetc only to find that the shop where they are selling it is the airport Boots at Stansted. This is completely the wrong place! By the time you are at the airport you have either given up or found and alternative solution - the Boots in the airport needs to send this stock to the local branches - come on, think about it logically! Oh and Stansted is a rip off - they are trying to charge you £1-65 for an empty 100ml bottle - you need 1 for shampoo, 1 for conditioner, 1 for suntan lotion, 1 for liquid soap, 1 for toothpaste etc - it'll be cheaper to pay Ryanair to check your handbag into the hold! And then there's rule number two - you can only have 10 bottles and they have to be in a 'resealable plastic bag'...why resealable? I saw people having bottles of the correct size confiscated because they were in a transparent bag with no sealing top, I also saw one woman have 1 100ml bottle of shampoo confiscated because it wasn't in a bag - she protested that she only had 1 bottle so didn't need to keep them together and was happy for it to go through x-ray - she was told to buy a 20p bag off the airport or bin it! Bureaucratic nonsense! Why have meaningless rules? Why was her shampoo ok in a 20p bag but not on its own? Oh and to make a mockery of all their poly bag and toiletry nonsense - when I got back I realized I had inadvertently got through the x-ray in Glasgow, Stansted and Rome carrying not one but two nail files... pretty good if you want to go for the jugular with something other than a tube of toothpaste, huh?
Actually, come to think of it, are these new rules meant to make us feel safer? We are now allowed 1 litre of liquids each, decanted into little bottles, but 1 litre all the same. I think this is to stop someone bringing on board enough chemicals to blow up the plane, no? Well, think back to 9/11 - weren't there something like 19 terrorists per plane, surely 19 litres of something lethal is enough to cause chaos? So all the queuing and checking and mountains of waste created by these new rules don't make us any safer at all, do they? Time for a rethink...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A GAP IN THE MARKET?

Last year's nonsensical flight restrictions don't seem to have improved any - would you just look at this rubbish? But one thing I have to ask is why the high street doesn't seem to have caught on to this gap in the market. Even in the largest Boots in Sauchiehall street, it is impossible to find toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and suntan lotion in tiny 100ml or less bottles, nor do they stock little travel bags selling all of these in a transparent, resealable bag. Why not? Do they presume people just put such things into their hold luggage these days? But that is shortsighted. I mean, the beauty of Ryanair is that weekends away are reasonably affordable once or twice a year but when you only go away for one night or two, you don't have hold luggage but still need clean teeth, deodorant, and a skoosh of sunblock if you are going somewhere hot. And the last thing you want to do is buy all these items in 1 litre bottles on arrival to bin the next night on departure - surely that is that last thing this planet needs, waste-wise?

Monday, June 11, 2007

PHONE RAGE

I was up half the night with a runny nose, a thumping head, and a sore throat. I ran the kids to Newton Mearns at 6-30am then collapsed on the bed. I wasn't going to make work. I took some paracetamol and cough sweets and slipped back under the duvet. It was about 8-30. I had probably been asleep less than half an hour when the phone rang. I was disoriented when an Indian-sounding voice asked if I was Mrs Widmann. 'No, sorry', I said. He introduced himself as Imran and asked who I was. I told him in the croakiest, sleepiest voice that I was 'the person who lived with Mr Widmann'! He then inquired whether there was anyone elderly in my house having trouble with the stairs? Emm, well at 39, I am the most elderly, and it's a ground floor flaming flat. 'So no one is likely to want a stair lift fitted?', he continued politely. 'It's a GROUND FLOOT FLAT', I repeated exasperated and now fully awake. He wished me a happy day and hung up.
An hour later as I was about to drift off again, the phone went. A voice, English this time, asked if I was Mrs Widmann - god here we go again, 'No I'm the person who...' They informed me that if I could quote the correct bonus product code (whatever that is) I would win a makeover for my bathroom...give me strength! I gave up trying to get better by sleeping and got up for a coffee.
(Oh, and Thomas, go ex-directory, please for the sake of my health!)

DONALD DEWAR'S STATUE


Donald Dewar's statue
Originally uploaded by
phyl1
We went to the West End Festival on Sunday afternoon. At first Pudge fell asleep and I was scared he was going to miss the big parade. I should have known better with all the drums and samba dancers. He woke up and looked puzzled as soon as it started. The kids seemed to enjoy themselves, though I managed to catch a cold somewhere :-(
When asked individually the highlight, both Marcel and Charlotte said they liked the guy dressed as the Donald Dewar statue best. Funny, neither think of Donald as a person or politician, I doubt they know he was Scotland's first first minister - they simply know him as the statue with the broken glasses!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

