Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A DANISH CHRISTMAS TREE


A Danish Xmas tree
Originally uploaded by PhylB
While Thomas is taking down our tree, I thought I'd take this chance to blog it and the Scottish reaction to it.
This is our Danish Xmas tree. If you look closely there are a few differences. For starters it isn't a lump of plastic like 80% of Scottish Xmas trees. Danes grow a good percentage of European Xmas trees so wouldn't contemplate a lump of plastic. Many of the elaborate decorations like the large white star on the left were handmade by Brita who taught Charlotte how to make them. The position of the tree is also very alien from a UK perspective. We tend to put a Xmas tree either in the window or in a corner of the room. In Denmark the tree needs to be in middle of the room because the gift giving takes place after you dance around the tree hand in hand. You couldn't do that with my mum's tree for example, as it is in the corner of the room between the couch and an armchair.
But the main difference as to be the fairy lights. They are real candles of course. Most people who dropped by over Xmas looked at us as if we were insane taking three steps back assuming the house was in imminent danger of burning down (of course you don't leave them on when you are out of the room). Aren't they beautiful? And so warm too. By the end of the dancing you are sweating because of the heat coming off the tree!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

EMPTY SHELVES - WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE


lonely and deserted
Originally uploaded by circulating
I don't know if you have read Thomas's prediction for the recession. It is worth a read if you haven't.
I had to drive him into the office this morning as the Express Bus was off on holiday. On the way back I was listening to Radio Clyde - not my usual but that Wogan man was probably on Radio 2 and I wasn't going to risk turning it on just in case. There was a male DJ on rabbiting on about the recession and the sales. He was pointing out that he didn't believe the recession was as bad as people were saying given the sales were so good the shelves in his local Comet and Currys were all empty and big red Out of Stock signs were appearing everywhere.
Let's just analyse that for a minute. People have bought the TVs and laptops in particular but the shop is not restocking despite queues of customers wanting to buy things. Could it be they haven't any credit to restock? Could it be that selling the old stock isn't generating enough money to buy new stuff given the new items will need to be bought abroad with newly devalued pounds but the money they are making is on 50% reduced goods bought with the old strong pound?
I was in the Early Learning Centre yesterday returning a faulty Xmas present. The assistant in there was equally puzzled. We have no stock of these items in any other the Glasgow shops or in the warehouse she said surprised. Hmmmm - another shop which is selling everything 50% off minimum but not restocking shelves. Something deeply sinister is going on and the blinkered shoppers are only seeing what they want to see.
I predict 3 things:
  • The shops that don't make enough to restock will go bust in the next 6 weeks and these will be big chains like those that have already surprised many of us.
  • Some shops will restock but prices will increase by at least 30% to cover the devalued pound.
  • Other shops will start sourcing inferior goods originally meant for the 3rd world markets so that they can continue to sell things at what people consider a reasonable price but the buyers will soon realize what is going on.
Anyone who believes this is good for British manufacturing doesn't realize how many years it would take to reacquire the old, lost skills and how few months we have to do it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

AMAZING LOGIC


Anna's spork
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Sometimes Charlotte is incredibly sharp. She understands things way beyond her maturity and schooling. Other times Charlotte completely astounds you with her lack of common sense.
In Denmark when babies are christened they often receive engraved silver spoons. Because Anna is not christened, her grandmother brought her a set of engraved silver spoons from Denmark for her first birthday. None of my other kids have engraved silver spoons.
A day or two after Anna's birthday, Charlotte was admiring her spoon. She suddenly stopped dead in her tracks. It says Anna Bridget on Anna's spoon mum - isn't that amazing to find a spoon with Anna Bridget on it? she commented, I was about to reply, though was lost for words at her stupidity, when she flipped the spoon over and squealed in shock - Mum looooook - it says 19-12-07 on it - imagine that - finding a spoon with Anna's name and birthday on it!!!! That shop must have had a hell of a lot of spoons in it! What could I say???? Amazing?

GUITAR HERO


Guitarman
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Marcel and Charlotte have been saving up for an XBOX for months and Thomas and I gave them the last £70 towards it for their Xmas.
By the time I had crawled out of my sickbed late Xmas afternoon, the new XBOX was already connected and they were all playing Lego Indiana Jones.
Because we'd been sick, we'd missed the family get together. Derek and Amanda must have felt sorry for us because they volunteered to throw together a curry on Boxing Day, should we be feeling up to it.
We went over for 6ish and Marcel had a look through Derek's XBOX games. He discovered Guitar Hero and a World tour began. He and Derek played guitar like a pair of kids most of the night. No one was spared a turn. Come midnight Lots and Marcel decided to invite themselves to stay the night and I left with 2 passengers fewer.
Saturday of course saw Marcel empty his bank account and buy the blasted noisy game for our house and I was then subjected to half a dozen very noisy songs over and over as he perfected playing them.
You choose your level - beginner, easy, medium, hard, expert - there may be a few more. Depending on level you play more and more notes and strum more, gaining points for hitting the notes on time. It looks easy so I had a go, first on easy but when I was booed off on that I tried beginner where you strum but don't play any notes at all - even that was so difficult I only scored 70%. I was left wondering what possible pleasure kids such as Marcel and my brother could possibly get out of this annoying, noisy game!

BISON


Bison Eating
Originally uploaded by marttj
I meant to say the other day... have you ever tried bison? We got some bison steaks the other week and they were superb - like a cross between beef and butter - so tender. If you are looking for a nice meal, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

DEMONICALLY UNACCEPTABLE

Am I simply intolerant? I have several programs on my computer that come free of charge and remove red eye at the click of a button. It's particularly bad with pale-eyed people, and given Léon has the palest eyes on the planet, red eye removal tools are simply imperative. Red eye was the thing I hated most about pre-digital photography and the best thing in the post-digital world. Removing the red takes 2 seconds (you have 2 eyes after all).
I get really irate when I see newspapers with red-eye images on the front page. What kind of journalist is happy to write an interesting front page article and then illustrate it with a nasty piece of nonsense with red eyes? It is sloppiness supreme. There is just no excuse for it these days!

