Thursday, July 31, 2008


Nice market
Originally uploaded by
Have you ever been to a Scottish Farmers' market? I know I shouldn't but whenever I see a sign for a Farmers' market, I get quite excited at the thought of all the produce, the fruits, the veg, cheeses, breads, honey etc. I imagine taking beautiful, colourful photos there too. I imagine comparing 10 different types of tomatoes and haggling for the best price. So I go along only to find about 8 stalls - 1 selling overpriced, pre-packaged tomatoes - already with price lables so no negotiation possible, 1 selling small, homemade cakes, again at inflated prices, ditto the Indian carryout stall, the 1 meat stall and the 1 fish stall etc.
Silverburn's Farmers' market on Sunday added a face painting (no thanks) stall and a homemade soap stall. We really don't get it. On the continent you can spend hours in a farmers' market. At the end of the day you can pick up a bargain or two as everything has to be sold. Produce isn't packaged and priced like in Marks and Spencers. The quantities are all wrong too - the sellers seem to expect few visitors and bring very little produce - of course this is also why they overprice it. I think they believe people should be willing to pay more than at the supermarket because they want people to support local farmers rather than expecting to sell to us slightly dearer than they do to supermarkets but slightly cheaper than we buy from the supermarkets. They expect to attract quirky people - hence the face painters and jugglers, rather than your average guy.
Please send the farmers' market organisers on a day-trip to Aix or Nice market and then provide us with a great continental farmers' market experience.


Originally uploaded by PhylB
I love this photo of my dad taken at the weekend. Charlotte crept up behind him and hit him on the head with an inflatable hammer (thanks Maree!) As you can see he wasn't expecting it - but I love Anna's anticipation (shown in the previous photo) and her reaction to his being hit. Classic baby humour.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Lots had to grow broad beans as a science project at the end of Primary 3. We planted them in our vegetable patch and they are now ready to eat... or more importantly, they are ready to be the subject of my next art project! :-)

Monday, July 28, 2008


My boy
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Today my first baby turned 11 - (14 minutes ago!) Childhood sure passes quicker from the parents' perspective than from the child's :-(
I can hardly believe he's already up to my eyebrows... what happened to that
wee man from 1997?
Anyway, with a glorious day we decided that we should have a family barbecue in the garden to celebrate, which seems to have gone down well. The only (near) disaster of the day being a game of darts. He'd wanted a dartboard for ages so I bought him one hoping he wouldn't be too silly around his younger siblings. All was going well - playing darts with the board stuck on the garage wall - until he decided to see if he could throw the dart from further away than recommended. To compensate for the expected problem of gravity he threw it high and fast. Instead of hitting the dartboard, the dart cleared the garage roof and disappeared altogether. After and exhaustive search the other side of our garage, he entered the neighbour's garden in trepidation - I had suggested he might find the neighbour dead on the other side of fence with a dart sticking out of his forehead. Fortunately he found the neighbour sipping coffee sitting several feet from the dart that was sticking out of his flowerbed. I hope that has taught him an important life lesson!?

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I love the smell of roses - roses with a smell that is! I planted a beautiful white rose in my garden and found out, disappointingly, that it had no smell at all :-( This beautiful lilac one Thomas bought me, on the other hand, is deliciously wonderful. It is time someone discovered a way to upload smells along with photos. Isn't my photo of it just beautiful?