MIDGES


We're just back from a weekend camping trip to Oban, which I will blog all about once I have uploaded the photos. In the meantime I have to ask? Are midges the ultimate proof us atheists need? Having walked around outside after sunset and been devoured by these evil little bastards, I have to conclude there can be no ultimate, all-loving creator - firstly because a God evil enough to have created midges is not worth worshipping, secondly if a God had created them in a moment of weakness, I'm pretty sure he'd have caused the extinction of the species within hours once he'd discovered quite how intolerable they are. I even prefer mosquitoes - at least you hear them coming and they don't hunt in packs. These little buggers are half the size, silent and attack in their hundreds. I am sitting here scratching my the back of my neck, my left elbow, my right shin and foot and wondering how they got under my clothes when I was only outside the tent long enough to go pee :-(

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

AN EXPLOSION OF LANGUAGE


noodleman
Originally uploaded by phyl1
I mentioned that Pudge's short stay in hospital last week had improved his vocabulary no end and I think it has been the booster and inspiration he has been waiting for all these weeks. From his simple 'no want' and various synonymous commands last week, he's decided to parrot most of what we've been saying since Monday.
It started Monday lunchtime with 'phone' when the buzzer went in the nursery, then later he said 'spoon' when he had one of the dozens of snack yogurts he's been eating to build himself up since his illness.
Today he was running around the house pointing at doors saying 'door', picking up shape-sorter shapes and saying 'star', 'moon' etc. And next he picked up an apple and said 'pomme' (granted he also called a mango and a peach a 'pomme' too, but they are round fruits.)
This evening he started trying sentences and asking questions. He asked Charlotte why she was crying when she was fighting Marcel over a bowl of ice cream. 'Lalo what oh-oh?' even with a raised intonation at the end of the sentence. He also told Charlotte to 'No, no, no Lalo go away, no!'
So far, Marcel and Charlotte are so thrilled, they are going with the flow and trying to get him to repeat everything, but it can only be a matter of days before they realize exactly how much fun they can potentially have manipulating their new pet parrot. (We've all seen 'Meet the Fockers'.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

CONCERT PRODUCTIONS INTERNATIONAL AKA CPI - THE EXPECTED RANT

As I mentioned last week, I'm having a wee bit of a fight with Concert Productions International:
When I bought the original tickets for Rome, I of course went on the webpage, deliberately, within half an hour of the sale starting so I could buy the cheapest ones. I would have loved the dearest ones of course, but my bank manager wouldn't agree to that ;-) so I settled for the cheapest. When Rome was cancelled I received a nice message from someone named Ilaria explaining I shouldn't worry as I would be given a chance to buy tickets for an alternative European venue. I was dubious, of course but waited the 8 days it took for Ilaria's colleague Erica to get back to me. Then at 5-45pm, it turned up: an email listing all the tickets still available for all the European venues - of course no cheap ones left in the UK - they now want me to pay £265 per ticket. So I'm to pay tickets at 2.5 times the original price, lose the airfares to Rome and re-pay for new airline tickets to London.
I have sent a nice compact email entitled 'your unacceptable offer' to Erica asking the email address I should write my official complaint to.
Watch this space...

A PERPETUAL PROBLEM OF EMBELLISHMENT

You probably remember the little blow-out I had on my old car a few months ago. That resulted in one wheel missing a hubcap, sorry the Citroën handbook insisted on calling it an 'embellisher', a word which is taking on 'jalt'* status in my family now, for several weeks. I kept passing what I thought might be the one I had lost every morning unable to stop on the motorway. In the meantime, my kindly (if crazy) parents, who were equally offended by the sight of my unembellished wheel, were picking up every embellisher they saw by the side of the road until finally they found one that fitted - it said Vauxhall on it but at least it covered the mucky wheel. So, needless to say, one of the things to make me happy when I picked up the 'not grey car' was its full compliment of matching Citroën embellishers.
Obviously, when I returned home from work last night and noticed one was missing, I was livid. I dragged Thomas and the kids on a trip round everywhere I had been during the day twice and with relief we found it (I think it was the third one we tried and there it was on a verge near Lenzie, phew. I decided to buy cable clips on my way back from nursery today (however ugly they are, these things cost £30 each so I wasn't going to lose it again).
When I got to B&Q car park at 1-10pm, it was bloody missing again! Pudge and I went on another expedition all the way back to nursery where it was lying slightly mangled, but hopefully not beyond cable-clipping on on another grass verge. It is however staying in the boot until I've been to B&Q this time.

*At the age of 3, I once referred to a JCB digger as a jalt, not knowing the word for it, I simply made one up - I had lexicographical tendencies even then - and since then my entire family have always called diggers 'jalts'. It is hard to remember that isn't the real word for them!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A YUMMY EVENING


This has to be the best meal my naked chef has made me in months - from Jamie's book - the 'roasted sweet garlic, thyme and mascarpone risotto with toasted almonds and breadcrumbs'. Divine!