CONFUSION EXPLAINED

I now know why you should celebrate Xmas on Xmas Eve! It is because when you come down en masse with a vomiting bug on Xmas day at 3am, then you have already had the nice meal and seen your kids open their presents. As it was, we had a smaller nice meal on Xmas Eve, danced round the tree and received the Danish presents but had left everything we were getting from Scottish relatives and friends and the main meal for Xmas day. Thomas started vomiting at 1am and Marcel and I caught up with him at 3am and 4am respectively. By 11am on Xmas morning Marcel, being a child, was back to ok. Thomas and I were close to death. The kids came down and asked if they could open their gifts without us and for the first time in my life I could not get out of bed with my camera. By the time we got up at 4-50pm all the presents had been opened and played with. I have no idea who bought them what. For example they were playing with a fun froggy bubble machine in the bathroom - it could have been from Carol, or Amanda or various others - and I don't know which of the kids received it but thanks anyway - whoever it was!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CHRISTMAS CONFESSION TIME


Xmas tree
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I've been part of a French/German/Danish family since 1985.
The French, like the Germans, like the Danes all celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve.
Basically the day goes somewhat normally till about 4 or 5pm when they start busying themselves with dinner - the kind Brits would eat on the 25th. In France around 7pm they'd suddenly get up, get all formal, kiss you on both cheeks and wish you a happy Christmas, offer a gift and food and drink would be the order of the rest of the evening with the more religious family members nipping out for a church service mid-evening.
In Denmark, it is the other way round. You go about your business normally till you eat a lovely big meal early evening and thereafter you go through to the room with the tree and sing carols dancing round it and at the end of the songs, you receive your gifts. Then again church is involved for the religious.
This is not what I grew up with. In Scotland we worked Christmas eve, and still do, though we often got to go home at 2pm instead of 5pm. Religious neighbours went to a service at 11-30pm. Before going to bed you left out a glass of milk or whisky for Santa and a biscuit of carrot for Rudolph. When you woke up on Christmas day "Santa" had been. There were gifts under the tree. At lunch time relatives came round and gifts were exchanged, and finally a nice meal would be had at 4pm. Thereafter you collapsed full on the couch in front of the Wizard of Oz, while playing a board game!
Now, I know I am a heathen so I am not best placed to question religious things such as Christmas, but isn't Christmas meant to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and isn't his birthday chosen universally to 25th December? Now, my birthday is 4th of February. I get my presents on the 4th. My family drop by on the 4th. We have birthday dinner on the 4th, work permitting...
So here's my confession - for the last 23 Christmases I have wondered why the Europeans are so obsessed with making the eve of the birthday special but the birthday itself a bit of a nothing day. Can any of you foreigners out there explain that one to me? Why does Europe celebrate 'Christmas' on December 24th? Though who am I to complain - I now get two Christmases a year...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

AN ENGLISH SPELLING REFORM


Making decorations
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Charlotte is a very down to earth practical child. We were out shopping the other day and we passed Starbucks. I think they should change the spelling of coffee she said. Why would you want that? I asked. Well if they just spelled it ccooffee then you wouldn't have to remember which of the letters were doubled! Can you imagine if they put her in charge of an English spelling reform one day?! By the end of the day English might look like Finnish!

Monday, December 22, 2008

H SAMUEL - A YARDSTICK OF RECESSION?


H. Samuel Jewellers Clock
Originally uploaded by kenjonbro
You all know I worked in H Samuel over Xmas as a student back at the end of the 80s. I used to come off lunch throughout December to find the punters knee-deep at the counter hitting eachother over the head with their shopping bags in a dispute over the last decent watch in the window.
I was shopping in Silverburn yesterday when I saw an H Samuel in the distance. I thought that would be an interesting yardstick for gauging the recession. I walked over. There were maybe 3 shop assistants on duty, as opposed to the 20 of us there had been in the Sauchiehall street branch all those years ago. There were approximately 3 members of the public in the shop - one talking to an assistant, the other two mulling about, no urgency, no brawling, nothing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

TAKING IT TOO LITERALLY


oops
Originally uploaded by PhylB
What's that? Pudge asked once we'd built the carousel for the pots. In retrospect, I should have said a pot shelf because it's never worked properly since he tried to ride on it... We went to Ikea for a new one only to find out the model has been discontinued - I wonder why? - so we now have the new version to install next time we can be bothered taking off the worktop.

MARCEL AND GRANNY


Marcel and Granny
Originally uploaded by PhylB
What happened to that wee bitsy man I gave birth to in 1997? No one tells you when you become a parent for the first time that childhood, which till then you have only experienced from the child's perspective, goes much faster when you are viewing it from the parental perspective.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

AN ANTIBIOTIC PROBLEM


Antibiotics_1850
Originally uploaded by dkalsbeek
Léon is on antibiotics for a delicate little infection on the tip of his manhood. No problem there but I am having a real problem with the instructions on the bottle. It says give 4 times a day on an empty stomach and don't eat till an hour after each dose. So he gets up around 9am, his stomach is empty then of course but he hits the breakfast seat within three steps of bed so there's no way I can give him the first dose then as he's too hungry to wait an hour for brekkie. Straight after breakfast at 9-15 is also out because his stomach is no longer empty. We have to make lunch at 12 because of nursery so 11am is the only window for the first dose. He comes home from nursery around 3-45. He can just about have a dose then because he's had a snack at 2-45, and can hold out till 4-45 before I give him something else. Dinner is 6-30 so that rules out 5-30 to 7-30 for dose 3, and he goes to bed just after 8 so I am lucky if I get in dose 3, let alone 4. I wonder if having a dose too few is the worst evil or if taking it on a full stomach is the big no no? Maybe I should waken him up in the night for one as it's about the only time he isn't eating!

Monday, December 15, 2008

HEREDITARY TASTES?


my xmas tree 87
Originally uploaded by PhylB
When I was a little kid I hated the Xmas song Little Drummer boy. What I found particularly offensive about it was all that 'pa rum pum pum' nonsense. If you can't think of any words that fit into a song, then don't bother. It's a bit of an easy opt out if you ask me, and when it makes up 80% of the song, you really are pushing your luck.
I was driving the other day when it came on the radio: the new Aled Jones and that unspeakable man, Terry Wogan, version. I instantly remembered how much it used to annoy me. It being sung by Terry - my least favourite person on the planet - didn't change my opinion of it...
Marcel bounced in from school the next day and said, completely unprompted: The school is making us learn that shite Xmas song - Little Drummer Boy - you know the awful thing where they cheat by adding pa rum pum pum pum instead of decent lyrics. That sucks!
Are musical likes and dislikes hereditary?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NEVER THOUGHT I'D AGREE WITH HIM

I never thought I'd agree with Gordon Brown but the Tories have dug up a quote from Gordon's shadow chancellor days and I couldn't have said it better myself: 'a weak currency is a sign of a weak economy, which is the sign of a weak government'. Hmmmm, makes you think...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

KISSES


kisses
Originally uploaded by PhylB
We have an official first word!
For weeks we've had something sounding like Daddy, something like Mummy and a Doodah sounding word for milk but none consistent enough to say for definite.
Last night in bed I said to Anna Kisses and she repeated Kusses. I wasn't sure so I said Kiss and she replied Kuss. We tried twice more and got 4 definite Kusses. I'm not sure the wee besom will oblige by repeating it again today but last night we definitely had a first word.

