Sunday, March 30, 2008
First I had Marcel.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Thomas took one look at that picture and wondered what would happen if a terrorist now claimed to have put a bomb in one bag. Would they just remotely detonate the whole pile (taking the building with it?)
And I laughed out loud at the story of passengers sitting in the plane watching luggage being put on and taken off 3 times, only to see the whole plane emptied just because staff weren't sure the cases had been scanned properly... That reminded me of my flight out of Barcelona to London on 15-9-01. US airspace was just reopening and we were sitting on an Easyjet beside the Delta airlines flight to Atlanta when a member of airport security came up the stairs holding a large blue suitcase - Does anyone recognize this? she asked... tickticktick? :-) When no one claimed it, the airline staff hauled it down our steps and up the steps of the delta flight, no doubt to ask the same question. Had they learned nothing 4 days earlier?
But why am I surprised at the BA fiasco? When I think back to the pre-Ryanair days, when I always flew BA, BMI or Air France when visiting my French family, I had to go through Heathrow 3 or 4 times a year. They got so good at losing my luggage (12 times in 3 years!), I knew exactly what was in their emergency handout: a toothbrush, hairbrush, soap, a pair of white pants and a white XL t-shirt with a BA logo on it. I acquired so many of them over the years that even now - 9 years on from the last time Heathrow last lost my luggage - I still regularly sleep, DIY, and garden in BA t-shirts as I still have a stock of them!
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Last week something new happened to me as a mother. Something that has never happened before despite my having 3 babies already. Anna started to suck her thumb! Now Anna is only 14 weeks old, so it is extremely cute at the moment. I will be completely horrified though if she is still doing it once she is in a school uniform. I have just spent the last hour googling it like mad to see how easy it is to break your child's habit if it goes on too long and checking its possible orthodontic and phonetic implications - and whether you need to saw off their thumb at some stage if you can't crack it. Surprisingly the consensus seems to be that between 70 and 90% of babies do this - why didn't the other 3? Are they freaks? And no one seems to be suggesting amputation as a necessity further down the line. This is a relief as I was beginning to wonder if a dreaded dummy would need to be substituted as it could at least be withdrawn at some point in the future. And as you know dummies are about as far up my popularity list as infant formula - and that isn't a compliment.
So it looks like she's going to be allowed the thumb, for now...
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Is this cute or what? We had just hung Anna in the door-bouncer for the first time ever when Thomas stuck on the radio and she decided it was a door-dancer rather than a door-bouncer! With Léon already a bit of a musical babe, I shudder to think how noisy this house is going to be once they are both teenagers!
Friday, March 21, 2008
So this morning I am sitting here with my coffee, when a wee leaflet gets posted through my door by the council telling me their new refuse policy. Excellent, I thought... well until I read the small print - your 110 litre bag will be emptied monthly. 110 litres monthly???? Are they insane? I won't be able to get out my back door for 3 of the 4 weeks for the mountain of milk bottles. Ho hum.
I saw this in ASDA car park today and fortunately had my mobile phone on me. I instantly thought of dad when I saw it.
Dad has had Alfa Romeos for a while now but has been talking about buying something else once he gets his pension this year. He seemed to be tossing up between a Jaguar and a new Fiat 500 (Stop laughing! He's a sweet, if eccentric man!)
Anyway, I thought of dad because mum is constantly complaining that if he has a small errand to run he steals her little red Nissan Micra, as if he almost prefers it to his Alfa, citing fuel economy etc as the real excuse for constantly borrowing it.
Here is the sporty Nissan Micra Coupé, so it is like a dad version of my mum's car.
Better still, it has one of those hard tops you can press a button and fold away into the boot. Dad claims to this day that his favourite ever car was his old Sports Honda Civic with a fold-away roof.
Come on Daddy, I think this would suit you more than a boring old Jag, (though the Fiat is cute).
Sometimes bilingual kids have a different outlook on life. I was singing to Pudge the other morning: Incy wincy spider climbed up the spout. Down came the rain, and washed the spider out. Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain So Incy wincy spider climbed up the spout again. 'He's called Peter, you know!', he replied Huh? Apparently the Danish version of the nursery rhyme is called: Lille Peter edderkop (Little Peter Spider).
Oh and incidentally - there are about a dozen different English versions - I must sing the whole repertoire every morning to gain me an extra half hour under the duvet!
