Monday, June 30, 2008


Our kids' bathroom is a bit of a state. The wall tiles are ok, but the floor is a bit scabby and the walls have hurriedly been painted an unmatching creamy colour.
Last week Thomas and I were in B&Q. I decided with the kids away this week and me no doubt moping about the house, what better time to paint the kids' bathroom wall the same colour as the tiles and freshen it up, while distracting me. So I checked the Dulux colour samples and found the exact shade of hyacinth to match the tiles. I had them mix it and I took it home.
Today I opened my tin of hyacinth paint to start on my wall to be confronted by a hideous smurf-shade of blue nothing like the colour on the colour sample chart...Bizarre! I took it back to B&Q and complained. I showed them the colour it was meant to be on their chart, and the colour in the tin. Patently they'd pressed the wrong button. The offered to remix me 2.5l. The guy double-checked the shade and put it in his little machine. It shoogled it a couple of minutes and he opened it, to find again it was nothing like hyacinth, not much like smurf either, second time round. This time it was duck egg - another shade that would clash horribly with my hyacinth tiles. The machine was broken or having an off-day.
I swapped it for an off-the-shelf Dulux, which I am not quite sure will match, however, when they scanned the 3rd pot after me waiting a second ten minutes in the returns queue, the item went unfound so they gave me the 3rd pot free and a credit note for £18. So if this one doesn't match I can always try getting the hyacinth at a different B&Q.
Now I know it was meant to distract me from missing the kids but I didn't mean it to turn into a week-long saga.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Marcel has decided he likes Taggart. This is good - I am so sick of Simpsons reruns I think I'd watch anything else instead. He was watching an episode the other afternoon and one of the main characters was a woman called 'Charlie McEwan'. Marcel shouted to me - I know that actress from somewhere, she's been in something else I've seen. I came through for a look, expecting someone well known, only to be confronted by the little-known Scottish actress Lorraine McGowan. Of course he should recognize her - he saw her every day of 2003-04. She was his primary 2 teacher at Kirkhill Primary! I pointed out to him that it was his teacher and he looked more than surprised. Of course, he is now going into Primary 7, so Primary 2 is a fair way off in his scheme of things but I was quite amazed he couldn't place her at all - or maybe he was just thrown by the unexpected setting! I thought I was supposed to be the old one with the failing memory but at 40, I still remember my Primary 2 teacher!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


My very first memories are of shoes. I wonder if that is because your eyes are closer to your feet as a small child?! I remember being 2 years old and wearing bright red sequined slippers. The next shoe memory is wandering about in my mum's powder blue and powder pink court shoes at 3, feeling like something out of a 1950s American dream. I wonder if Léon will remember these photos being taken when he is 40!

Friday, June 27, 2008


My new best friend
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I remember the first time Marcel discovered another baby in our living room in Dowanhill street. Anna seemed just as pleased yesterday to find one here on our floor in Newton Mearns. They gazed lovingly into each other's eyes for a while, hands quivering in delight. They touched and hugged and kissed. They had quite a discussion about life. I think it'll be some time before I need to try out the blob of cream on the nose test...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


A few months ago Thomas showed me this sweet movie. Isn't it so refreshing to come across something that isn't American!? I must show it to my kids some time once they are past the we can't be bothered with subtitles stage. Marcel would cope already but Lots would definitely find subtitles off-putting. It will be interesting to watch their reaction given the events of '89 feel like very irrelevant ancient history to them, when they feel like yesterday to me - especially given I was living in Germany in '89.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

EURO 2008

Euro 2008
Originally uploaded by Gerej
I had to laugh at the English commentary on the Russia Holland match last night. After listening to them for 120 minutes, I was convinced the Russian team had two players - one sporting the rather unfortunate name Jerk off and one with a strangely Scottish Culloden. Strangely, this morning's papers mention only a Zhirkov and a Kolodin. Why do the English find it sooooo difficult to attempt to pronounce anything even remotely foreign?


Playing with 3 sizes of lego
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Léon rediscovered our large box of Lego the other day. To save time I had simply thrown all the Lego I found after the house move into one large toy box. Léon took out some baby Lego (the large yellow bricks to the left of this picture), some toddler Lego (the tower he is holding) and some standard Lego (on the floor in front of the tower). As you can see, the standard bits do not fit on top of the toddler bits, and the toddler bits do not fit on top of the baby bits. After several attempts at fitting these on top, the usually placid child went into complete meltdown screaming and howling in the most distraught manner, finally pulling himself together just enough to exclaim You're making me very angry, you know to the Lego on the floor!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Sometimes I have to kick myself. Today, like most days I didn't happen to have my DSLR on me when I went to school to pick up the kids but unfortunately I didn't even have my mobile phone on me. I had forgotten it was Wear your pyjamas and dressing gown to school day. The idea was each child was to come to school straight from bed and bring £1, with the money being sent to Malawi to pay for children's school meals. So the bell went at 3pm and nearly 600 kids walked out in PJs, dressing gowns and slippers. They looked amusing but unified at school but by the time they had got half a mile from school, it did look somewhat comical to see kids in dressing gowns, slippers and bike helmets cycling past the local shops. I had intended to go straight to ASDA from school but decided against it once I saw my kids!


