Wednesday, April 30, 2008


A certain family member, who shall remain nameless, also seems to suffer the manual aversion.
Just yesterday said relative bought a new toaster. I am told by the other relative he lives with, that had he read the manual, he'd have realized that you were meant to put the toaster through its paces by twice running it through with no bread in, and on its third run, setting it to setting 4/9 using a slice of moist, fresh bread. Of course this relative likes well-fired toast, so, ignoring all instruction, stuck an old, dry slice of bread in on its first run and set it to 9/9. Worse still he went for a walk round the house, rather than keeping an eye on it.
After the toast caught fire, shot up high enough to set the pine kitchen cupboard on fire, and fall back on top of the plastic-coated toaster, melting it in the process, he had the cheek to return the 'faulty toaster' to Argos demanding a refund and compensation for his kitchen cupboards! ;-)


Originally uploaded by
We bought a new camera the other day - mainly because our Sony 100 was a bit sick, but also because we found a wonderful deal on Hong Kong imports. I took it to the Botanics with me on Tuesday... its first outing. I hadn't read the manual - I suffer from a complete allergy to manuals and usually only ever resort to reading one when the gadget I am attempting to use has caught fire or something similarly fatal.
Léon was standing in front of Kibble palace with a sinister stormy sky at his back. The sun was also at his back. I went to turn the dial to force the flash only to find the new Sony 350 doesn't have the function dial the 100 has. No problems, I was sure I could easily find a setting to compensate for the back light before the beautiful sky changed...
Hmmm maybe I should open that manual after all...

Monday, April 28, 2008


this sucks.
Originally uploaded by billaday
The older I get, the more I find myself hating drinking straws. I have them in the house, of course. Marcel and Lots like them for drinks but the real reason I have them is for smooth soup. Since Léon gave up bibs smooth soup without a straw ends up with his clothing needing several washes if not incineration! But this is also the reason I find them so revolting. Have you ever watched a 2 year old with a straw? Today, for lunch, I made some homemade cream of chicken and spinach soup and gave Léon a straw. That was fine. He had Ribena too. He alternated dipping his straw in the green soup and the purple juice. Yeuch! Inevitably somewhere along the line he dropped it on the carpet and reverted to his spoon, dirtying his t-shirt after the second spoonful. Running to clean the t-shirt, I forgot the spinach-caked straw, which he, of course, found at dinner and promptly plonked into his apple juice. The combination of a pre-schooler and a drinking straw is just too revolting for me. I wonder when kids tastebuds start working well enough that they too find using a hairy, soup-caked straw in a clear, fresh glass of apple juice unacceptable?


Poor Pudge
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Sibling rivalry seems to be starting earlier than I remember from my Marcel and Charlotte days. I was in Tesco with Léon and Anna in a trolley like this one today. Anna, as always, was waving her arms and legs excitedly. Léon whined a little - Anna no hit Nénaw, Anna no hurt Nénaw, Mummy Anna's hiiiiitting me! Gimme a break! I explained she was simply trying to pat him on the head because she loved him, which seemed to pacify him for an aisle or two anyway till it all started up again! I guess I should get ready for fireworks once she can crawl!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


yummy wine
Originally uploaded by
I was saying last week that I didn't know why Danes were so into dummies... Here in Scotland we have found the perfect way to keep a baby content without hiding its smile ;-) See the whole set of shots of my little wino on flickr!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs
Originally uploaded by
Léon loves eggs. It has got so bad that when egg is one constituent of a meal we have to hide it till the end or he eats it first then says 'more egg, more egg, more egg'. Funny boy - He's not quite his Uncle Derek! Huh?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