Friday, December 12, 2008

THE SANTA MYTH

I was listening to a news article today where a woman teacher had been sacked for telling some kids in class 3 in England that there was no Santa. I don't really believe it is a capital crime, even if it shows a slight lack of judgement on her part, but it wasn't that that intrigued me it was the age of the kids she was shocking with this news.
Year 3 is the 4th year of English primary schools, that is to say the equivalent of Charlotte's class, so as far as I am aware so we are talking about 7 and 8 year olds. I wonder quite how, in this day and age, people are managing to have kids go to school for four years (and nursery for 2 before that) and not work out the big Santa hoax.
People were phoning in to this particular programme saying they'd be hopping mad if a teacher told their kids that. One woman actually said the words that children should be allowed to retain their childhood as long as possible and that she'd be horrified if a teacher let on to her boys, aged - wait for it 9 and 12!!!!!!
Now maybe my kids are precocious. I know Lots in particular has always seemed mature for her age, but Marcel didn't make it through primary one without working out the Santa myth and Lots informed me totally unperturbed one day in preschool: You know there's no Santa mum? Now like most mums I simply assumed some older child or friend's older sibling had taken delight in popping the bubble, but no, she worked it all out herself thanks to the then number one song by Band aid!
I asked what had led her to that conclusion and she replied, completely undisturbed that if they didn't know it was Christmas in Africa, then Santa didn't go there. There could only be 2 reasons for that - either he didn't exist, or basically he was a complete bastard! Therefore there is no Santa! So who needs the supply teacher to let on? She never liked Santa anyway! And Bits doesn't like him any better.
I can understand some parents can get away with Santa till 5ish but 8, or 12 would really, really surprise me these days.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

BREAKFAST MILK

When we started cutting down Pudge's intake of my milk shortly after his first birthday, we quickly found out
that he thought formula was about as appealing as liquidized toads. Who could blame him?! Have you ever tasted the stuff? We discovered he loved ASDA 5% fat breakfast milk. He drank that during the day and my milk at bedtime from 14 to 22 months, when he went onto normal full fat cows' milk.
I didn't particularly want to start Anna down that path yet but as you've heard over and over she's a bit of a grinder and my boobs are taking a pounding with her.
So here I am with another wee problem - yeah you can match the baby to the boob using only dental records - so I went to ASDA today for some breakfast milk. They don't sell it any more! What am I to do???

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

THE SNOWMAN

I decided to show Léon The Snowman to put him in a Christmassy mood. He'd never seen it but was familiar with the Irn Bru version. At the end, I asked if he'd liked it and he wandered off muttering Why didn't he steal the boy's beer?... The power of advertising!

PREDICTIVE TEXTING


Me and my pal
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I have this dear friend called Carol. I have known her for 18 years and she's one of those caring, loving friends that you know will be there for you through thick and thin. In fact there is only one thing that Carol does that drives me batty and that is the way she texts! When my phone shouts at me Mum, you got a text! in Charlotte's voice, I know there is a message waiting for me. I open it and invariably it is from Thomas, or Marcel or Amanda. Occasionally it says from Carol. Then I start to shake in fear and anticipation of the message awaiting. I know it will be harder to decipher than Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Here is one she sent me on Monday:
  • Jst red it. On way out. P'l b here4A s6 let me no when suits+cd u email Sab2let her no when we'l meet her@restrant?
I know her phone does predictive texting because it is the same as my old one, so I wonder why she goes to all the bother of writing in Greek!
She got in my car and I asked if she'd mind texting Thomas for me as I was driving. I threw her my phone.
What should I write?
she asked.
Rose St corner
I replied.
Thomas had just asked where I would meet him to give him Anna.
A shriek of panic, Oh my God, you've got it doing that thing! she said, you've got on predictive texting
Of course I have - it cuts down the key strokes by 75%, what sane person wouldn't have it on??? So she hits the PQRS button three times, then the MNO button three more and gets the word: Spron.
I say wooooah, no Carol hit PQRS once, she looks very dubious, like I have advised her to go out shopping in a bikini in December, but does it anyway.
Then do I hit MNO 3 times? she asks
Nonononono - just once
. Now she looks dumbfounded, she hits it once, I tell her to hit PQRS once more and of course my phone starts to form the word ROSE, she nearly falls off her seat. She asks if it'll work out 'st' from PQRS followed by TUV and is gobsmacked when I reply yes.
Don't tell me I am finally starting to convert her? Maybe that wouldn't be such a good thing. She is one of a kind - the only one I know who texts in gobbledygook and the only one who sets my mind a mental challenge. If I convert her to predictive texting then I'll no longer approach a Carol text with a mix of fear and astonishment. I won't rant about her texts or laugh about them. I guess what will be will be...
I love you Carol just for being you!

PEANUTS REVISITED

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We're causing it! I'll not be avoiding nuts with my kids, sorry.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

EVEN WORSE THAN THEY'RE LETTING ON

Here's a photo of Glasgow's Buchanan street in December 2006.
At the tail end of the last recession, when I was still a student, I worked in H Samuel over Christmas. Sauchiehall street looked the same back then. I had to fight my way through queues of shoppers every time I tried to go behind the counter after my lunch break.
Realizing that Friday is the last posting date for EU countries Thomas went Christmas shopping straight after work yesterday. All the big shops in town are now open till 8pm for Christmas. The out-of-town malls are open till 11pm or midnight. He went in around 6-15pm and wandered around till 7-45pm. All the shops were full... of goods, not people. He was alone in Waterstones and Tk Maxx.
I guess we should be out there taking advantage of the current prices in shops because let's face it - when we import the next batch of toys, TVs, CDs and everything else, it'll all cost us 25% more given the fall in the value of the pound.
I hear the Tories are clapping their hands that the falling pound will be great for exports. Emmmm???? Pity the UK doesn't really make anything for export any more. Last time I looked my TV, fridge, washing machine, power tools, car, toys, couch, play station etcetcetc were all imports. Oh so they all just went up 25%. Great - a big round of applause for our wonderful ex-chancellor who forgot to join the Euro when the pound was worth something.
It's nice to know the country is in such safe hands, and that the alternative is equally capable. I'd advise my kids to immigrate when they get old enough, if only I thought I'd have enough money to visit them elsewhere. If it wasn't for my current custody agreement, I think I'd be on the lookout for a oneway ticket to the sun too.

I suppose I should look on the bright side. At least this didn't happen a decade ago. There is no way Thomas, or anyone like him, would have come to the UK if the pound had been worth this little then. Like all bright, educated foreigners with something to offer he'd simply have looked for a job in the Eurozone where his salary would have better matched his value, and would not have risked being devalued with a currency.
So we can look forward not only to all the bright young graduates deserting the UK imminently but also the cream of the rest of the world avoiding us like the plague...

