Tuesday, September 30, 2008


We went to Center
Parcs for the weekend - the kids thought they'd died and gone to heaven - the place offers 12 hours a day of activities that they have always dreamed of, unfortunately at about £14 an hour, sorry kids, you are only doing 3 things not 42... Anyway their first choice was archery. Marcel qualified as an adult (gulp) so went off to do it himself. Charlotte was a child so had to do it with a parent. We drew straws - who got to babysit Pudge and Bits, who got to play archery. I got the archery, Thomas got the babies. We were given a short lesson and told where not to stand if we intended to stay alive beyond the end of the next hour and each given a little leather strap to protect the forearm. It was actually fun. Lots was having a ball, and after a few trial shots I got it too. You stand side on, feet shoulder width apart, straighten the left arm out in front of you and draw back your bow string and right arm to your right ear, then you let go and the arrow shoots into the bulls eye... What the man in charge of the lesson doesn't tell you, probably because he doesn't wear an E-cup bra though, is that there is no was to stop the string chopping your left nipple off as the arrow flies towards the target... At this point I was beginning to wonder if there was any way to strap the leather forearm protector to my boob instead of my arm as my boobs were nipping far more than my arm. As the lesson progressed, I slowly got worse and worse at archery as I tensed up in the wrong places and at the wrong times to avoid the inevitable twang. It is a shame because it was quite fun to start with. Maybe next time, with a steel-reinforced bra, it could be quite cool.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


On the topic of people who do their jobs badly... you know what else annoys me? You'd think that if your job is designing and making baby clothes, you'd start by looking at babies and actually realizing that babies' physical dimensions are completely different from the rest of us. They aren't shrunken adults, they have tiny short limbs, huge heads and longish torsos. When they put their right arm up, they simply reach the top of the right hand side of their head. They can't reach over their heads and touch their left ear, not till age 5 or 6. So why (see right) do these numpties make mini-adult t-shirts leaving poor babies searching hopelessly for their arms and hands? This is a matching 9-12 month t-shirt and trousers from ASDA. The trousers are perfect for Anna, as is the t-shirt in length but she'll be about 3 before her arms grow into the sleeves. Contrast this with the age 6-12 month jeans from Primark. The waist is perfect but the legs will be fine in about 8-12 months time. And Tesco doesn't escape either. Their denim baby shorts assume 6 month olds with thin thighs... of course breastfed pre-crawlers have legs like tree trunks so poor Anna spent the summer with rings round her thighs caused by overtight clothes. The end result is me having to take in or up baby clothes constantly, and with the sewing skills of a two-toed sloth, the result is rarely pretty. Come on guys - stop the sloppy work and give me a break. If I had wanted to spend my life sewing, I wouldn't have failed Home Economics at the age of 13.


I mean how hard can it be???? Fair enough - predicting the weather 10 days from now might be borderline tricky, but when you are talking about tonight overnight or tomorrow morning it really can't be that hard, can it?

I am having my garage (that's the broken, ugly big garden hut in the photo) demolished today and replaced by a real garage. You know - one where when you park the baby's buggy in it overnight it doesn't disintegrate, eaten by mould.

Anyway I checked the weather forecast when I was tidying it out on Saturday and it told me I'd have a whole week of sun. Sceptical, I checked it again last night at 6pm, given I have left 2 wooden bookcases in the garden for the 2 days the reconstruction is meant to take. They were still offering me 5 dry days. What luck!

So what the hell is that falling from the sky this morning when I open the blinds???? Am I seeing things? It is bloody raining. I go on to BBC weather and it assures me it is currently dry - silly me, what was I worrying about?

Now, I write dictionaries for a living. If I spell all the words wrong, I get fired. Why do these useless gits get away with getting it wrong every day?... Hmmmm that's a thought. I wonder if meteorology pays well? I'm sure I could do it just as poorly as them and from home with no need for childcare costs. I'm away to send my CV to the BBC...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