HOW (NOT) TO MAKE A WEBSITE


Rome-Florence train
Originally uploaded by
tofeset
I was curious yesterday about the price of a train ticket from Rome to Zürich (ok indulge my stupidity - you all know from last week's postings why I might want to come home from Rome via Zürich).
I had first looked Ryanair but they don't fly there and then I remembered I had often taken that very beautiful train ride in my students days, so on to Trenitalia.com I went. This has to be one of the worst websites I have ever tried to use in my life. It asks if you want it in English or Italian so being lazy I opted for English. It asked where I wanted to go from and to - I typed Rome-Zürich - it gave me some wee village miles from Rome called St-Rome-de-something-or-other, I realized that though the website was in English, you were meant to know the Italian place names. Fine, Roma is easy enough but if you are average Mr Thick-Englishman, with the linguistic aptitude of a jellyfish, then will you guess Firenze or Venezia? Anyway I am also not convinced Mr Thick-Englishman wouldn't have clicked on 'buy' for St-Rome-de-wherever-it-was...well, that is of course if he could find 'buy' to click on. I spent a whole half hour trying to find how to ask the simple question - how much? I seemed to have to register (God save me - this means I will be bombarded with crap from them for all eternity), then 1 minute after registering it told me my password, issued by them, had expired and I needed a new one - huh? I tried in vain clicking 'cart' - it told me my cart was empty. Having told me 3 times there was a train at 23h every Sunday, that timetable suddenly disappeared and I was being told the train was at 20h40, then it told me when I arrived at Zürich Flughafen - give me strength - who mentioned the bloody airport? I want to go to the town. I know Zürich well, I lived in Konstanz for 6 months. I just wanted to go to the bloody city. Every time I typed Zürich, it told me that for the airport I had to change in Zürich - aaaaaaaaaarg - and still I couldn't get a price. I'd tried the purchase button, the pricing button - every obvious place. It even had a column marked price but it wasn't clickable! Oh and then it became more fun - I had a 5 column chart at one point, four of the column headings in English, the fifth in Italian. It was definitely one of those English interfaces you couldn't use unless you spoke Italian (20 year old rusty uni Italian was beginning to fall back into place after half an hour on this 'English' website).
Eventually I pressed something, I have no idea what and a price appeared as if by magic. It was too expensive, which is probably just as well as I would never, ever have been able to find it again even if my life depended on it!
It really can't be this hard - I've used the SNCF webpage from time to time and it is so intuitive, you could do it in your sleep, even if you don't speak French. What is the Italians' problem? At this rate, the entire train network will need to be shut down in Italy because no one will be able to use it. Maybe Ryanair should jump in to even more Italian towns and help the poor buggers be able to travel intercity!

Friday, June 01, 2007

SMART CARS


The 'not grey' car
Originally uploaded by
phyl1
These days cars are getting smarter... or are they? I hadn't read the full spec on mine when I bought it so was very impressed the first day when the headlights switched themselves on as I went through a tunnel and off again at the exit. I was again thrilled skinny the following day when the windscreen wipers detected the rain and wiped slowly then quickly depending on the severity of the downpour. Today I was zooming along the motorway when the sun came out. I reached for my sunglasses, but they were missing from the car pocket. I remembered I'd forgotten to take them off the other day so picked up my handbag to feel for them while driving. My bag was overfull and I quickly concluded that driving and searching together would result in my premature death so tossed my heavy handbag onto the passenger's seat. The car instantly started beeping and flashing - oh shit what have I done? Then I looked more closely - it was telling me my overweight passenger had forgotten to put on his seatbelt! ;-)

A SCARY SIGHT!


Check out the photo (no.10) published on the BBC news today - I thought my old Gramps (pictured here in 1984, right) died 10 years ago but apparently he's a vagrant in Fife!

AL GORE: AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

Ok, I admit that anyone who knows my politics, knows I'm hardly likely to be welcome down in Orange County anyway... But I must say, as I watched Al Gore's movie the other night, I couldn't help wonder, slightly tearfully, how much better a world my kids would be growing up in now had that ridiculous Floridian fiasco gone the other way back in 2000.
I hope this movie becomes compulsory viewing in High Schools.

PUDGE'S INHALER


Pudge with his inhaler
Originally uploaded by viralbus

You may be wondering why Pudge is holding an inhaler and I look 10 years older and more exhausted than I did a week ago?
What a week this has been. From
Tuesday's Poxy rant, you'll have gathered that Léon fell ill again and was back on antibiotics.

