Friday, February 29, 2008


Thomas and I
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Feb 29 was always a special day in my family - Granda's birthday - he made it to 18.5 before he died - I was 22 then! Later my  French niece, Isabelle, was also born that day - she's 7 today! Happy birthday to her!
I'm sitting here listening to Jeremy Vine on radio 2 at the moment. It is all about how 29 Feb is the day that traditionally girls should ask their special men to marry them. People have been phoning in proposing on air - and fortunately no one has refused yet - phew! I guess if my divorce had been through already, I'd have liked to have gone to New York today, I'd then have taken Thomas up the Empire State Building, and once on top I would have asked if he'd mind being stuck with a wrinkly old pensioner like me for eternity - but given it isn't, I suppose, I won't :-( 2012 seems a long way off though :-(


Léon on the coffee table
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I have just remembered the real reason DVDs were invented...
All week our satellite system has been down. We have also been plagued off and on with monsoon weather so I had to come up with something to replace Léon's daily dose of the Night Garden. I usually let him watch that while getting Anna and I dressed in the morning. I went to look out a DVD only to realize that because my oldest child is 10, all my kiddie movies are on video, not DVD. I thought Léon might like Toy Story, so dug it out. He thought it was great and asked to watch a bit of it each morning. This morning, the same happened. I turned on the video and got the message ERROR 03 running across the screen. The video recorder is 15 years old, I don't have the manual any more. What is an error 03? Well apparently after a 15 minute investigation an error 03 is the current video being jammed in alongside two Simpsons DVDs. It is all coming back to me - the little video locks you used to have to buy to keep the little people from using the video recorder as a toaster or a bin.
And when I got everything out and turned to Léon, he was standing holding the video by a handle he'd made by pulling out a bit of the tape - AAARG! Surprisingly both the video and the video recorder still seem to be working.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Anna on the coffee table
Originally uploaded by
I've been trying out my new portaflashes to see what effect they have on portrait photography. My first batch were all taken with one silver-coated umbrella at each side of child, at child height. As can be seen here, the definition is very good and you can almost count the hairs on her eyebrows. This weekend I might try putting the two brollies above the kids at 6 or 8 feet to see if that makes a difference. I decided that might be the optimum height for child photography simply because when I passed Boots the Chemist today, Pixifoto were in doing kiddie portraits and trying to flog them for a fortune with their light set-up arranged like that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


has been potty-trained since January 10th, although he's skipped potties and gone straight to the toilet. Given past experience, I was assuming that'd mean I could take off his night nappies maybe late summer but having noticed he was dry 2 or 3 mornings recently, we decided to bite the bullet and have him sleep without too. Success! Today he woke up dry with no nappy on, after 12 and a half hours asleep. Not bad for a wee guy who isn't even 2 and a half yet! So that's us back to having only one nappy user in the family!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The garden in our new house is little more than a worn lawn surrounded by various muddy patches and some boring grey stone-filled borders - quite a contrast to the flowers and terracotta-tiled patio I lovingly tended in my last house. Fortunately Thomas is proving to be a keen gardener, planting new fruit trees and bushes every week. I have a few favourites I am trying to track down for here, but not being much of a gardener I know what they look like but not the names, unfortunately. Last week my description of a 'droopy tree with fluffy pink balls' drew looks of derision in Mclaren's garden centre, but I did end up with an ornamental Japanese flowering cherry tree - eventually. This week they looked even more puzzled when we tried to describe my favourite autumn tree. I knew it was small - 4 feet or so, had brilliant colours in autumn and fluffy balls in spring - this one stumped them completely so I gave up and spent an hour wandering around till I finally found a Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' just as I was on the verge of giving up. That was it - my favourite tree! So now I am set to trawl the internet for somewhere selling it at an affordable price.