When my own Gran died in her 60s of a brain tumour her very last words to me were ' I wish I was a rabbit' - The tumour had confused her so I had slowly become used to her talking nonsense over the preceding 6 months, she was a week from death, lying in a hammock because bed sores meant she could no longer even lie on a bed. But she wasn't confused that day - she was scarily lucid - she elaborated: 'then I could choose when to run into a trap'. I was just 16 years old and it frightened me that she had chosen me to confide in. It seems to me that when we get to that stage, often dignity is much more important to us than staying alive a few extra unbearable days.
I, for one, salute Chantal's courage and her decision to kill herself despite Monday's legal fiasco and feel only shame that we make people go to these lengths.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
While lying there for that ten minutes staring at the bizarre posters of frogs glued to the ceiling, I started to wonder what sort of person becomes a dental hygienist? I wonder if they are all failed dentists or some people actually set out with the goal in life of just picking at other people's dirty teeth? I can just about understand why you'd become a dentist - I mean mine is in his 40s, works a 25 hour week, has 3 days off, can afford two kids at private school, child maintenance for 2 ex-partners and drives one of those beautiful BMW jeep-shaped cars, but unless picking people's teeth pays better than I imagine, I fail to see how anyone ends up as a dental hygienist.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
I got up thinking I would take Léon and Anna to the beach or the park given the weather forecast was for sun and 10 degrees. I phoned to ask mum if she fancied coming along. She explained she had to babysit Gordy at lunch time to let Amanda visit her sick aunt in hospital, so I decided taking all 3 to Kelvingrove park might be fun. I arranged to drive mum in. While I was driving up to pick up mum, she phoned Amanda to let her know we were both coming. Amanda explained something weird was going on outside. She said police and an ambulance were outside the flat. By the time we arrived in town, at 11 something, police had erected two tents and blocked the road in two places. I tried to drive into Park Quadrant - no way José said the police officer on the line. Can I enter the street from the other end? (it is a one way street) I asked. No one is getting in or out, he replied. Hmmm - I was beginning to realize it was a serious something. After explaining we had to babysit for a relative, we were finally allowed in - but were told no one was being allowed to pass the police lines. As we went upstairs, two neighbours were arguing with the police - pensioners, they needed their car to attend a hospital appointment - again - no way and no info. They walked off into the distance to hail a cab. After a walk in the park we were followed into the close by the CID - they wanted to interview the Buchanans - they had found 2, but not the right 2. They said they'd return at 4pm. They turned up at 4-15ish. Amanda said she had heard a bang the night before around 11-30pm- like someone closing the boot of their car a little more roughly than usual, but nothing more. She had looked outside to check her car was ok, it was, so she had gone to bed. The CID must have been short of info because they stayed asking Amanda every second of the previous night, taking 4 pages of details down and speaking for nearly an hour and a half. Amazing! Mum and I stayed to keep Gordy out of Amanda's hair while the police spoke to her. We were really great at babysitting. At one point I thought mum was next door in the bedroom with Gordy, Mum thought I was next door in the living room with Gordy - Gordy of course had shut himself in the bathroom, climbed on the toilet, opened the bathroom cabinet, and had squeezed the entire contents of Amanda's Chanel body lotion over the bathroom floor. He knew however that wasn't on because at that point, Derek got home from work and asked if he'd been a good boy, to which he sheepishly replied 'No!' Over the course of the afternoon, we had been supposing that a young male had probably fallen off the scaffolding on the adjacent building and been killed, so we were surprised to hear it was a young woman's body that had been found. Anyway, after the police left I found this on the BBC. I guess we might hear a little more over the next few days. I uploaded the photos I took to flickr. It feels a bit eerie to think Amanda may have heard a young woman die last night, and that she may have been lying there not quite dead half the night... sends shivers up your spine.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I was just discussing lizards with Thomas. Anna was reading a book about lizards, you see!
It reminded me of a traumatic experience from my childhood I thought I had already told him.
When I was 5 my school took me on a school trip to Calderpark zoo, Glasgow's zoo that closed down about 5 years ago. When I was 5 there were only 3 TV channels, no Discovery Channel. And our TV had been black and white most of my life. So I wasn't as clued up as today's kids - I knew cats, dogs, cows, horses, elephants and tigers but I wasn't au fait with chameleons, iguanas and the likes.
It was a rainy Glasgow day and most animals were hiding in their shelters. They took us into a building marked Reptile House. I didn't know what reptiles were and no one explained it to us. I was a sweet wee girlie girl. I skipped in excitedly hoping to see cute little fuzzy animals like tiger cubs or polar bear cubs only to come face to face with a large iguana. I jumped back in horror. What had happened to this poor animal's fur? I wondered. Just as had happened with the clowns, I was too shy to ask an adult why all these animals looked liked that, so I puzzled it through in my naive 5 year old head and concluded there had been a fire in the reptile house and all the animals had been burned. For weeks I woke up in a sweat every night as cute furry little animals burned in my dreams and turned into ugly chameleons. What an imagination!