On Wednesday he was no longer hot or pointing at his ears as he had been on Tuesday, but was wheezing and coughing a bit. I did mentally note it was weird he seemed to be developing a chest infection while on penicillin, but he's so ill so often I went with the flow.

He coughed himself awake just after 2am Tuesday into Wednesday and I was alarmed to notice he was breathing twice as quickly as normal and his whole ribcage was really struggling to breathe. Enough - I got up and drove him to Yorkhill just before 3am. They tested his oxygen blood saturation level on arrival and it was at 89%. His heart rate seemed a little fast too. Normal oxygen levels are 98% or above I am told, below 84% the monitor reading goes from blue to red and it starts beeping - I didn't need to ask what that meant. He was taken into the casualty ward at first where I got a chair and he wandered up and down gasping and puzzled. It was the middle of the night but lights were on and toys were everywhere. He didn't really know what to do with himself. They first gave him calpol and steroids, then 10 blasts of an inhaler. His chest went from wheezy to clear and he perked up, though his breathing was still too fast and his oxygen still only 91%. They said if it stayed ok for 2 hours I would be allowed to take him home. I was shattered, still a bit sleep deprived from Tuesday's 5am start and late evening at the out of hours surgery. After 2 hours the wheezing was back so I was told the same - he'd be given 10 blasts of inhaler and we'd get home at 7am if he was clear. At 7am he was asleep but from the chair I'd been given I could hear the wheezing was back. They then decided he could stay in casualty no longer so admitted him to ward 7B. (As an aside what a view - floor 7 of the hospital has a spectacular panorama of Glasgow's West end - mental note: if he ever has another asthma attack pack the camera).

Ward 7 is great - each child's bed comes with a fold away bed so a parent can stay the night with their child - the only rule - the adult beds are to be folded away from 8am as a space saver - it was 7-45 and I'd had 2 hours sleep - they said I could unfold my bed at 8pm if we were still in :-(. The second problem was food. They feed the patients of course, and, I'm told have a lovely subsidised canteen on floor 1 for the parents. So if your kid is floppy, lying-in-bed, hooked-up-to-machines sick you can go get breakfast, if however your kid is wandering-about, wheezing-at-your-ankles sick you can't go eat because you can't take them with you and if you leave them, though it is safe to, they scream for the 15 minutes you are away. Who needs breakfast anyway? Especially when you are 11 weeks pregnant and feeling sick and dizzy. Léon was given 1 weetabix and half a slice of toast, I pilfered the half slice of toast.

Problem number one was arising at home. The kids were in the flat and André was expecting them for breakfast around 7-15am. Of course their driver was in hospital so Marcel had to get André to come into town to pick them up.

The day passed slowly with the same inhaler and oxygen tests at regular intervals. I had only 2 20p as I had not been expecting Léon to be admitted. I wasn't dressed either so was wandering around in my sleepwear and a pair of jogging bottoms all day! I tried late morning to ring André to tell him I couldn't pick Marcel and Charlotte up at 3pm and I couldn't get a substitute either. He wasn't available. I rang Thomas in a panic to tell him the dilemma - he wasn't available. No more 20ps. At 2ish, thank god, Thomas walked through the door having sussed all by himself that I had no one to pick up the kids and offering to sit with Léon while I went. I was practically in a coma by that point food and sleep-deprivationwise but at least it offered a solution. He offered to take my mobile outside and text André for me and at the last minute André was tracked down and put of schoolrun duty. Thomas went out to get me some food. I couldn't see for my migraine by then so sat tight and waited.

Sometime between 3 and 4 my breakfast arrived - sandwiches, lucozade and paracetamol. Fortunately it was another few hours before Léon was discharged because I couldn't have driven even if I had needed to by then, I was so shaky, was seeing double and couldn't stand.

We came home with our asthma kit and instructions and collapsed. I was no longer at all worried about taking time off work sick, as I genuinely was very sick by then myself. I collapsed on the bed while Thomas dealt with Léon and food and we got dinner around 10pm.

I took a long time to calm down enough to sleep at bed time. The stress must finally have been hitting me. I am off today too. Every bone in my body aches, my head is throbbing - stress? sleep deprivation? parenting? I don't know. I just hope I am well enough to do some proper work over the weekend to catch up.

And Pudge? he's been asleep now for 12 hours solid, and I can't hear any wheezing as yet.

On a more positive note, Pudge's 18 hr stay in hospital has had a mushroom effect on his language development. From mainly single words on Tuesday, he's now learnt, 'no way, no want, don't want, don't like' and after the nurse's umpteenth blast of inhaler, he even learnt to count, that is to say, if you say 'one', he replies 'oo, ee, oh'! Awwh! I wonder if he'd be reciting Shakespeare by now if they'd had to keep him in a week!?