Anna has started copying us! At first she stuck her tongue out when we did and now when we make clicking noises she copies those too! I know parents are always biased but she does seem to be a bright little thing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


About a year ago Thomas bought a Lexmark X1290 combined scanner and printer as the kids often need to print out homework. We printed a photo or two but the quality wasn't great for photos. It then got packed up for the move.We reinstalled it last week and it printed one page of homework before it told us it had run out of cyan. I bought new ink for a tenner, installed that and it printed Marcel's one sheet of homework fine on Friday. Today, we tried to print another picture only to be told it was out of cyan again. What a load of rubbish! Poor quality, faulty ink feeds, expensive ink. I think it is time I dug out my clumsy old but reliable HP 1315.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Aqua Shower
Originally uploaded by
Have I ever ranted about showers? I hate showers!
I think there are shower people and bath people, just as there are nightdress and pyjama people. Just as you won't ever catch me in pyjamas, you are also unlikely to catch me in a shower. Well in a shower at home to be more precise.
In a garden centre in Fréjus I was once told that olive trees really don't grow well north of Avignon. I also believe showers are something that don't go with the climate above Avignon. South of Avignon, I love showers - you come in hot and sweaty and a lukewarm shower refreshes you. But here in Scotland in February, showers are torture. You take off your clothes to climb in and already it is cold. You turn it on and it skooshes you with 2 minutes of freezing water before the temperature soars to the other extreme scalding your freezing skin. Of course you try to avoid this by reaching in tentatively with one hand before stepping in but you can't quite reach round the shower screen so you soak the floor or your nightie in the process. Once scalded you turn the temperature knob less than a millimetre and once again the shower switches back to freezing, and the pressure fluctuates too. In the meantime your soggy feet are wrinkling on the cold floor. Thomas swears by them - says he needs one every morning to waken him up - of course he does - nothing wakens you up more abruptly! It is a toss up between sticking needles in your eyes or standing under the water.
Let me ease myself into a warm bath and lie there cosily for half an hour every evening to relax after all the little people go to bed - heaven! And leave showers to the US and southern Europe where I can truly enjoy them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Why exactly has Anna decided to feed every 2 hours during the night since Monday? Why exactly did Léon decide 6am was the optimal time to get up on a wet miserable day like this? When can I go back to bed again?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


A baby with 4 grandparents!
Originally uploaded by PhylB
It occurred to me last week when Brita and Peter were over that Anna is the first person in my family to have been born with all four grandparents alive for generations. I'm not sure about her greatgrandparents but every generation since then has been missing at least one grandparent. My parents were each missing at least one at birth. I came closest in 1968, missing my 4 by just 6 days, when my grandmother died at just 50, leaving me nothing but her name. Even my other 3 children have only 3 grandparents (we lost André's dad at the start of my pregnancy with Marcel). And Gordy too, unfortunately has just 2. Sadly, if people continue to have their kids later and later, Anna may also be the last for generations to be able to boast this feat.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


an oddly leaky boob
Since Anna was about 2 weeks old, I seem to have a leak in my left breast. It only happens when it is really full but it does happen consistently when she sucks hard. It never happens on the right hand side, and it never happened in the more than 6 years I spent breastfeeding my other 3 kids. It really is quite strange. It hurt at first so I thought it might become infected but now it just slowly and painlessly drips milk as she feeds early every day. Funny, I wonder if it will dry up at some point!?

Monday, February 18, 2008


Since most people will be blogging Northern Rock in all its outrageousness today, I'll leave that to the papers and comment, instead, on the passing of Alain Robbe-Grillet. I studied contemporary French literature as part of my Masters degree back in the last millennium - yeah it is that long ago. I studied that amongst other more traditional French literary gems - you know the usual Descartes, Pascal, Zola, Baudelaire, Chateaubriand, Madame de Lafayette etcetc. I was the only one who admitted to preferring the contemporary stuff. The dark Céline was unputdownable, the Gide too and Camus made me smile with his dropping of the much-loathed past historic tense. I was probably a little too young at 20 to quite grasp the ins and outs of Sartre's ideas, but relished everything by his better half a few years later and even spent a long 6 months studying the clandestine literature written under the French resistance. But Robbe-Grillet was definitely hard going - I wasn't really sure what he was trying to do in 'Dans le labyrinthe' at first - it wasn't like a real novel - it never seemed to start or end, character and narrator seemed to blur into one, or maybe be the wrong way around. I found I was never overly interested in the long descriptions or the fate of the soldier. It was the one novel on the contemporary list, that I felt perhaps, just a little too stupid to understand! It seemed almost like a meaningless experiment in the norms of the formation of the modern novel. Maybe I should go back and read it now I'm older and wiser, to see if it has caught up with me yet. The tutor we had at the time, Dorothy, enthused so much about it, I felt pained to admit it was the one novel that had failed to captivate me!