So, their tails between their legs, they have U-turned on the taxes, but of course I am still in that tiny little minority that is getting shafted. Because I work part-time (just mornings), I don't earn more than the £18K you need to not get screwed. Today they decided to give money back to the over 60s that had lost out and to the under 25s with no kids because they too are losing. What gets me is that my group is meant to be covered by child tax credits, but because of my partner's earnings I don't qualify for those - despite the fact that three of my kids are not my partner's dependents. There is a crazy situation in this country where those who are on a low or part time income have their partner's income taken into account when they apply for tax credits. The upshot being that new partners end up having to take on the financial responsibility for their partner's children from previous relationships. And the government is still surprised when people in my situation claim to be living as a single parent instead of declaring their partner. I wonder if it is too late to hide Anna under the bed and pretend that I am Thomas's lodger ;-)
It is intersting actually. Watching Newsnight at the moment and the Labour spokesperson keeps discussing how the taxes affect specific 'households'. I think that has put the finger on what is wrong. In my parents' generation people thought of taxes a couple thing, or a household thing but these days people think of themselves as individuals. Couples often have separate bank accounts so taking £200 off the woman, and in some cases (again, not mine) giving the £200 back to the man is still not seen fair. Labour needs to stop thinking in these old-fashioned terms. Households change too often these days to operate in those terms.


The seatless car
Originally uploaded by
I have been meaning to blog about Danish cars ever since I first set foot there 18 months ago. I found it absolutely mind-blowing and still do. There are many parts to the car tax policy that are incomprehensible to us foreigners. I am sure anyone, unfamiliar with Denmark, will fall off their seat in shock once I mention a few of its surprises.
I lived in Germany many years ago (1989) and for some (illogical) reason, I always assumed Scandinavia would be quite German in its car policies. I visualised lots of green policies - many small cars, but bright and new so low in pollution. I imagined car sharing amongst students - after all, my Konstanz stay was punctuated by hitch-hiking in old VW campervans and looking uni noticeboards for Mitfahrgelegenheiten on the weekends. I presumed that once you had a reasonable job in Denmark you'd probably drive around in a fancy Saab, the way the Germans drive their BMWs.
Thomas mentioned his parents shared a car - a minister and a university professor in the UK would have 2 cars - they wouldn't share a car. I figured it'd be something fancy - he is a top professor, after all, and she must have to drive around a lot as a minister. It is a Fiat Multipla. There is nothing odd about that in itself - many of my mum friends drive Multiplas given they have 6 seats - Oh no they don't...Oh yes they do???? but not always if you live in Denmark! Thomas's parents' Multipla has 3 seats. I thought they were nipping down to Ikea to buy a new dining room table or something. Nope - they only own 3 seats! Car tax in Denmark is so high that many people use the tax loophole of converting their cars to vans (by removing all but the front row of seats) to pay less tax... now I don't mean no tax - a 3 seater Multipla is still majorly more expensive than a 6 seater one here in Scotland but it is then affordable. The net result is that no one in Denmark with these adapted cars can give you a lift anywhere. If 4 adults go out to the theatre together they can't go in one car, they need to take 2. So instead of the green policy I expected, while the rest of us are being encouraged to car-share and avoid single occupant journeys, Denmark is populated by empty cars all driving around.
The other problem, of course, is that because car tax is so high even people with the most prestigious jobs are driving about in 10 year old cars - the kind of thing we here bought as our first car at the age of 18. Thomas remarked that although Copenhagen felt like a city with fewer cars than Glasgow, the pollution level was worse - possibly because of the number of really old cars still in use.
Often when asked what I drive, (a 2 year old 7 seater Citroën C8), I am met by a blank look as they just don't exist there (they retail at more than £50K unlike the approx £20K here). When I elaborate You know the big Citroën people often ask if I mean the C4!
Funny country!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I hate this culture of pointing out the really obvious to people just to cover your back. It is getting worse and worse. At work we got a sticker on the coffee urn telling us hot water is hot. If they were less pc and just stuck a sticker on it saying 'Don't sue us if you are stupid enough to burn yourselves', I'd respect them more! But today's took the biscuit... I found this allergy advice inside a box of free range eggs I was using to make scrambled egg rolls for lunch.


young gran
Originally uploaded by
From time to time Thomas and I find ourselves discussing jobs that disappear or get outsourced - sometimes in the context of what best to advise the kids to study, sometimes just for fun. Today, it occurred to me that a job that no longer exists is one my grandmother did. My grandmother played piano. She gave lessons and played in a nightclub even when I was a child, but a job she did earlier was a shop job. But not a shop job as I did in my student days! In the olden days when people often bought sheet music, especially as a gift, and often when the buyer didn't play an instrument, people had no way of telling what they were buying. My gran's job was to play sheet music to prospective buyers in a department store in Glasgow. When the buyer liked what they heard, the music was bought, otherwise she'd play piece after piece until they found something that suited their purposes! What a quaint lost world!