Ho hum

Monday, December 08, 2008

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE

Thomas hired Arsenic and Old Lace at the weekend. I had heard of it of course, but never seen it. Late Saturday afternoon everything was a bit manic - big kids squabbling, DIY hell, little kids sick, so he suggested we all stop for a coffee break and watch it as a breath of fresh air.
It was interesting at first to see quite how slow moving films were back in the 40s. It's been many years since I have watched an old movie. You could almost watch it while doing other things as it didn't take much concentration. In fact both Marcel and Charlotte did. Charlotte followed the whole thing while playing with Pudge, Marcel from behind a laptop exploring Amazon's new MP3 site.
As it went on though it became quite deranged. That stupid man constantly charging up the stairs making a noise with his bugle did my head in for starters. Cary Grant forgetting constantly about the new wife and the taxi, stressing about having the medical papers signed to commit his brother to some asylum was mildly annoying. The criminal brother turning up and all the mad running around began to make me twitch. The last manic half hour was on a par with an hour in the asylum that is my house and far from feeling relaxed after it I felt like I could use a second coffee break or even a gin to calm my nerves!
I think Thomas, Marcel and Lots enjoyed it though so 3 out of 4 isn't bad.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

SAD GIRL, HAPPY GIRL

Collins runs a children's Christmas party every year for kids aged 0-11. It has done for about five years now. It is particularly good for smaller kids - especially about 3 to 7 or 8. For a very small ticket price, you get copious sweets, drinks, bouncy castles, a disco and a visit to Santa. Who would choose any other way to take their kids to visit Santa given the option? No long queues, nice gifts, and they even let you take a photo of your kid on Santa's knee and don't try to charge you a tenner for their photo like many of the shops in town.
The one drawback is that when you put your name down for tickets the application form makes you state name, age and sex. No problem there unless you have a child like Charlotte, who is 8 and female, but who wants me to fill in the form with Charlotte Gautier, Boy, age 11. For at least 3 of the last 5 years the one low point of the party for Lots is the Santa visit. He invariably gives her a Bratz doll or a Barbie which she keeps in the packaging, gives to charity or keeps for whichever friend's birthday comes round first. She has never 'done' girl toys. She sees no use for dolls... Tell a lie, she once shaved a Barbie's head - it was the only 2 minutes of pleasure she has ever taken from a doll in her life.
So Santa came round again and she received the usual doll (left) and was considering whether to give it to Amy (Carol's daughter) or leave it behind. She was a very sad girl. But Léon had received three cars and a loop track so she was fairly upbeat at the thought of playing with that. At the end of the party as Santa was packing up she noticed he had 3 leftover boy presents for the 9-11 age group. She moaned how she wished she'd got whatever was in that instead. Chancing my arm I asked Santa's elf what was to become of the leftover presents as the rightful owners hadn't shown up. She didn't know - figured they'd just return them. I asked if Santa would be offended if she traded her Bratz doll for a boy parcel and after a little consideration the elf handed over a package whispering to me: Are you sure? - I think these are footballs. Lots opened up a leather football and beamed from ear to ear. I had become her hero. I had traded the doll from hell for a football that even matched her football boots.
Strange child! It takes all sorts to make up the world I guess. I would have been so devastated with a football from Santa when I was 8!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

TIME TO PANIC?


The TV/guestroom to be
Originally uploaded by PhylB
This is our old kitchen. It has come a fair way since we first started demolishing it in the summer. However, I am not sure it is as far along that path as I'd like it to be. I had imagined that by the time Thomas's parents came for Xmas it might have been decorated in the pale blue wallpaper we bought months ago and the beautiful solid wood flooring might be down. I had imagined a sofabed and some furniture. Realizing a few weeks ago that that was too ambitious I hoped the water and gas pipes might at least be boxed in. Now, with only 2 DIY days left before they arrive, I am pinning my hopes on it having walls, or even a floor...
I blame it on 4 kids, 2 chest infections, 1 laryngitis and 10 years of DIY overload...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

TOAST RACKS

We had one when I was a kid. The B&Bs we visited on holiday in the early 70s had them too. I probably last saw a toast rack about 33 years ago. A few months back Thomas insisted we needed a toast rack. I had no idea why but he does like his kitchen stuff so I humoured him. But he was right! Instead of two crispy pieces of toast with a soggy pile underneath on a plate at breakfast as we usually have for six at the weekends, we now each have a beautifully crispy slice or two. Who'd have believed it?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

CHILLY PASSION FLOWER


Chilly passion flower
Originally uploaded by PhylB
This poor plant is wondering why it's so damned cold. I can't imagine passion flowers are overly used to the ice.
And why is it that ice comes as such a huge shock to us here in Scotland? I mean, obviously ice can be coped with - otherwise there wouldn't be such places as ski resorts, but this morning I woke to find that overnight it had thawed, rained and frozen quickly. The result of course was very thick black ice. I couldn't actually get up my garden path to the car - that took more than ten minutes carrying Anna, poor Pudge looked like Bambi on ice and resorted to lying on his front on the path crying awaiting rescue. Once I got to the car (to take Anna to the doc for an emergency appointment for a chest infection and conjunctivitis) I couldn't get in. The door was iced shut and I could hardly lie the sick baby on the pavement to pull it open so I tugged with one hand while trying to keep my balance, hold Anna and keep Bambi upright. Then of course my de-icer couldn't penetrate the 2cm of ice on the windscreen, I kid you not. When I finally got going, ten minutes after I was meant to arrive at the doc, the road had NOT been gritted so it was the people carrier doing the Bambi impression frantically flashing the dashboard's ABS lights at me. Why exactly had Newton Mearns not been gritted last night? I expected the main road would be ok, but again that was doing its impression of a championship slalom ski run all the way to the Ayr road.
We got to the doc and survived the drive. We even watched a few less fortunate cars pirouette past us on our way up Capelrig road, missing us by millimetres!
When I lived in a ski region in France the gritters simply passed my front window every 15 minutes pouring out salt, just in case. Maybe we should try taking a leaf out of their book.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

THE DEMISE OF THE COWBOYS... ALMOST


08-11-23 (2)
Originally uploaded by PhylB
We took off the plasterboard walls in the kitchen to replace them this weekend. We had no choice, John Wayne's gang had stuck on the kitchen tiles with concrete so the walls had crumbled and fallen down when we removed them. Confronted once again with an extra DIY job not on my to-do list I was horrified to see how the sockets had been wired behind the walls. I was even more shocked to find the nails they'd used to nail on the plasterboard roughly 3mm from the socket wiring. Looks like my least favourite gang of cowboys came within an inch of their lives!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A POINTLESS PIECE OF HOMEWORK

No sooner do I praise the education my kids are receiving and the school goes and gives them something I have to complain about! Typical!
Marcel was given this proofreading exercise to do as his homework this week. I have absolutely nothing against proofreading as an exercise for an 11 year old boy. It will instil both good spelling and attention to detail in him. But look at it:
  • Sean and Josie stood stil.  Just a momment erlyier a fox had crosed the
    parth, stoped and shakern itself.  Then it sliped quiertly away.  They
    waited in silense hopeing to sea it agen, but eventuly relised it must
    have herd them.
    