Friday, February 15, 2008


I love watching how my kids acquire language. The bi-/tri-lingual dimension makes it extra-special when you are linguistically-minded, but I'll leave Thomas to document today's sweet Danish development. Today's simple English puzzle was two-fold: irregular verbs and phrasal verbs. Léon dropped something and wanted to say: It fell down. Simple enough, but he has already worked out that past tenses should end in 'ed'. The adverb confused him further, so we ended up, not with the expected: It falled down, but instead, the rather cute: It fell downed!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Léon learnt an important lesson of childhood yesterday: if you run down a hill too fast towards an ice cream shop, you sometimes trip up and go skidding nose-first along the pavement :-(

Monday, February 11, 2008


Goodbye to the scabby old trees
Originally uploaded by PhylB
When we moved into the house we decided this row of scabby old trees had to go. They were so tall they blocked all light in the garden, they were so thin at the bottom that Léon could easily walk out the garden on to a main road and they were plain ugly evergreens whose roots would eventually up-end the house.
Our tree cowboy friend happened to be passing this morning and given the weather was nice, asked if I wanted him to fell the trees I had asked him to come back and fell in the spring. Why not?
As I watched them for the next 3 or 4 hours, I suddenly realized quite how big a job it was and was glad Thomas and I had not attempted it with our chainsaw and my car as we had originally planned. Surprisingly, it wasn't the felling that was the big job - that took them about 15 minutes a tree, it was the cutting up and disposing of the trees that took hours, as they chopped and heaved bits of them into their van and disappeared off to the dump twice for every tree.
Now we have a scabby, bare, open back garden, so we need to get the planned fence asap. Then Pudge will be safe and Thomas can finally start planting his shrubs and bushes as planned.


When my mother got married (1965), the woman took the man's surname in the UK - that happened more or less 100% of the time - give or take the odd film star. When I got married in 1991, again it was more or less just what you did. By 1998, when Amanda and Derek got married I did hear the odd friend question 'are you going to change your name'? And now in 2008, I have several friends sporting different names from their husbands. Some kept their maiden names, some even kept their first married name though they are on their second marriage. I began to wonder what was changing. At first I wondered if it was simply a feminist thing but although I think that does come in to play, I believe hassle and, to a lesser degree, expense are the real reason fewer and fewer women are changing their names.
I decided to change back to my maiden name before I had Anna because I wanted her to be allowed Buchanan as a surname, rather than a meaningless middle name. Firstly that meant paying about £80 for deed poll documents (obviously this isn't an expense you incur if you change your name on marriage) but I then got the list of who all you had to inform of your name change: employer, tax office, HM land registry, electoral register, TV licensing office, Internet service provider, pension company, all your insurance companies, doctor, dentist, bank account, savings accounts, credit card accounts, council tax, anyone you hold a loan with, mortgage lender, DVLA, passport office, EHIC office, and many more - the list is endless! In my case, because I have kids I needed to add child benefit office, schools, etcetc.
After you have written to all 40 or more addresses providing documents to prove your change of name, obviously you can't do this simultaneously as many don't accept copies of documents but want to see your original marriage certificate, deed poll, or divorce certificate so the process drags on months. For 6 months you operate under two names - you have problems getting loans because one of your names doesn't have a credit rating and they aren't yet fully linked and so the hassles go on. Your credit card has one name, your passport another so Ryanair has a nervous breakdown when you turn up to board a weekend flight to Paris or wherever.
You also have personal eaccounts - like my blog, email and flickr are all under the surname Gautier. Sure I can create a new email address in 5 minutes but I then have to tell all 113 people in my contacts list about it, I use my email as my login for Blogger, Flickr, Amazon, Nisbets and 100 other online shops so I need to change all these too. I could create a new flickr and then spend a year moving over all 6000+ photos, I could create a new blog address and everyone would assume I'd just stopped blogging as nothing new would appear on the old one (hence the 3 things I have resigned myself to not changing are my email, flickr and blogger accounts).
The expense factor for me (over and above the deed poll) is the passport. I had a new Gautier one in 2005 which cost me £72, they simply bin it and ask you for another £72 for a Buchanan passport. And if Thomas and I marry when my divorce comes through this year then I need to pay another £72 for a Widmann passport if I change my name - £216 in passport in 3 years - madness.
In my mum's day you married young, before you had a dozen credit cards, a mortgage, a driving license etc. Changing your name was a minor 2 week hassle. Nowadays, I believe we are going to see a rapid increase in women not changing their name on marriage because of the major headache it causes. It will be interesting to see if we then introduce a centralised system as in Denmark where you only inform one address of a name change and they inform everyone else or if the trend continues.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Blogger's spellchecker seems to have stopped working for me :-( Is anyone else having this problem? I know, given in I am a dictionary editor, I shouldn't need a spellchecker, but although spelling is one of my strong points, typing isn't, so I always spellcheck my posts to check for wrods I hvae gto in the wrnog odrer ;-)