You may remember I wasn't exactly starting up the East Ren Council fanclub last month... Well I said I'd get them and I did! With the help of Marcel, Mum and Dad (thanks guys) I have now cut the conifers into little pieces (despite being allergic to the bloody things and getting a nasty rash) and put them in my normal brown recycle bin to be removed from my garden free of charge on Fridays. And I stand by my charge of them trying to make an easy buck off my back. You'd think it was a lot work given they wanted to charge me £70 for the job - but how many bins did the trees actually fill? - 3 in total. What a cheek! Robbers! :-(


Pudge with his inhaler
Originally uploaded by
Léon has been using an asthma inhaler now for 11 months since he developed respiratory problems after contracting chicken pox at the age of 20 months. A few weeks ago the doctor recommended taking him off it for a week or two to see how his breathing is and whether he develops any chest infections. He stopped using it on April 13th and so far so good - touch wood...


Audi A3
Originally uploaded by Kamidh
Am I the luckiest person live this week or am I simply being harassed constantly by annoying spam? It's Saturday evening and in the last 4 days I have won 6 Audi A3s according to my email, simply by being the 999 999th person to visit some website...just click wherever. Audi - leave me in peace NOW!

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Last week Thomas and I were in the station in Skanderborg in Jutland. In the station there was a waiting room. There didn't seem to be a ticket office however. Outside there was a newsagents which sold magazines, sweets, sandwiches and drinks but had no signs outside mentioning tickets. There didn't seem to be any indicators inside either that you could ask for a return to Copenhagen along with your newspaper and bottle of coke or ice lolly. Given many stations in the UK have been replaced by a ticket machine on the platform, and this is also the case in France, which I know as well as the UK, it would never have occurred to me to even try the newsagents. Had I been travelling alone and unable to speak Danish (as most foreigners visiting Denmark), I would have hunted up and down the platform for a machine in vain and then I probably would have been fined in the train for entering without a ticket. The next day we were in Copenhagen and the same occurred. We needed tickets for the subway. This time there was a small hint, not one I noticed but one Thomas spotted (see the notes if you click on the photo). Again it would never have popped into my head to try to buy tube tickets at the newspaper stand in the local supermarket, rather than in the actual tube station. I imagine Denmark is probably full of foolish foreigners wandering about aimlessly because they are unable to work out where to buy the tickets for any of the public transport systems in the country! :-)


Ever since I have known Thomas, I have thought of him as a tall man - at 1m80 (6'), he is definitely above average in Scotland. But last Saturday I finally realized what he means when he insists he is simply of average height back home. Travelling on the newly-built Copenhagen subway, I went to hold on to the bar as the train pulled out of the station. We laughed when it turned out that at my very-below-Danish average 1m61 (maybe even 1m62 in my shoes), I couldn't even reach the bar the average person was meant to hold on to!

Friday, April 18, 2008


As I said last week, travelling is interesting. Not only do you get to people-watch but you get to culture-watch too. The first time I visited Denmark I was very surprised by the beds in everyone's homes. Beautiful comfortable beds but always with
two single duvets rather than one double duvet. Thomas explained Danes, for the most part, just don't own double (or bigger) duvets. There seem to be 2 common excuses - people like different weights of duvet, so a common one for a couple doesn't work, or people are wary of duvet hoggers, so don't want to share with a partner. I find this utterly bizarre. If you want to be cooler than a partner, stick your feet out the side, if you want to be warmer, stick an extra blanket on top on your side and if you happen to live with fajita man (as I do) then simply buy a king size duvet for your double bed - then there is plenty cover for both of you. However comfortable I am in Denmark, I do find the single duvet system a little lonely, and when I reach out for a hug, I find a big cold gap in the middle between us :-(