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I got a Bounty Voucher from the maternity hospital when I had Anna. Well I got 4 actually - 4 vouchers for free portraits of the baby (with of without siblings) over a 24 month period.
I decided I had better use it last week given the first voucher covered up to the end of the first 6 months and she was 7 months old last Saturday.
You can choose from
Pixifoto studios or Portrait Place photographers.
When I had Marcel and Charlotte, I thought these vouchers were wonderful - the photos were superior to anything I could do - they used Hasselblads back then and I had a Minolta SLR.
Now, however, they use DSLRs - I have seen them use both Nikon and Olympus. That is to say, the actual photographic equipment they are using is no longer superior to what I use at home (Sony 350). Given Thomas bought me umbrellas for my 40th, I now also have the start of the lighting package they use too. Ok, I would need a few extra lights - coloured ones, soft and silhouette lighting but I now think the only thing I am lacking is a room without a window and a black and a white backdrop before I could take superior photos. The reason I say that is, I believe these photography companies are now so confident in their equipment, they are no longer employing decent photographers, assuming anyone with that equipment can take a decent enough photo to flog to the average punter. This of course is true, but a sad ambition. The photographer the other day did a fair job with Marcel and Charlotte as they were old enough to be cooperative but the little ones are more difficult to photograph nicely. He was a sweet enough young guy but he was definitely not as good a photographer as I am. He was happy if he got them all looking in the right direction, assuming somehow that a smile would be a bonus rather than a necessity. I don't believe he had an eye for photography, he simply put the kids in half a dozen pre-rehearsed poses - with teddy, with building blocks etc rather than taking ten minutes to get to see the dynamics of the group and working with that, the way I could in the same studio, given I know the dynamics as their mum and can take a decent photo with decent equipment.
It is frustrating not to have my own studio, not only because I could do better photos of my own family, but I believe I could also do better photos commercially.
I just found this photo on flickr... hmmm I am wondering where else I could keep my lawnmower and bikes, if I was to turn my garage into a photographic studio too!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


When I was a small child my grandparents lived in a little flat with a shared garden. As there were only 2 storeys, one neighbour owned the back garden, the other the front. My grandparents had the back. Granny grew rhubarb and little white and lilac alpine flowers, Gramps grew cabbage, lettuce and potatoes. I remember digging out potatoes with him. They seemed to taste unlike any other potatoes in the world - buttery and delicious - so good I almost wanted to eat them raw from the ground still with the dirt on. I wonder why it never occurred to me to grow vegetables when I was living with André. I grew tomatoes once in a little plastic greenhouse but we never made a little kitchen garden. Thomas, on the other hand, thinks almost everything in a garden should be edible and last week we had our very first home-grown potatoes. They were almost as good as my old Gramps's.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


About 2 weeks ago I got an email from my old uni professor, Roger Stephenson. It was a group email to a dozen or so colleagues and ex-students saying he was retiring from Glasgow uni, where he's been head of department and professor in German since roughly when I left. (When I was there he was a doctor of German literature).My immediate thought was - what a loss to Glasgow university. Roger's specialities in my day were Goethe and Nietzsche. He was eccentric, as the best of them are. He started many a lecture with an impersonation of Elvis on the stage in the lecture theatre. We drank wine in tutorials together at Christmas. As we got older and studied in his honours class, there were only a few of us in his groups so we socialized - we went to the pub, we went for curries, I even had him home for barbecues. He was an approachable, down-to-earth genius. His stories of his childhood in Liverpool made us laugh.
Roger is probably the teacher I learned most from in this life. He taught me about literature, he taught me about philosophy. He taught me to think and made me grow into the adult I am today.
I am terribly sad for the future students of German at Glasgow university that they will meet a study programme that will be much narrower and less deep. Also that they will laugh and think a little less.
Anyway, when I received his email, I suggested a lunch for old times sake - we hadn't met up since 2001. He and 2 other ex-students, Sheina and Linda, came for lunch on Sunday and funnily enough he hadn't aged a day. He still made me laugh with his cheesy Elvis impersonations and stories of Liverpool.
He suggested making it an annual reunion - the next meeting being in Liverpool where he's moving back to with his wife after retirement. I'll be there.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Clown or Grasshopper?
Originally uploaded by Hamed Saber
I'm used to grasshoppers. Every summer I have been in southern Europe and I have fallen asleep to the strange squeals and screeches they make rubbing their legs.
On the other hand, in 40 years I have never ever heard a single grasshopper in Scotland.
Today is a very warm day - Léon and Lots are out in the garden playing in the paddling pool. Anna is naked on the grass... and to my utter amazement I have just heard a grasshopper in my garden in Glasgow!
Global warming????

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Do you think Heinz would buy this off me for use on their advertising posters? Isn't it a cool photo?!


Bumps on A head
Originally uploaded by moriza
Today we went to B&Q to buy some wood and screws to put up the kitchen cabinets. We put our purchases in the boot and decided to pop into Lidl for some lunch on the way back. Thomas closed the boot... on my head. A C8 has quite a heavy hatchback :-( Since then I've had a bit of a headache and I'm definitely not quite myself. I put on some potatoes and despite Thomas asking several times if I'd checked them, it was surprising to find that 40 minutes later they were overcooked. Then I offered Léon a bath at 9pm because I felt it was hours earlier. It is like I have lost some sense of time. I also seem to be having a bit of a memory problem. It took me 10 minutes to recall who had won Euro 2008 and the Apprentice and I wasn't overly sure which hand I usually use to cut things! Let's see how my brain's doing tomorrow before I sue the Dane...