The Sunset Waterfall
Originally uploaded by
Another thing I miss is having time to go out experimenting with unusual exposures and other artistic photographic methods. In fact I haven't even tried a slow water shot since I went digital - I am always in such a hurry :-\ I must try this. I wonder if my big kids can be tempted into a photographic expedition...?

Friday, February 08, 2008


You know I'm a bit of a photo freak - always have been since I was elected Eastwood high school photographer back in 1984!
Back in my pre-kids days...were there pre-kids days?...they are hard to remember, I loved nothing better than going round Glasgow centre or the West End with all my SLRs, lenses and other quirky nonsense weighing me down, taking pictures of the dear green place. These days, the emphasis is, of course, on the kids, but hopefully one day I will be able to get back my meanderings through the city, maybe with Charlotte (as she is a keen photographer) along. In the meantime, I take great pleasure at looking on flickr for Glasgow photos. I think my two favourite photographers on there at the moment are Betty Boop and Len Scaps.
Have a wee look at their lovely photos if you are at a loose end.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


For years I've been trying to find decent potatoes for making mash. Annie (André's mum) makes the best mash I have ever tasted and yet after years of watching her make it, I always end up with something waterier, less fluffy and less creamy somehow. Last week however, Thomas finally made something close to my beloved French mash. On investigation, it turned out he was using a type of potato I had never heard of: Wilja! It is definitely showing potential.


bright eyes
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Did I ever mention I'd love to be a child photographer?


my cake
Originally uploaded by
Some of you may have realized I was celebrating a rather significant birthday this week. For weeks I've been asked what I wanted to do to celebrate - this question was usually huffed and growled at but Monday came around all the same!
Celebrations started on Friday when HarperCollins threw its usual birthday party for me in the Marriot hotel - for some reason they call it Collins' New Year party but it is always at my birthday weekend, so I assume it is my birthday party. That consisted of some sushi and a Chinese meal.
Next my old breast feeding group turned up from the distant places they have all moved to - originally we were all Glasgow West Endies (though Cynthia is American) but nowadays we're in Bridge of Weir, Lancaster, Inverkip and Newton Mearns. They brought me this lovely cake and some pretty picture frames, but more importantly they cheered up my mood with tea and coffee and tales of the old days. I still miss our Friday afternoon chats like crazy all these years on but know we'll all always be there for each other - truly special friends.
Then the gruesome day arrived. Thomas took the day off work - probably to experience my grumpiness first hand! He bought me some studio flashes so I can do better portrait photography - he's obviously worked out what is close to my heart.
We went for a Japanese lunch - inspired by the sushi at Collins 'Chinese' night! That was nice though a little stressful as it was Léon's first trip to a restaurant with no nappy on. Some sushi, a Japanese curry and 12 toilet trips later we picked up the kids from school and went to ASDA to buy a roast for dinner.
Thomas had invited my parents, my brother and sister-in-law to dinner. He then proceeded to cook a delicious prawn cocktail, a roast beef and a home-made lime mousse for dinner, while I ran around snapping at everyone as the house was in a bit of a state, but I calmed down in time to have an absolutely lovely evening with my man, my kids and my family, with beautiful gifts of an amber bracelet, a DKNY watch and a new mobile phone - oh and several bottles of bubbly.
Pudge announced to everyone at the end of the meal that it had been positively yummylicious - think that's a thumbs-up for Thomas's cooking.
Now my only plans are to read the studio flash manual and try not to change decade again in the near future.
Thanks to all for a lovely day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Plank of Wood
Originally uploaded by
So they finally came as promised on Monday... I thought at first they'd taken everything away but then noticed they'd left behind one plank of wood. Odd! All was, however, explained on a hand-written note through my door: We have left your plank because it is too large for our lorry... The bulk refuse department had left my bulk refuse because it was too bulky. Cool - must phone and ask what their plan B is!