    Wen they reterned to the car park they sore a notise arsking visters not
    to disterb the creaters who might be breading at this time of year.  "I
    hope we didn't wurry that buteaful fox," said Joise.  "I'm shore we
    didert," replyed her frend, "but we'll go now and leave all the animles
    in piece."
    
This is completely pointless for a Scottish child. All these ridiculous 'r's added in that they would never have even considered adding meant it was way too simple for him. Spelling 'sure' as 'shore' and 'saw' as 'sore', given they don't sound at all alike with our accent, meant he didn't even realize what word was intended! If you want to check kids can spot spelling mistakes, remember where they are from and how it would sound if they read it aloud.

END OF AN ERA

Today is officially my last day employed with Harpercollins. It feels weird to think that come 1pm I will officially be unemployed, or rather self-employed. I guess it is a good thing dictionary writing is such an incestuous profession - I have ex-colleagues at Chambers, Harrap, Larousse, Oxford etc. Looking them all up to beg freelance jobs will feel like a family reunion! Collins hasn't been the same since many of the old timers moved on. We were such a wee family in the beginning.
Wish me luck as I enter this brave new world!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A TEN YEAR OLD?


Marcel after the hairdresser
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Occasionally my kids watch Are you smarter than a 10 year old, another piece Noel Edmonds drivel. I have actually sat down and watched this one with them despite my strict I will not waste a minute of my life watching inane TV quiz shows rule. The reasons I have found myself watching this are disbelief and curiosity. The show divides the questions into topics and ages - you get an 8 year old English literature question, a 6 year old geography question, a 10 year old history question etc. My kids, who are top of their class here in Scotland, sit unable to answer 90% of the questions - in fact, in general the only questions they can answer are maths and spelling. This puzzles them, but it doesn't puzzle me. The questions, designed to mirror the English curriculum, scream out the horrors of education system they are currently using south of the border. They ask very narrow, very specific facts that you either know or don't - they have nothing to do with being smart or not - they simply have to do with learning nonsense parrot fashion for no particular reason. For example, when my kids study poetry at school, say Wordsworth's I wandered lonely as a cloud, they read a poem and analyse the alliteration, the metaphors, the way language is used, the imagery, all at an appropriate level for their ability, regardless of their age. It seems, if Noel is to be believed, that in England you learn the facts - you might be asked the type of flowers Wordworth mentions in the first stanza (daffodils). Knowing whether it is daffs or roses does not increase your intelligence one iota, but that knowledge gains you a point in their exam and league table driven system so the whole country is teaching inane facts of this type so the kids can pass the exams. They have lost sight of the fact that passing the exam isn't the point of learning - it's better to learn to think but skip the silly meaningless facts.
Today's Independent explained the end point on that educational track... Is that really what the UK wants to fill 80% of its youngsters' minds with? My kids do look very surprised when I cry with joy at their inability to answer any of the English curriculum questions - they haven't quite understood the implications of the two systems yet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CRYSTAL BALLS

I wonder if Sterling would have come up with this ad if they'd known they would go bankrupt last month!? I did feel like scrawling I wouldn't under it with my lipstick but it wouldn't have shown up against the red background!

Monday, November 24, 2008

HEALTH AND SAFETY


Lethal Duvet
Originally uploaded by Rob Watling
Am I the only one who hates that lie? You know For reasons of Health and Safety blah, blah, blah... I got one today.
  • The nursery will be running its Christmas show on December 18th. For reasons of Health and Safety we can only accommodate 26 members of the public. These members of the public are each required to have a seat. Tickets for seats are on sale from the office at £1 each. For further reasons of Health and Safety even babies and toddlers require their own seat and thus will be charged at £1 each.
Ok so if you have a 3 week old baby you are meant to try sit it upright on a small wooden chair, God forbid you should have it strapped onto you in a papoose or sitting on your lap - that is just so dangerous for a baby. Why the crap? Send me a note that says Nursery is strapped for funds - please pay £2 for the Christmas concert if you are bringing a baby with you I wouldn't mind that - it is the bullshitting I can't take.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

PETROL V DIESEL


Tesco petrol station 23-11-08
Originally uploaded by PhylB
What the hell is going on with the relative prices of petrol and diesel at the moment? I don't get it. I have owned a diesel car since 2000 and have been more than pissed off that the price per litre in the UK is generally 2p more on average than petrol - pissed off because I know that most other European countries charge diesel at about 75% the price of petrol but 2p isn't going to break the bank. When the prices shot through the ceiling earlier this year to £1-30, petrol followed on close behind peaking in Silverburn Tesco around £1-27, so how come now the price is going in the other direction diesel is being left way behind. The price difference of 16p a litre is outrageous. It really doesn't reflect what is happening to the price of oil on the stock markets. Can anyone explain what's going on, please?

Friday, November 21, 2008

SOULMATES


Pink knives and pink tools
Originally uploaded by PhylB
How do you know when you've found your soulmate? Maybe it is when you talk and talk and talk and never run out of words. Maybe it is when you hug and kiss and never run out of love. Maybe it is when your bodies fit together perfectly. Maybe it is defined by shared interests and hobbies. Or maybe it is when you find someone who knows you well enough to find the perfect present for you even if others might overlook it in a shop or think it crazy...
By the way do you like the pink knives and new tools that Thomas bought me?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

COWBOY KITCHEN -THE NEXT PHASE


Cowboy kitchen
Originally uploaded by PhylB
We have about four weeks to take out the old kitchen, lay a wooden floor, wallpaper and move furniture in before our Xmas guests arrive. But of course, the cowboys are back with a vengeance. The latest? No doubt to save money, the old kitchen tiles have been stuck on with cement instead of tile adhesive. It's very robust - the wall comes off before the tiles! I fancied adding rebuilding four walls and replastering a room to my pre-Xmas remit. It isn't like I have anything else to do with my time at the moment. It'll save me twiddling my thumbs.