Has the world gone mad? Mum's just been telling me about dad trying to renew the house contents insurance this week. During a phone call to an insurance company, he asked if the contents would be covered for 'accidental damage' as with their current policy. 'Only unintentional accidental damage' came the reply. Qué? They elaborated that any damage that could conceivably be inflicted intentionally, with a view to claiming a replacement item, was not covered! So if you ruin your carpet with red wine accidentally, tough! If your 2 year old draws in permanent ink on your Picasso, tough too. If you trip and fall through your glass kitchen door - again this is obviously an act of sabotage! Who is to prove a flooded kitchen wasn't caused by you hitting your radiator with a hammer? In fact we concluded that all accidents could be written off as intentional. Dad then pointed out that the bottom line was - any claim he made, would be written off with a letter to him more or less accusing him of being a liar. Needless to say, he is now looking into other insurance policies!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I've always had wee pet names for the kids. When Marcel was born he got called Minimec for a while through toddlerhood. Charlotte became Puddiny as a pudgy toddler. Later she became Naughty Lottie on Marcel's request, and finally she is now Lots. Léon was dubbed Pudge by Charlotte almost from birth, which alternated for a while with Nénaw, Léon's own name for himself. When Anna was tiny she became Anna-bits as in bitsy Anna. Léon has obviously been inspired by this. As of last weekend he has sponaneously been calling Anna Anna-cake, a name invented by him alone. Sweet!

Monday, June 16, 2008


had a funny little cyst below the surface of his right cheek now for the whole of this year or more. Every time it looks like it is about to clear up, he wakens up with it redder and sorer than ever. He scratches it till it bleeds, then he scratches the scab. I have asked the doc about it several times and am usually told not to worry, it will go away of its own accord eventually. Tired of the whole thing, I decided today to ask for him to be referred to a dermatologist. Now that's done, I probably have to wait a year for the NHS appointment, but at least we are getting somewhere.

2, 4, 6, 8...

what don't we appreciate?. . .
Being woken every 2 hours for milk instead of the usual 4-30am. What's going on Anna?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I saw this today and it made me laugh. I won't know what to do with my Wednesdays from now on given The Apprentice is the only programme I watch on TV all week - maybe I should watch a lego episode every Weds from now on! Of course like most people, I would have to say the Kosher Chicken was the highlight of the 12 weeks but last night did upset me - poor Claire was robbed. Sir Alan must be mad!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Today, after about 6 weeks of dragging his bike along to school (thank heavens I have a people carrier to bring it home in), Marcel finally sat his Cycling Proficiency test. He seemed quite blasé about the whole thing and didn't seem to be studying the Highway Code cover to cover as I had 30 years ago but he bounced out of school today and announced he got an A both for the written test and the practical. Well done Marcel!
I did have to question a few changes since my day however. When I was a kid, back in the nasty old days when people were told they were useless or stupid, rather than always being told they were wonderful, you could pass or fail. You sat the test, you waited a week and then at a public ceremony the names of those who had passed were read out and you went on stage where you received a certificate of merit and a badge. Passing was an important achievement so you wore your badge proudly on your blazer till you left school 8 years later. Marcel seemed less impressed by his new high-tech (compared to mine) badge. He seemed surprised I had kept mine. Oh everyone got one, he said - If you did badly, you passed with a C, if you did well you got an A or B. But everyone got one, he explained. Now I know psychologists argue it is healthier for a child's self esteem to never fail, but is that cheapening success in some way in the minds of the more successful kids? And of course, is it setting kids up for the real world? When someone who has never been given the fright of inadequacy enters industry with the old schoolers of my generation, their self esteem may be in for a really rude awakening!