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Oh my God! Our first born DSLR is sick! Yesterday when I turned it on it made an odd shuddering noise, but as the battery was showing red I assumed it simply didn't have the power to operate the auto focus. Tonight I recharged the battery and put it on only to find the wee soul is still shuddering. I therefore assumed it was a lens problem but given it makes the noise even with the lens off, I can only conclude our Sony Alpha is sick and in need of a trip to the DSLR repair shop :-( How will we live without it? What if it is terminally ill???


huggy brothers
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Up till about a month ago Léon happily told us his likes and dislikes. I like cappuccino, I don't like that bad dragon. One afternoon Marcel was playing on his computer with his friend Gregor. They'd closed the door locking Léon out of the bedroom. Léon came downstairs whining in that way only a 2 year old can whine Nénaw can't like Marcel and Nénaw can't like that Gregor either! Both Thomas and I took this as being Léon's way of explaining a deeper annoyance with Marcel than usual. For a month now we have been told of various things Léon 'can't like'. Tonight, as if struck by lightning, it came to us both at the same time. This isn't a different degree of hatred, it is simply a bilingual problem. Léon is simply back-translating the Danish wrongly. In Danish you say : Jeg kan ikke lide Marcel. Sweet!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Sometimes things happen that restore your faith in life! I got up this morning to find Marcel and Charlotte had got together, without a hint of sibling rivalry, no rude insults, no lazy lying in front of the TV and made chocolate pancakes following a recipe in one of Thomas's cookbooks. Cooperating in a new adult manner, they'd made the batter (though had put a whole solid cold block of butter in it instead of melting some), and mentioned too that since they didn't know what baking powder was they'd used bicarbonate of soda! Mixing it with the electric whisk had caused batter blobs to be sprayed to all 4 corners of the kitchen and the floor was caked thick enough in maple syrup that I was actually sticking to it, but hey they were friendly, so nothing else matters as much! A parenting success?


Denmark is a bit of an enigma to me. In the UK you are warned from late pregnancy against giving your baby a dummy if you intend to breastfeed it. Midwives warn of this mysterious 'nipple confusion' that sends shivers of fear up the spine of any dedicated breast feeder. We are told that dummies can grudgingly be introduced at the same time as solids - probably because they know that if you get through 4 or 5 months without one, you will not want to introduce one then. For that reason almost no breast feeders use dummies in the UK. If your baby has a piece of plastic sticking in its mouth you can bet with 95% certainty it is a bottle feeder. Shops reinforce this by selling dummies on the same shelf as bottles and formula milk, on a completely different aisle from breast pumps, breast pads or nipple cream. I think there is even a bit of breast feeder snobbery attached. A true breast feeder wouldn't be seen dead out and about with a baby using a dummy (though they might sneakily give them one in bed at night, under cover of darkness, with the curtains drawn). Denmark definitely has a higher proportion of breast feeders than here, in the early months at least, and yet I am yet to meet a Danish baby that isn't hidden behind one of these things. When we visited Olivia on Saturday she was sporting a dummy complete with Danish flag, so we had to have a photo. It is after all almost a symbol of Danish babyhood!

Personally I hate them with a passion - the photographer in me cringes at the beautiful smiles you are missing out on when you hide their little faces with these ugly things.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Dad got a new lens for his birthday. I took a whole series of Thomas playing with Anna till I got this cool shot. You can see just how much fun she was having with this daring game! ;-)


Jetlag Reception
Originally uploaded by
Adriaan Bloem
It's funny - I didn't think jet lag happened when the time difference is just one hour but when the flight home is at 5-50am Danish time, meaning you need to get up at 2-30am UK time and then get through the whole day, then I swear it feels exactly the same as full-blown I've-just-flown-home-from-the-States jet lag. YAWN! I'm away to my bed!