Sunday, February 03, 2008


green babies
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I always thought Marcel looked just like a wee dolly in this home-made woolly suit. Today I realized I had a photo of all 4 in it - pity I don't have one of Gordy too. Anna may feel like a bit of a second, no third, no fourth-hand Rose in it, but I can assure her each of her siblings only wore it 2 or 3 times, given they all grew out of it at 6 or 7 weeks.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Happy Groundhog Day!
Originally uploaded by Flatbush Gardener
Hey, apparently today is groundhog day (we're in for 6 more weeks of winter according to Phil this year, by the way). Anyway, more importantly, if we're going to get stuck on today, we're never going to reach Monday - wouldn't that be tragic!?


Originally uploaded by
I've been tidying out a lot of old boxes today and I found this. How fondly I remembered it and its many hours of use over the years. I went to throw it in the bin, knowing sadly, it would never ever be used again and then suddenly wondered firstly how many people would actually ever have seen one and know what to do with it if they had one, and secondly whether there might be some sad nostalgic nut out there who might pay for one on ebay now or in the distant future - just for old times' sake. I think I'll put it in the loft for now just in case.


Call me psychic - I almost blogged this yesterday morning, sure it would happen before it happened but stupidly I gave them the benefit of the doubt!
Last week I was indignant to find out that East Renfrewshire council expects me to pay for a bulk uplift of rubbish I didn't want to take in my car to the dump (a fridge, freezer etc). Indignant because Glasgow city council doesn't charge and I have only just moved back to this council district.
Anyway - after 3 days tripping over an unsightly pile of fridges, freezers and packaging in my back garden, suddenly £20 seemed an easier option than 3 trips to the local dump with 4 kids in the car.
I rang them Tuesday and inquired about their refuse pick-ups. I was told I should pay £20 for 2 men to work in my garden for 15 minutes. Hold on then, I thought, a fridge and a freezer don't take 15 minutes so I booked the council, got a job number and asked them to pick up all the rubbish in my back garden, assuming I could make quite a pile by Friday. Oh no - they said, you can't say that - we only pick up things specified because otherwise they might accidentally take your garden table or kid's trampoline and you'll try and sue us - whatever happened to common sense and human judgement? Ho hum... Ok I'll make a list and get back to you, I told them. Be sure to quote your job number and you have to ring before Thursday at 2pm so we can draw the lists up for the vans, they replied. So Wednesday Dad and I moved some planks, some shelves, a kitchen worktop, a sink, and an old door onto the pile, and despite the rain and gales I even added a chair and a stool. I paid Marcel £2 to neatly arrange my pile by gathering rubbish from all over the garden in the freezing cold so the numpties couldn't miss it. I rang at 5pm Wednesday, I gave them my number. I asked them to read the list for that job number - a fridge, a freezer, some packaging. I told them to add some planks, some shelves, a kitchen worktop, a sink, an old door, a chair and a stool to the list. I made them read me back the list:
a fridge
a freezer
some planks
some shelves
a kitchen worktop
a sink
an old door
a chair
a stool
On Friday morning I opened the curtains - the fridge was gone, the freezer was gone, everything had been moved a metre to the right and the packaging had been taken from the bottom of the pile. I rang them and gave my job number, I asked them to read me my list, assuming the Wednesday numpty hadn't saved the complete list and common sense had taken flight when the guys were moving my rubbish off my rubbish to get to my rubbish but no, she read my whole list. Oh I'm sure they'll be back she replied. (Too bloody right they will!) By 4pm they weren't back - she insisted they still hadn't finished for the the day but if by any chance they still hadn't taken the rest by the end of the day, I should ring again Monday and she'll send them back free of charge. Given I am not likely to be in the best of moods Monday, as it is my unspeakable birthday, they bloody better!