Monday, June 09, 2008


All my kids in Largs
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Time and again I find myself being asked how many kids I have. My answer often shocks. On a Friday, for example, I take the two wee ones to Mother and Toddlers, and I am often asked things like - How are you finding it now you have 2? Last Saturday Charlotte and Léon were invited to a party so I took them and Anna, leaving Marcel to play golf with my dad. Again I was asked by strangers if Anna was my 3rd baby. Always when I reply 4, people look stunned and invariably, because they have one or two kids themselves, ask How do you cope? I started to analyse it. Obviously I have experience of having an only child - I did that for 29 months. I have experience of having just 2 - that lasted five and a half years. I have been mum to 3 - for nearly two and a half years. And now I'm trying out 4. My experience ironically, given the average number of kids people have, is that the hardest number of kids to have - by a mile - is actually 2. When you have 1, you have to entertain them more but there is no niggling. Personally, I'd rule out 1 as being too high maintenance. When you have just two, especially when they are within a few years of each other, their main pastime, from they learn to talk until they leave home is fighting, arguing, winding, niggling... There is no one there to distract or change the focus so the two kid family is sibling rivalry all the road. When you throw a third wee baby into the mix, 1 and 2 still fight but they are distracted several times a day by this bright shiny new sibling. It brings out their protective instinct - the 2 fighting sibs suddenly find themselves on the same side admiring number 3, loving number 3, playing with number 3. Number 4 simply strengthens that position. It gives more reasons for the older ones to help, love and be on the same side. I think the mistake many people make these days is to get to two, feel tired and stressed and assume coping with any more would just be too hard. I would suggest, given that childcare for 2 is now so expensive many women are giving up working anyway, that more should at least try out a third - just to see if I am right!

Friday, June 06, 2008


Here is a photo of my house. The brown building you can barely see on the right is my very old, falling-to-pieces garage. We assumed when we bought this house that replacing this old garage with a new model the same size would be a breeze. But of course I should have factored in East Renfrewshire council's policy of making as much money as possible doing very little or preferably nothing. First of all I was surprised to hear I needed planning permission at all given the starting point is a house with a 10ft by 18ft garage and the end point is also a house with a 10ft by 18ft garage in exactly the same position - simply of a better quality - surely the council would prefer people to look after their buildings thus keeping the price of property high by maintaining its desirability? So I need planning permission and the price of them rubber-stamping something that I am told they won't even look at is £145... or so I thought. When the council looked at the map, they discovered we were not midway up the street but on the corner with a neighbour on just one side. Why does that make a difference you may ask. Well according to the money-grabbing, anything-for-an-easy-buck council, if I have open land on one side rather than a neighbour who can be notified of the change of one garage for another, they need to put a public advert in the local paper so people can complain if they so desire, and the cost of that ad is supposedly an extra £95. So to replace a garage with a garage costs an absurd £240 before you even look at building a garage! Daylight robbery!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


As I twittered the other day, we've been having fun with IKEA's kitchens. It all came about by accident. Thomas and I went to IKEA last week and were looking predominantly at wooden and white kitchens. One of us, I am no longer sure which, suggested that the high gloss coloured kitchen doors we had seen would be daring but given they didn't have an in-store model it'd be a bit too brave to opt for it in the dark. I googled IKEA to see if they had a picture on their website and realized the prices were in dollars, oops, I was in IKEA USA. I switched and immediately noticed the examples of kitchens and decor in the UK were different. Excellent! That meant that by hopping from IKEA USA to UK to Sweden to Japan to Canada etc I'd get lots of decor ideas.
Above are 3 kitchens as advertised on Canada, Russia and UK respectively. Trawling the 3 sites I found IKEA assumes Canadians won't buy wide drawers, Russians prefer black to green, they don't seem to sell green doors in Russia at all. Looking in detail at all the kitchen ranges worldwide, I became fascinated by the job of IKEA kitchen brochure photographer! Often whole cabinet fronts are changed, the cooker hood is swapped over but the vegetables on the work surface remain untouched. Sometimes a full glass of juice in one photo becomes a half glass in another - I guess whoever changed the fronts got thirsty! Looks fun, though - maybe I'll apply for that kind of photography job just for the fun of seeing how it is done!
Of course another thing occurred to me while I was trotting the globe - a price comparison. I was gobsmacked to find, for example, that IKEA Sweden, the mothership itself, charges exactly twice as much as IKEA Denmark for several of their identical models, despite similar taxes. Naughty - I suppose they are counting on home-grown loyalty. I, for one, would be driving to Copenhagen if I happened to live in Malmö. And even in the EURO zone they don't hide this fact. I found a kitchen being sold for around 1900 Euros in both Italy and Spain retailing at a mere 700 Euros in Belgium! (Dad says there has to be some incentive to move to Belgium!)
All in all I had a fun day surfing my kitchen-to-be!
Oh, and I wonder if I am becoming too frequent a visitor to IKEA... as I turned into the car park yesterday my parents had to laugh when a little voice from the back seat exclaimed: Yeah! Léon's havin' meatballs!


Originally uploaded by PhylB
The first time little kids see bubbles is always a laugh. I don't know how many times Anna tried to catch them on Monday when I was playing with them. Though I guess I was probably even funnier to watch given I was blowing them then jumping for the camera, then throwing that to one side for the bubble bottle over and over! It is really difficult to be the blower and the photographer at the same time without getting the camera all soapy! I need a photographer's assistant.