Just before I had Anna, everyone in my family started raving about We need to talk about Kevin (please DON'T read the spoilers if you intend to read it). First Amanda read it for some book group, then dad and finally mum got dragged into the circle. As the family's resident worm, I heard over and over how I just had to read it, apparently I had no choice in the matter! I was given a copy. 'Shortlisted for the Orange prize for literature', it said. I read the blurb - it sounded readable enough. I started it in December - 9 months pregnant, exhausted. I tried to read a few pages every night before bed. The style didn't lend itself to that - the sentences were long, the topic stressful, the tension tangible. I really couldn't see what the fuss was about. After Anna was born, I managed 2 or 3 pages a week and frankly the style was annoying me. But my whole family couldn't be wrong, could they? So I took it with me to Denmark this week and read it in one go. By half way through I couldn't put it down and as I wandered round Copenhagen and Amsterdam airports today majorly sleep-deprived, I still couldn't stop. I was banging into people reading the way most people walk around texting! I just finished it (holding it in one hand while changing Anna's nappy with the other - I just didn't want to put it down for that 3 minutes!)
Phew - I am exhausted, wrung out. Shit... wow. Eva is quite a character. I wonder if you need to be a parent to read it or if it knocks over even non-parents. Kids... the part of ourselves we know nothing of.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I like to travel - it gives you time to observe people. On Monday, I was flying through Amsterdam Schiphol to Copenhagen but our flight was cancelled, leaving us 2 extra hours sitting about. KLM kindly gave us a €10 to spend on food (Ryanair they are not!) While sitting in the restaurant, I observed one interesting man. He arrived at a table with two chairs carrying 2 plates, each with a large slice of pizza and a salad, a full bottle of wine, 2 wine glasses and 2 water glasses. He poured out 2 glasses of wine, and 2 of water. He set his pizza in front of him, and the other pizza in front of the other seat, obviously awaiting a wife or colleague. He started to eat, he finished his meal and half the wine. She's taking her time, I thought to myself. Then, to my surprise, he furtively looked around, swapped his plate and glasses for the full ones and proceeded to eat the other meal and drink the other half of the bottle of wine! Hahahaha: people, there's nowt as queer as... you've got to laugh!

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Check out this photographer! Not only are his little girls cute as hell - his photos are so full of imagination. I guarantee a smile! I particularly like his coffee photo. Anyone who has ever lived with little kids will relate to it!


Originally uploaded by
Over the past 6 months it has been striking to me how much shorter childhood seems to be now compared to when Derek and I were children. I see that Marcel is behaving more and more like I did at around 14, (he is ten and a half). He sits looking fierce, watching TV ignoring me sometimes. He grumps and growls if I dare to suggest a walk round a nice park, though condescends to accompany me if I let him walk behind me, hidden in a hood, hooked up to an ipod. He sits on Bebo and giggles over sexual innuendo with his friends. But the thing that alerted me to the difference was the sudden realization that he seems to have skipped an essential part of male growing-up. This morning I remembered that Derek and his friends spent most of their summers probably from about 8-12 catching bees and wasps in jars and watching - in the name of science - whether they would fight to the death. This was something I particularly hated Derek doing - not because I was a great bee or wasp lover - I was simply afraid I'd be the one they'd sting should the escape his jar in an enraged state. Marcel has never once, to my knowledge, caught a wasp in a jar for the fun of torturing it. Wee boys just aren't wee boys any more.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Originally uploaded by th3g
This goes to show - real photographers never ever run out of things to photograph, do they?


Apparently Chicken Run is also a movie for the under 5s, so Marcel and Charlotte tell me ;-) I think I'll show them The Great Escape next week and see how they class that...
Hmm, time to read them Animal Farm as a bedtime story?