Friday, July 18, 2008


I've been meaning to play with colorizing for a while - I did some last year but then I forgot how to do it. I got up early this morning - before the kids - because I had hurt my neck so couldn't sleep. Too sore to run about like a headless housework chicken, I decided to go through the GIMP colorization tutorial again - Voilà!


It is interesting, the difference a year makes to the memory and analytical capacity of a very small child. Last summer, 2007, André took the kids including Léon to visit his mother in France. At the time, I thought he was way too young to go without me (he was 23 months old) but Annie is nearly 80 and had been in hospital with heart problems so I agreed, on condition I could fly over and get him, should he become distressed. Given Marcel and Charlotte were also going, I figured he'd be reasonably ok and they let me know he seemed fairly happy with his family every night when they called. He was too young to understand phonecalls himself. The holiday went ok but when he returned after just less than 2 weeks, he walked into the house, threw himself into my arms and hugged me tightly not letting go for what seemed like about half an hour. Eventually he plucked up the courage to let me go and hugged Thomas 5 minutes and my parents a minute each before again attaching himself to me. He had obviously been wondering if he was ever going to see me again. Relieved at his return, he was fine by the next day with no further repercussions. The normal custody pattern resumed that week without a hiccough. This year, as I mentioned the other day, André again took them to visit his family. I spoke to them for a few minutes most days and every time I spoke to Pudge, I simply said: You'll be home with mummy and Thomas very soon. He understood happily and when he returned on Monday morning he ran in, hugged me 2 or 3 minutes then ran off and got books and toys to bring to me. Periodically, over the course of the day, he stopped and said I need a hug. This he did happily and he recounted the fun he had had with his Oma and French aunt. Today however André was due to have the kids for his fortnightly Thursday overnight stay. He was to pick them up at 5-30pm. I got out Léon's sandals and he asked why I was putting them on. You are going for dinner with Papa, I replied. He went mad - No way! he screamed. I explained he'd be back for breakfast, that this was simply an overnight stay but he cried and held on to me screaming he didn't want to go away again. No matter how much I reassured him, he believed he was being taken away again for 2 weeks. While he likes the odd overnight away, he really is still too small for the holidays. I wish, when the custody pattern was being drawn up, someone had taken that into consideration. When your child is crying that he wants to stay with you, it is heartbreaking to make him go against his will. I assume though when he returns tomorrow, he will realize we are back to the normal pattern when he sees André every other weekend and Thursday - a pattern he does enjoy, as long as it is not overstepped.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


We managed to negotiate a batch rate of £1 per cupboard with the kids so they are currently spending their mornings building us an Ikea kitchen. Both Marcel and Lots have the hang of the pictorial instructions and are currently knocking out about one wall unit every 15 - 20 minutes. Léon on the other hand only manages to climb through cupboards and move around screws and wooden dowels, misplacing them. Anna did try to contribute too. She picked up the electric screw driver, stuck it in her mouth, accidentally pressed the on-button and shot 3 feet in the air squealing.
Tomorrow they are going to try base units or a full-height larder.


A chocolate screw driver
Originally uploaded by
Walking through the streets of Paris the other day I happened upon this in a shop window. An electric screwdriver with a French plug of course. I took a photo and showed it to the kids. I asked them if they noticed anything strange about the screwdriver. They mentioned its European plug, they mentioned that it didn't have a screw bit attached at the front, but neither of the big ones noticed the obvious: that it was in fact sculpted out of chocolate. It looked truly magnificent. Though I doubt I'd be able to take a bite out of it - that would be too great a shame.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Louvre by night
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I had intended to take the Batobus like the last time I was in Paris but where the price seems quite reasonable for 5 days, it just feels a bit OTT to pay 28 Euros for 2 days. We decided to see if we could do most of the central part of Paris on foot and only use the metro for going further north.
We set out at lunchtime and it took the best part of 9 hours walking to get from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower and back - we didn't take a completely straight route and the GPS was telling us we'd notched up about 8km by the end of the day but the views at sunset were definitely worth it.
Though by 10pm Anna was more interested in a proper feed than another photo-stop imposed by her mother.