BLUE CHEESECAKE

I had forgotten this phase of childhood until recently when Charlotte entered it. Marcel skipped it but Lots is much more of a chemist than Marcel. I'd define it as the foodcolouring phase, where nothing can be cooked or baked without adding some hideous shade too vivid to be found on the rainbow. Last week we had a blue cheesecake, yesterday I had to negotiate her out of dyeing a carrot cake green - we compromised on green lemon and mascarpone icing. I remember it from my own childhood too. I have recollections of Derek's horror when I made blue scrambled egg for breakfast once... In my memory I was older than eight though - maybe the chemist phase is quite a long-lived one...

FRUIT AND VEG IN ÅRHUS - A TRUE CULINARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC EXPERIENCE


The fruit market in Århus
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I know it makes me a sad person but I like to photograph fruit and veg in markets almost as much as I like to buy it! Look at these colours! Aren't they stunning? Hey there's a new career for me - food photographer in recipe books! That'd be fun...
I am forever ranting about Scottish fruit and veg markets. This is the kind of market I want in Glasgow - and notice - it is in Århus, not the South of France - if they can do it in Scandinavia in winter with their climate, they should be able to do it here too. Pleeeeeeease???

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

FIRST FLIGHT


Mum and dad in Århus
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Now here's something not many kids can say these days. I was on a plane for the first time ever with my parents last week. I find that a bit odd given my own kids have been on probably 50 or more planes each with me already in their short lives. I fly loads, and my parents have taken to flying annually too (though not till after I left home!)
When I was a kid we drove in a VW Beetle to Blackpool, or in a Ford Cortina to Devon - we didn't do abroad - that was far too expensive. We did all go abroad together once in my childhood but again that was a 3 day drive to le Lavandou in France.
It is funny - I think the longest car trip my kids have ever been on is 4 hours, anywhere further has always been a plane. Marcel goes to high school next year and was asking about potential school trips. I mentioned my friend Hilary's son David (14) was going to the South of France on a canoeing trip (He attends the high school Marcel will go to) - Marcel mentioned that would be an expensive trip what with canoes and planes fares. As it happens it is bloody expensive but they are going by coach, just as I did as a 14 year old when I went to Switzerland as on a geography trip - I mentioned that to Marcel and he looked horrified. How long does that even take? he asked - A couple of days I guess.
Can all the forty somethings out there who did this as a child imagine today - being in a coach with fifty fourteen year olds in a coach for 48 hours for the first time in their lives - fun! I'm glad I didn't become a secondary school teacher!

BREAKFAST PEOPLE AND NON-BREAKFAST PEOPLE


Danish breakfast
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I guess it is like night owls and morning people, you get breakfast people and non-breakfast people. In fact I wonder if they two groups are the same? I must ask around.
What I mean is, you get people like Pudge, who half way through opening his eyes from a deep sleep mutter 'I want chocolate krispies' and then proceed to eat three bowls of chocolate shreddies instantly their feet hit the ground. You get other people like Lots who get up and stare at a bowl containing 6 rice krispies, with horror and no real desire to eat until they have been up for about an hour. The problem is when the two sets overlap.
My dad left early for work when I was a kid and my mum is a non-breakfast night owl. We didn't really do breakfast, if we did it was rare. I went to school and first ate something at playtime around ten. It didn't bother me because it was what I knew. It was normal. I didn't realize I was actually a breakfast person! I lived alone as a student all round Europe and carried on with the routine. When I moved in with André, he assumed we would eat breakfast, so I ate breakfast, and only then realized I am actually a Pudge-person. I function much better on a big breakfast. If I had never lived with a breakfast person, I would probably never have discovered that. I wonder how many non-breakfast eating breakfast people there are out there. The opposite isn't true. Non-breakfast people being brought up by breakfast people sit horrified every morning with the sleepy nose in a bowl unwanted cereal or the likes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

GOING FOR A DRIVE - ANOTHER PRO-EUROPEAN RANT


Driving to Århus
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Another thing that really annoys me is why stubborn, stupid Britain didn't swap to driving on the right hand side of the road like 90% of the places Brits are ever likely to need to drive a hire car 50 years ago when it would still have been feasible. I've been driving here in the UK for 23 years, and first started driving in Europe about 21 years ago when I lived in France. Because of that I find driving in both places exactly the same. It comes naturally. I don't have to remind myself to go round roundabouts the wrong way or the likes. One thing I have noticed though over the years is how off-putting people inexperienced at driving on the other side of the road find it. Many Brits are ill at ease at the thought of driving in Europe, many Europeans refuse point blank to hire a car here. Worse still some hire them and then do accidentally take to going round roundabouts backwards or up the wrong side of the road. And taking our own cars on holiday is at best tedious when you want to overtake, at worst dangerous. Why did we feel it necessary to make things so complicated for ourselves? It isn't that right is better than left, it is simply more sensible when you are joined to an entirely right-driving continent. What a complete pain! I'd still change today if they were considering it!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

HOW TO TELL WHO IS THE FOREIGNER


Dad being revolting
Originally uploaded by PhylB
If you have never lived abroad, this scenario probably has never occurred to you. Imagine you get posted alone to a foreign country - it needn't be far - say somewhere else in Europe. You go to the supermarket and you find a local delicacy with no instructions, but being adventurous, you buy it anyway. An example: when Thomas first moved to Scotland he happened upon potato scones. Fresh, he had no idea what they were. He realized they were savoury so grated cheese on them and made them into a warm toastie with a cheese centre. I'm sure they tasted fine but left in a room full of Scots the large arrow pointing at him would have been screaming foreigner, perhaps even foreign weirdo! Last week in Denmark Dad couldn't pretend he didn't know what a Danish pastry was but the arrow was definitely pointing at him when he topped his with Camembert 'just to take the edge off the sweetness'. It was just too weird for the natives!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