I suggest maybe we should always explain things to little kids even if they see completely obvious to us adults! It could avert months of worry!
Friday, March 14, 2008
The actual pictures are shown here in blue - Léon's interpretation of each is in red: aeroplane (hoiplane), bananas (nanas), car (car), dog (doggy), elephant (elephlint), frog (frog), gift (presents), hen (crocodile), ice lolly (ice cream), jelly (chicken!), koala (snowman), lorry (truck), mouse (mouse), net (haler = it is what he calls his asthma inhaler), orange (orange), penguin (snowman), queen (lady), rocket (broken boy), submarine (space ship), television (TV), umbrella (træsko = Danish for 'clogs'), violin (piano = a generic term for any musical instrument for Léon), xylophone (box), yacht (boat), zebra (reba).
I guess this shows the importance of clear, rather than trendy drawings when you try to teach kids things!
Of course I miss my family every day, especially my other mum - they were old fashioned - divorce doesn't happen, so they couldn't stay in touch with me and André too. Maybe one day we'll find a way to become friends again. After all it wasn't them I fell out of love with, and I couldn't stay forever just to keep the family I saw twice a year.
For the first time since I was 16 I have not set foot on French soil for over a year and I ache with homesickness - for the smells, the sun, the buildings, the language, the food, the way of life.
When André and I split he kept all the French music, I got the books. I didn't mind because hearing it would hurt too much. Two years on I decided I needed it back - I found my favourite half dozen cds on amazon.fr/used and bought them for less than £20. The first one arrived this morning and it feels so good to listen to - even if all that old stuff: Maxime le Forestier, Brel, Piaf, Barbara, Aznavour, Guichard makes me a dinosaur! That music is part of me. Listening to Maxime now I have to resolve to improve Léon's French level - if André won't take him and speak it to him, I will make sure he doesn't need a dictionary to understand these poetic lyrics when he's old enough to understand them.
I have just been reading an interesting article about childbirth on the BBC. I sounds like things are a wee bit different down south but I believe everywhere has got it wrong. And childbirth is definitely something I know about! I have been considering the best way to approach it since I heard an American describe giving birth without epidural as 'doing it the old fashioned way'. In France too epidural is the norm - with it being taken for granted unless you ask to opt out. I feel having been through it every possible way (except caesarean) I am qualified to comment.
I have to agree with the first statement. Of course women go into childbirth the first time underestimating the pain they are about to suffer - that is because you can only describe that intensity of pain to someone who has already been through it, by which time it is too late to describe it to them - maybe someone who has fallen into a mincing machine and crawled out in time to be run over by a truck could just about get what you mean if you try to describe it, but failing that everyone is going to go into it first time round wearing rose-tinted specs and then panic.
Here in Glasgow what seems to happen is that they teach you relaxation methods and tell you about the pain relief available. That is to say they tell you you can get an epidural which will anaesthetize you, morphine which will take the 'edge' off the pain or a tens machine which they let you try. They make it sound sweet and idyllic - like it will be sore but as long as Mr Right is there holding your hand you'll be fine. I think in the back of their minds they assume that once the pain hits the mum-to-be will simply ask for one of the pain relief methods, probably epidural and they will hand it out with a knowing smile.
Anyway here's what I would do, if I was in charge. I would mention the relaxation methods because they definitely help when panic hits, if you have moral support. I would then send each mum-to-be home with a DVD of a real birth - and I don't mean 2 minutes in a taxi as you see on the likes of Eastenders - I mean an average 12 hour screaming, crying, yelling birth. I think as a woman looking into that stranger's eyes you would get a much more realistic view of what she is about to go through. I know some satellite channels show birth these days, but they only show you the last 10 minutes, (and from the side!) - so you have no idea of the hours of exhaustion that precede that point. That would be step one. The advantage to this method too would be that if you did go for pain relief, you certainly wouldn't feel like you had failed in any way, and neither would your partner if he watched it with you.