The worst fortnight of the year is over for another year. I know the 3 big ones need to visit their Oma in France once a year for 2 weeks. When they go, I miss them like crazy, I worry about them like mad, not to mention I spend that fortnight feeling the loss of my French family more acutely than at any other time in the year. They came back this morning so I survived, if only just.


As you know I have spent the best part of 23 years living part of my year in France so this last 23 months have been a testing time for me. Although I cannot go and visit my family, I decided I couldn't stand not visiting my country any more so Thomas, Anna and I nipped over to Paris for a long weekend while André took the kids to his mum's.
It was wonderful to see all my old haunts - Paris is the city I know best in the world after Glasgow. To hear French everywhere again was a breath of fresh air. To smell the smells, taste the tastes and hear the different sounds.
I miss France. It was so lovely to go home for the weekend...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


You may have noticed I have changed the address of my blog. Don't worry if you haven't as I am redirecting traffic from the old site. My new address is:

Monday, July 07, 2008


Town hall
Originally uploaded by jimmy2yk
Thomas and I were at a wedding on Saturday in Greenock town hall. We had received the invite (verbally a year ago) and officially about 6 weeks ago. I didn't think another thing about it.
Last weekend we were having dinner with my brother who works down that way so I asked directions to Greenock town hall. On Saturday we followed google's directions, Derek's directions and with a little help from this tall tower on the skyline we finally found Greenock town hall.
After the ceremony, which was held in one of the side rooms, we were shown into the main hall and it hit me. I've been here before. I looked at the coat of arms, the blue paint, the decorated ceilings, balconies and cornicing. It took me forever to place it. How could I know this room? As far as I could remember I had been to Greenock to visit André in the 80s when he had a student bedsit there, I had often visited my friend Shona in Forsyth street and I had been to my brother's lawyer's office in Union street. So how could I know the inside of the town hall?
Then it hit me - I had taken part in the Greenock festival in 1975, representing my school as a singer in the annual competition (Do they still run it?) It was suddenly clear as day. We'd left Crookfur primary in a single decker bus and driven to Greenock. I was wearing my favourite creamy white winter coat and had felt very important!
Oh, and did we win the singing contest? No, not by a mile but hey I still have it tucked away in my memory after 33 years so it can't have been all bad!

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Cynthia, Karen and I
Originally uploaded by PhylB
What is it with hairdressers? Either they don't listen or they just think they know what is best anyway.
On Saturday Thomas and I were invited to my friend Siobhan's wedding. (A turn around in luck at last. Siobhan is a friend from my old Queen Mother's Breast feeding group. We've been a close group of friends since 1997. We all met when we had our first baby. We all subsequently split from our partners and divorced and Siobhan is the first of the group to remarry!)
So I thought, given my hair needed cutting anyway, if I got it cut Saturday, it would be nice for the wedding.
How would you like it? she asked - granted it was early Saturday morning, the girl looked hungover and apologized for having puffy eyes but she'd been fighting with her boyfriend and crying. I should have known her head was elsewhere. I asked for it shoulder length all the way round. She cut it more or less to the length I wanted, then proceeded to cut layers into it all round without confirming I wanted them, which I didn't. I actually wanted it like a slightly longer version of Karen's (my blonde friend in this photo.) I guess her hairdresser had had a better Friday night than mine.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Originally uploaded by
I'm beginning to think this Life begins at 40 is a load of nonsense. I found my first ever grey hair a couple of weeks after I turned 40, and last week I found a second one. Then today I had an eye test and was told I could use some glasses for reading, though my distance vision is perfect. God, I'll be needing a hip replacement any day at this rate! Humph...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


In prehistoric times I guess a woman looked for a man who looked strong and healthy - the type who might bring home a decent sized dead animal.
In more recent times, say last century, I suppose women went for the intellectual type, maybe with a good job or career prospects. Thomas and I were discussing the other day what today's and tomorrow's woman should be looking for in a man - what we would advise Lots, should she ask us in the future. We concluded that in modern times, the single most important trait to look for in a potential partner is his ability to look after the kids. I think any woman marrying today should ask herself - If we end up divorced, would I trust this man to look after our kids alone, abroad on a 2 week holiday? If the answer is no, think long and hard about whether he is right for you!
Cynical, me? Never!