CUDDLY TOYS AND CUDDLY BOYS

People assume children love cuddly toys. All of my kids received cuddly toys as gifts when they were little.
I had a large blue teddy bear named Kissy as a child who went everywhere with me - I even remember falling out with my mum in '76 because she claimed (unreasonably as far as I could see! ) that it could not be fitted into our family VW Beetle for a trip to Blackpool along with me, my brother, 2 suitcases, a tent, and all our camping gear!
Charlotte was obsessed by this snowman from three to six. She had my mum knit him a coat claiming he was cold. Remembering my traumatic separations from Kissy as a child
- I used to leave her carrots and berries when we went on holiday and tuck her up in bed so she would feel safe and I would then take a drawing of her with me - I let Lots take Frosty everywhere - he's flown all over Europe, always in hand luggage in case BA should accidentally transfer him to Osaka!
Léon is the cuddliest little boy I know - he often spontaneously comes out with 'I need a hug' and sits hugging you tightly. But he is completely uninterested in cuddly toys. Yesterday for Children in Need everyone had to bring a bear to nursery. As we waited to go in 90% of the kids stood tightly hugging or kissing their bear. Léon, as a last minute gesture, had taken Anna's purple zebra and held it dangling by one leg. When I went to pick him up, his teacher said she'd had to retrieve it all afternoon as Léon had kept putting it down completely disinterested. If she'd binned it, he couldn't have cared less. It isn't a lack of paternal instinct - he had a tantrum yesterday when I didn't let him change Anna's nappy (he'll make someone a wonderful husband one day!) and hugs her constantly, almost smothering her. He just sees cuddly toys as insignificant pieces of material. Marcel was the same as a small boy. Happy to cuddle me but not interested by inanimate objects...
Interestingly, Charlotte was only interested in the snowman after I stopped breastfeeding her. I wonder if Frosty was a mummy replacement and the boys just didn't need mummy replacements once they came off the boob because they were happy to admit they needed a hug while Charlotte was trying to act grown up and independent? I must monitor it with Anna, who so far also shows no interest in cuddly toys.

Friday, November 14, 2008

AN UNPC RANT

Ok, I am on antibiotics for a chest infection so I'm not in the best of moods, but even in a better mood I still hate Children in need day!
As a mother of 4 for starters people expect you to contribute 4 times - the big two come home from school with letters saying they can dress in their own clothes today but must make a minimum donation of £1 to to Children in Need charity - for minimum £1 in East Renfrewshire read about £3 - so that's £6 for starters, then the little one comes in with a sponsor form. He's doing a sponsored 'welly walk' for Children in Need 2pm to 3pm - so you are expected to rustle up another £10 or £20 for that, oh and they have the cheek to ask you to come along and supervise the activity at nursery as an adult helper - so they want dosh and your time. Then the littlest one - thank God she's stopped going to toddlers' because they want £1 minimum towards a Pudsey cookie today. So imagine I had contributed the required amount to save face - that's me down £27 before I leave the house. I then go to ASDA to pick up antibiotics for my chest infection and someone dressed as a large bear rattles a bucket in your face and tuts when you don't cough up another quid. Then into the office (thank heavens I am still on maternity leave officially) because there too I would be expected to wear a green wig and no doubt pay another £3 for a homemade cookie on the first floor. That's me up to £31.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against charity, it is these mass UK charity events I hate with a passion. If I want to give to charity, I want to give to a charity chosen by me and when I want. I might want to sponsor an African orphan, or give money towards research in MS or diabetes for example, but I don't want coerced into it and tutted at if I chose to do it next week and not this.
I think the real problem of these large sponsored events is that I am too European and not British enough. These mass charity galas just piss me off. I find them alien to my culture and incredibly off-putting. Sponsored anything immediately gets my back up. Idiots sitting in cold beans having their hair dyed green is never going to get me running to the bank for a donation. In fact it is more likely to get me sitting under my duvet avoiding the TV and radio and the idiots with the buckets.
Worse still they force Terry Wogan and Keith Chegwin in your face all day.
As my old Gramps might have said - Awwah an' bile yer heids - yer no gettin' a penny affa me!
I will now go and not watch TV for the rest of the day in protest. I think I am doing well so far this year. It is 1-39pm and they've only got £1 out of me so far and that is because nursery wasn't letting you in without a donation!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

AN ANNOYANCE

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that Anna is right handed. That's not exactly newsworthy in itself, but the reason I am so certain is because the little monster has taken to doing all her feeding herself and when she is full, instead of saying she is full, given she can't talk at 10 months, she simply wipes her filthy spoon on the nearest piece of material... my seat at the dining table is to Anna's right and the nearest piece of material is invariably my jumper .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

EDINBURGH

We flew over to Denmark for the weekend using Ryanair's new direct Edinburgh to Billund flight - wow - what a difference a direct flight makes considering the tens of hours spent in Stansted over the past 3 years, not to mention the price of £35 return each! The timing isn't great given the flight opened about 3 weeks before Thomas's parents' retirement and house move but I guess it is handy for all of Jutland, wherever they end up.
It is even handier for a wee family weekend in the original Legoland which is within walking distance of the terminal building at Billund and can entertain anyone between 1 and 15 (and their parents) for 2 days minimum.
We did have one rather strange experience, and that was the airport car park in Edinburgh. It seemed unnecessarily complicated. I have often left my car in both Prestwick and Glasgow. You book online, pay by credit card, turn up, park and go on holiday. When you return, you insert the same credit card in the ticket machine and it lets you exit with your car as it recognizes you have paid. A simple experience.
Edinburgh, however has a seriously bizarre system. You book and pay online, same as Prestwick, same prices, same distance to the terminal building. In Edinburgh however they insist you will be fined if you don't leave your keys. So you turn up, drive in and park, you then have to look for someone to note down your number plate and parking bay, print this information out twice, you get one copy, the other copy goes in a plastic food bag with your keys. Your keys are then tossed into a pink box with literally 300 sets of keys. You are told that when your return flight touches down you must text them a number. When you do this they hunt through their box of keys, find yours, drive your car to the opposite side of the same car park then leaving it unlocked, they come and hand you your keys at the terminal building and offer to drive you the 500 metres to your car. Weird! What is wrong with the good old West coast solution?? What advantages does Edinburgh see to this crazy system? Answers on a postcard please, I'm intrigued!

FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER


Stitches out
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I finally got out the stitches in my leg yesterday. I had been looking forward to it because I'd been sewn up so tightly I couldn't kneel down - not ideal for cleaning the baby's bum! I sort of assumed I'd be left with a tiny scar and it'd instantly stop itching and nipping. Firstly, the nurse who took out the stitches needs her own trip to the optician - after she's finished taking out the stitches, I took out 2 more myself - I could feel them and see them (without my newly acquired glasses), but she insisted they were all out! Silly besom. Then I had a wee look at my newly healed leg - I look like bloody Frankenstein's monster! Why did taking a slightly itchy pea-sized lump from my leg leave me with a 3cm wide, 3cm deep chasm that itches and throbs like hell?
I am not amused!

Monday, November 10, 2008

HOME AGAIN

We seem to be back in Scotland again, despite the weather's best efforts to keep us in Denmark. We woke up to a mini hurricane in Sdr Vissing this morning and tree branches had to be extracted from my hire car's wipers before the return leg of the journey could begin. Apart from a little more turbulence than usual, the trip was fairly event free and on schedule. Having lost our only pack of baby wipes yesterday, Anna obliged by deferring pooing till we reached British soil, thus saving us from having to take out a bank loan to buy a pack at Danish prices. Thanks Anna!
So once the washing is done, I'll be back with photos of the Danish autumn.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A WINNER?