Step two would be to mention the pros and cons of each method of pain relief. I think telling you about them 4 weeks before birth rather than during birth would give you more time to think them through. I would say you can have an epidural but you could end up with pain in your lower back for a month every time you sit down, every time you sit against something. It will make you feel uncomfortable every time you breast feed for the first month but it does take away the contractions for the 8 hours it is in. I would mention you can't feel to push so you push exhaustedly until the forceps or ventouse are called for but again this interception won't be felt because you are anaesthetized. Of course, it will be felt for months afterwards if you need stitching because of the forceps. I would mention you can have urine problems after an epidural and need catheterised for 2 or 3 days. And that you can end up shaking all night after the effects wear off. I'd say that sex might make your eyes water for months because you have been sewn up so tightly but it does take away the pain for those 8 hours.
Then I would say morphine can make you feel nauseous, and claustrophobic and faint. I would mention it doesn't actually do anything other than skim the surface of the pain of childbirth but yes it too is available.
As for Tens machines - yeah they work for the first couple of hours when you think the pain is bad but by the time you reach the bit that is actually painful you can't feel the Tens machine, so yeah use it but don't believe it'll make things go swimmingly.
No we wouldn't have our teeth pulled with no anaesthetic because that hurts but if having them pulled without anaesthetic would mean you hurt a lot during the procedure but avoid 6 months of pain - would we maybe consider it? And as for dying - sure people die in childbirth but from the complications, not the pain!
As I went through about 20 hours of labour with Léon and about 4 with Anna I got through the pain by knowing that when it stopped, it would be over - the unbearable pain of childbirth just stops when they hit the bed - you know then you've made it. I would advocate natural child birth not because I like pain but because afterwards your world turns upside down, you don't sleep, you suffer exhaustion like you can't imagine so the last thing you need is more pain.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
We arrived at 11 and things didn't start too well - both had got up too early so were overtired. We got half an hour of 'mineminemine' and 'gimmegimmegimme', with a bit of crying and stamping thrown in. Half an hour in, things calmed down and they decided to be best buddies as usual. Phew! Gordy had used the potty a few times when his mum had asked him to before our arrival, but after, playing with Léon was too much fun to bother with potties.
Around 12, Léon asked to go to the toilet so we thought this was a great opportunity to show Gordy what to do. Léon did a pee and a poo. We asked Gordy if he wanted a look - so he looked down the toilet, and seemed impressed. Amanda asked if he wanted to try: No! Gordy walked to the living room and promptly peeed all over the floor. I tried to keep Léon from walking in the swamp while Amanda mopped it up.
After lunch Léon managed another pee and poo, again I showed Gordy, again he peeed his pants! While Amanda and I chatted in the kitchen the boys played in Gordy's bedroom. Amanda went to check after two minutes. I heard her say - oh you've had a wee accident, don't worry. I assumed it was another pee but it was a poo. Amanda suggested to Léon he leave the room while she cleaned the carpet. Léon drove out on Gordy's tractor, Amanda waved him goodbye - maintaining an amazing level of calm - I remember potty-training stress all too well from January. Anna started crying for milk. Then Amanda realized Gordy hadn't done one poo, he'd done two poos - the one she was picking up and the one Léon had just driven over with the tractor and was squelching into Gordy's green bedroom carpet, the patterned - hard-to-see-poo-on - hall carpet, the wooden living room floor and the beautiful, expensive hand-woven wool rug (also various rusty shades) in the living room. Of course the offending tractor was immediately flung in the shower room and both Gordy and Léon's feet were checked for poo - negative. By now a lesser being would have been hysterical and on the floor but Amanda ran around with a basin of soapy water while I removed chunks with baby wipes and left lego blocks as markers on the rugs denoting where needed shampooing. Anna started screaming for milk. I sat down to feed her two minutes. Amanda finally finished the task in hand, stood up and walked into the hall in time to see Léon driving up the hall on the tractor he had retrieved in the shower room while Amanda crawled about on all fours. The tractor was re-flung in the shower room, the carpet was re-shampooed, the boys socks were re-checked for poo.
When I left at 2-15pm, after just 3 hours, there was a pile of 4, maybe 5 pairs of wet pants, a 25 metre trail of shampooed carpet and a very authentic looking tractor, complete with manure-covered wheels, two happy boys and two very stressed, tired mums.
Amanda must have been so glad Léon came round to share his wisdom with Gordy!