Friday, April 04, 2008


Yummy milk 
She's only gone and done it again... cracked and blistered my right boob with all her gum-grinding and pulling off and grinning at me etc. Tonight I tried to feed her while turning my head away because the usual eye-contact you get when feeding a baby often seems to cause her to pull off and smile at me lovingly, but unfortunately without unclamping her jaws first - wee besom! It is hard to be angry though when it is mainly caused by her wanting to smile at me. I shudder to think how it'll be feeding this one once she grows some teeth! :-\


Léon was given an asthma inhaler when he was hospitalized after developing respiratory problems as a result of a severe dose of chicken pox in May 2007. Léon had previously been in hospital in October of 2006 with a suspected kidney virus. Between the autumn of 06 and the spring of 07, Léon suffered numerous chest infections and was generally unwell. All the time he had a bad cold at the very least. He lost his happy personality and sat depressed as if waiting for the next illness to strike at any time. He was so used to being sick that he was a master at blowing his nose, a feat many toddlers have a real problem with at 18 months. After starting on the inhaler his health improved in leaps and bounds. He hasn't had a single infection. He is back to his happy self but he has also not had a single cold since last June until this week. When it struck, I realized he has completely forgotten how to blow his nose. He's spent most of the week running up to me shouting 'Nénaw has a yucky nose!' but has no idea how to stop it running. I guess unlearning nose-blowing has to be the only downside of the asthma inhaler. Next week he is meant to try coming off the inhaler for the first time in 11 months. It'll be interesting to see how that trial goes.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


As my flickr friends may have noticed, I have been working on a 360 degree dinosaur mural in the babies' room for the last few weeks.
I guess all in all there is no more than four or five days work involved but when you can only start it every day at 9pm once Léon is in bed, and you have to do it in 1 hour chunks so you can feed Anna, do homework with Charlotte and talk to Marcel, and you are generally in bed by 11pm, then a week's task suddenly stretches to an eternity. Anyway, my bit is now complete. So all I need is to convince Thomas to take some time off his gardening schedule to stick down the laminate and we can move in Léon's bed straight away, and ultimately Anna's cot much later.
I wish I had the time to do some more murals.
I did them for all the kids in my old house too.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Mike - Monster Inc.
Originally uploaded by
I was watching Monsters Inc the other day with Léon. Léon loves it because there are good monsters and bad monsters and it is sweet and colourful. There is no way in a million years he can grasp the finer points of the plot because the whole idea of monsters stepping from their world into ours through cupboard doors that they call up in a factory is just too complex for little kids. I remember that even the last time Marcel and Charlotte saw the movie - when they were maybe 7 and 5, they also didn't get the whole door thing. I asked them one night after watching it, what it was about and they told me the basic goodies and badies, but didn't get the doors, the energy crisis or the human kids. So while watching it with Léon, I wondered in fact how old a kid needs to be to understand the plot. When they came in from school I asked if they'd watch it with me, just to test my theory, that even now at 10 and 8, they might not get what is actually happening. Amusingly, they both looked down their noses at me and refused point blank to watch 'that baby movie'. Funny - I guess I'll need to wait till they are adults for them to believe me that it is actually quite cleverly an adult movie and not really a kiddie movie. It'll be fun to watch them grow up enough to have that dawn on them.


Marcel just weighed Anna for me. She now weighs 6.8kg at just 15 weeks. She was 3.4kg at birth so I guess I now have 2 Annas. Twins? Just what I need on top of the other 3! ;-) But, joking aside, it is amazing how you can grow on just breast milk and nothing else.


Blue girl
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I've been playing with my brollies again and though it is great fun, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I would really, really like a studio - or at the very least a room with dark curtains (instead of no curtains as in my current living room!) and one of those long white roles of vinyl that you can pull from the ceiling to under the kids as a backdrop to the photo: a cream duvet and a basket chair really can't house 4 kids at a time!
Maybe Thomas will build me an extension with a studio in it for my next birthday!
It was interesting to watch the kids reaction to the photoshooting. Charlotte - who is usually more shy than Marcel, rushed for a comb and her favourite T-shirt, where Marcel was less happy to be photographed. He played along for the first 5 minutes but wanted out after that. The babies think being photographed is their purpose in life so they were no problem.
I guess Marcel is reaching that self-conscious phase of early adolescence where he thinks mum isn't so cool.