I don't usually blog at 2-27am, but it looks like Obama has won!

LOOK DADDY, STAR TREK!


Look daddy, Star trek's on!
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Anna has become very serious about pointing this last week or two. She likes to read books, pointing at objects and trying to repeat the names of the nouns. Thomas was more than proud today though when, for the first time, she pointed excitedly at the TV when Star Trek came on!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

FEAR AND IMAGINATION


Bees and vampires
Originally uploaded by PhylB
It's funny - because Anna knows her daddy, when he dressed up as a very scary vampire for Halloween she didn't even bat an eyelid. But Anna is 10 months old. Léon, however, who is older and therefore has developed imagination, ran screaming in terror when he came across Thomas in the hall. In fact Léon's imagination is currently so vivid that if Thomas puts a towel over his head while getting dried after a bath he almost faints in fear because Thomas has become a ghost.
Personally, I found him much more terrifying in Amanda's wig after a beer or two!

FROM FAVOURITE TO FAVOURITER!


Our favourite curry house
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Anna has fallen asleep on me so it is computer or nothing...
After the Halloween party last Friday Thomas and I opted for a curry from our favourite curry house. It's been a few months since our last visit so I forgot there is no way you can fit in a starter and main course. Struggling through what seemed like a family portion of cumin-fried potato fritters, I was wondering where I was going to put my biryani. There was an Indian bloke eating alone at the next table. His entire table was covered in food. I was wondering if he was expecting company when he shouted over a waiter. Could I have the bill? he asked, Oh and please parcel up all my leftovers to go he added. The waiter simply said Of course and rushed off for takeaway boxes. My favourite restaurant suddenly bounced even further up my ratings.I didn't know you could get a doggy bag! I ate half my biryani, then had a lovely second curry for lunch on Saturday afternoon! Double yummy!

CHEESE MONSTER


Cheese eater
Originally uploaded by viralbus
Léon is becoming a costly child. The problem is cheese in general, cheddar in particular. Where most 3 year olds will be pacified by a digestive biscuit, a banana or a yogurt when they feel peckish, Léon, if left to his own devices, would go for a mature cheddar! He isn't prone to tantrums, but doesn't take kindly to being hauled out of the fridge when he is caught inside, climbing the shelves with a view to sinking his teeth into a £4 block of Seriously Strong! I guess I know what'll be top of his Santa list this year!

THE BIG DAY




I saw this photo taken by one of my flickr friends (Paul McRae) a few months back but didn't blog it then - I think it was while Hillary was still in the contest. I decided to wait till today. Isn't it cool? I think it says it all.
Sad about the Grandmother though.

Monday, November 03, 2008

JEDE ENTSCHEIDUNG IST EINE SCHEIDUNG


Fame at last!
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Well what can I say? For 18 years I have driven into HarperCollins to write them dictionaries. It's been fun for the most part. I think I am quite good at it - word analysis, structure, the bilingual element. But for some reason this country's economy is senseless. Publishing pays less than an average wage, though you have to be a university graduate to work in it (note that - anyone who assumes they'll ever pay off their student loan one day working in publishing!) To go back to work I would need to pay 2 private nursery places - I don't think having two pre-schoolage kids is that unusual in the Western world, but two nursery places (once you add on the petrol to get to work) actually means you work for nothing - nada, niente, zilch! So my 5 years of university education, my Master of Arts degree, and my 18 years experience in lexicography are to be shelved for want of a nursery place I can afford. Gordon thinks I'd be better staying home hoovering and wiping bums - sad, really.
Anyway, I guess like many before me I will now try to work as a freelance lexicographer from home, adding in a bit of photography and painting the odd kiddie mural to make ends meet. Isn't it just a crazy way to run a country, though!?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

BLOODY SORE LEG


Sore leg
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I've had a little pea-sized lump on the back of my leg for a few years. Over the summer it woke me up a few times as it was itchy and often felt like someone was pulling under the skin. I got a hospital appointment and found myself in a department in the Victoria Infirmary that seemed to deal almost exclusively with skin cancer. The doctor hurriedly told me not to worry, I was only there as he was a dermatologist and cancer wasn't on the cards. He analysed it and diagnosed an old mosquito bite that had become calcified under the skin and was irritated. He asked if I wanted it left or cut out. As it itches I opted for the chop.
After a 10 week wait (they don't prioritize mozzy bites!) I suddenly realized my appointment was at 2pm on Halloween - not ideal as I had volunteered to be a vampire at a kiddies' Halloween party at 4pm! Anyway I went along. They were running late, of course, so I didn't go under the knife till 2-30pm. The procedure was interesting to watch - though I have a stiff neck today - have you ever tried lying on your front watching someone chop up the back of your leg for half an hour? The anaesthetic was amazing - my leg was completely numb after less than 5 minutes and I felt nothing while they chopped me up. The 2 nurses were wonderful - so friendly, caring - real stars. I had a lovely half hour - ok they boosted my morale by looking genuinely surprised when I said I had had four kids - they said I didn't look old enough to have had four already - they boosted it further when they looked genuinely shocked when I told them I was forty! I could get used to this sort of positivity, I wonder if I can book an op every Friday afternoon.
The weirdest bit came when the second nurse was doing the paperwork while the first sawed my leg. The first looked suddenly stunned and said - I am about to tell you something amazing. She had lived in my house 1979-1984! She described the garden, the house, even the garage we'd had knocked down 5 weeks ago. Small world!
Anyway, I got out at 3-05pm and made the Halloween party dead on 4pm feeling absolutely fine. The main nurse had warned me the anaesthetic would wear off after 4 hours and I'd need painkillers. By 8pm I was thinking she was quite mad and I felt fine. I went to bed just after 11pm. I woke up and sat bolt upright with a throbbing leg and looked at my projection clock - the ceiling read 11-45pm. Since then I have been wondering why exactly I thought cutting out the itchy bit was necessary. It bloody hurts!

Friday, October 31, 2008

OUR NEW KITCHEN


Halloween cake
Originally uploaded by PhylB
When we went out looking for a new kitchen 6 months ago I was looking for a white one, and Thomas seemed to be looking for a wooden one but when we saw IKEA's high gloss red we decided it was time to be daring rather than boring. Having ordered it all we took colour samples for the walls and nothing seemed to go except the most boring of whites. Somehow in a moment of madness we convinced each other green would be unusual. After we started building it, I really really wasn't sure, and lay awake trying to work out how to paint white between the units. Last night I took this photo of Charlotte who had baked a Halloween cake all by herself. And do you know what? When I saw her against the green wall with the dark red in the background, I finally decided I actually like our wacky kitchen!