I should have known Léon was too quiet. He bounced on my head at 7-40am then disappeared. I fed Anna for 10 minutes then got up. 'Léon - where are you?' I shouted. 'Just painting' came the ominous reply. I clung to the hope he simply meant he was looking at the mural I am in the middle of painting on his bedroom wall but as I opened the bedroom door I saw he'd accidentally overturned the pot of brown paint Charlotte had been using on his tree trunk last night and had left on his toy box. The wall (the low blue bit) was splattered brown, the carpet was covered in brown, Léon and his pyjamas were brown. There were brown footprints all over the hall carpet. Léon of course was as happy as Larry. I guess laminating Léon's bedroom floor has now moved from maybe some time in the future to as soon as possible.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Once or twice over the past month I have found soggy letters addressed to me half way up the garden path. I assumed they'd blown out when the front door was opened in the recent stormy weather or even that a postman had dropped one or two sprinting up the path in the atrocious weather... until I was sitting on my couch the other morning in full view of my letterbox. The postman popped them through. Léon, who was playing with his train jumped up, shouted 'letters!' and dashed into the hall - I assumed to retrieve them, but no, he picked them up and posted them back through the door. He was doing the same as he saw the postman do, so wondered why I instantly started shouting at him.
Charlotte was proud to come home from her friend Adam's party on Saturday. He had held a football party inviting 25 boys and Charlotte, who is known as a bit of a tomboy. At the end they held a penalty shoot out with an 11 year old goalie. It was a knockout competition and it came down to Charlotte and one lone boy. Charlotte won, of course!
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I know this is going to make me sound stupid but I might as well blog it for all the other stupid people out there.
For years I have passed breadmaker machines in the supermarket assuming they were little ovens to bake bread in.
At the weekend Thomas came bouncing up to me in Tesco with one under his arm, reduced to half price (20 odd quid), so I agreed it'd be nice to have homemade bread, knowing he's the cook, so assuming he'd do all the kneading etc.
The first day he made a loaf and I ate it. The second day he called me through to watch him make it. To my utter amazement, he simply threw all the ingredients into the machine, told it when we were getting up and then closed it. A breadmaker turns out to be the baker and the oven! And it even makes it for breakfast - like a teasmade for bread. SUPERB!
Last night Lots made a loaf before going to bed.
Oh dear - I am going to get sooo fat!
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
I finally got to the bottom of my tree pile mystery. Four days after East Renfrewshire council was meant to take away my trees (and 4 days after they cashed my £20 payment), I get a hand delivered letter through my door explaining why they haven't removed them. When I booked the uplift, I was informed that the £20 covered 15 minutes of 2 men working, ie 30 man-minutes. When Thomas cut the (very small) trees down the week before, I watched him move them from all around the garden into a pile on the patio - this took approximately 12 minutes. I timed him because I knew the council's policy. So it took 1 man 12 minutes to pile up my trees. The council's letter claims that because my pile of trees is so big, it will cost me £70 to have them removed from my garden. As the distance is the same as Thomas moved them, they are telling me 2 men would take 52.5 minutes to move my trees, or 1 man would take 1hr45 minutes to move my trees the same distance as Thomas took 12 minutes to move them. I have to conclude that:
- The council employs 1-legged, 1-armed refuse collectors, or
- The council employs slow, lazy layabouts, or
- The council is a dishonest money-grabbing institution.
I'll leave you to decide which theory is likely to be the most accurate.
I phoned them and told them to re-credit my visa card with £20 as their quote was outrageous, explained the above to them and decided that if it is the last thing I do, I will spend the rest of year cutting these trees into little pieces and putting them in my brown refuse bin so that the council will slowly but surely be obliged to remove them all from my garden free of charge! Don't mess with me East Ren!
Thomas was thrilled with his new toy. Dad will no doubt have some comments on it, I am sure!
Monday, March 03, 2008
Anna fell asleep mid-morning so Léon and I went out and made a snowman. I thought I did reasonably well - my back is still sore from the pregnancy but I did manage to roll three balls of snow around the garden. I found a carrot, a plant pot and various accoutrements to make him look like a snowman rather than a pile of snow and felt quite pleased with the result. Pudge was pleased too, even giving him a hug. As the day went on, we had warm periods, blizzard periods and generally changeable weather, so by 4 hours later, he had unfortunately become more the leaning tower of snowman, than the upright soul we had created in the morning. I guess we don't get enough snowman-building practice here to perfect it.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Strangely though, the last time I watched this film I was 20 so equated myself with the character Ben, and thought of Mrs Robinson as being like my parents' friends. I just checked wikipedia and found out Anne Bancroft was 36 when she made this movie - 4 years younger than me, and yet I still think of myself more as Ben's age group than Mrs Robinson's - weird. When I look at Anne Bancroft I see someone a whole generation older than myself. Is that because she was my age a generation ago, or am I still in denial, or something?