We started playing Scrabble once or twice a month with the bigger kids in the hope it'd help their spelling and vocabulary. I know many of my workmates will die of shock at the thought of a colleague actually playing Scrabble for pleasure (because we publish all the UK Scrabble titles many of our colleagues would feel an hour spent on anything to do with Scrabble was overtime and would feel they'd deserve to be paid for the purpose!) Anyway, the games were going well but there were two main problems when playing with an 8 year old and (as was then) a 10 year old, and that was that finding many words with the X, J, Z or Q was hard work, and that the last two or three rounds when you were down to two or three letters were equally impossible. Thomas came up with the idea of getting the three Scrabble books from the office bookshop:
Scrabble words Scrabble lists Need to know? Scrabble Great, we now had a source of two and three letter words. We had lists of all the words beginning with the obscure letters and we had hints at what could be done with many letter combinations. But surprisingly, although the kids are enjoying the game more than ever, given their newfound ability to win with really obscure words, I have gone from relishing our games from an educational perspective, to finding them utterly pointless, or borderline pointless anyway. The kids are using their dictionary skills at least to find new and weird words, but given the Scrabble words book has no definitions, this is simply a means to winning and no longer educational. Tonight the kids came up with bowat, jape, mugg, zelants and qat - all great words but they haven't a clue what any of them mean! As a dictionary writer of 18 years experience I tend to think if even I don't recognize a word, then the kids shouldn't be using it to beat me at Scrabble. We have completely lost focus of why we started to play the game in the first place. It also opened my eyes to the Scrabble nuts out there. They play to win, not to learn anything. In fact winning is so important, they would be happy to play Scrabble in a language they don't speak rather than lose a game... incomprehensible. I guess they are a different breed of weirdo nerd from me.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Isn't this a cool photo? Thomas was on the roof on Sunday clearing the gutters. One of the large grassy pieces of mossy mud he picked up and threw into the air looked from the ground like one of those annoying little yappy terriers. Maybe we could make dog-throwing a new Olympic sport?

Sunday, September 21, 2008


A spotty back
Léon's always been a wee bit of a worry healthwise. First it was the scare we had in New York, then the chicken pox and the fall out of that that left him on an asthma inhaler for a year and this year his little face cysts.
Well, during dinner the other night Marcel (sitting next to Pudge), remarked What's that on Léon's arm? We took off his clothes to find he was suddenly covered in red lumps. Though this was obviously just an allergic reaction treated easily over 24 hours with piriton, I have no idea what he is allergic to, given he was eating and drinking things he'd had often in his life when the lumps appeared... What will it turn out to be this time?
I'm glad breastfeeding supposedly protects against all this stuff...? Given I breastfed him 22 months, I shudder to think what state he'd have been in otherwise!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The kids love to cook. Marcel makes a mean lasagne or chocolate cake. Lots is great at pancakes. Pudge likes to cook everything, scrambled egg in particular. They quite often get in a bit of a mess cooking. I always thought professional chefs' jackets cost an arm and a leg so had never even considered one before meeting Thomas. Thomas had one, of course, but then he knows how to cook properly, so again I assumed they were dear. He had always moaned about his being too big so I went onto
Nisbets kitchen website to check out new ones only to find that professional chefs' jackets, in both adult and kiddie sizes are dirt cheap. So now school clothes can be protected against chocolate, sparking grease and pasta sauce and they can look cute as hell. Only problem is that with the jacket on, Marcel will probably assume it is ok to swear like Gordon Ramsay, even in front of Pudge, just for effect.


I was wanting to blog how much I hate carpets, when I came across this photo - isn't that pretty? Well worth seeing, maybe Thomas will take me some time - he likes Brussels. I digress... I hate carpets. I have never lived in a house with a carpet (since I left home). Every house I have bought has had carpets but I have always sanded the floors, laminated the floors or whatever. Carpets and babies don't mix - they dribble, they shit, they vomit. Carpets and toddlers don't mix - they potty train, they crayon, they spill juice. Carpets and school kids (in Scotland) don't mix - they play sports in the rain and mud. Carpets in the dining room should, to my mind be a criminal offence. For a year now we have owned a house carpeted in 7 of the rooms in the same pale beige disaster - if I could afford to do anything to the this house, the first thing would be to refloor it in wood. So far we have got rid of it in 2 rooms but until the living room and dining room are done I will be miserable. Now with my Dyson dead in a corner, I feel the carpet crunching beneath my feet every time I walk, and every meal is followed by me crawling around on all four trying to capture the fallout in a dustpan. Surely if there was a God, he'd let me win just enough on the lottery to refloor my downstairs!?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The kids came home from school the other week with a leaflet from East Renfrewshire council child psychology department saying they were running some free Parenting Workshops. Given the world has changed a little since I was a teenager, I thought it might be a wise move to sign up for some free advice to keep Marcel, in particular, as he is the oldest, on the straight and narrow as life throws some new challenges at him. Thomas decided to come too. We went to all the hassle of arranging babysitters on a week night and dashing out just 15 minutes after Thomas comes home from work to a 2 hour session. The psychologist told us straight out he would offer no advice and give no opinions, he was just there as a facilitator. The course basically consisted of couples being split up, so they were no longer discussing relevant kids, but instead were discussing child management with a stranger who randomly had a kid of a completely different age. Given we received a course book, I am tempted to simply take it to bed and try the role plays and discussions with a more relevant adult about 4 more relevant kids... Let's see how that strategy goes before committing to another dash across the back road to Barrhead in the pouring rain still chewing on my dinner...


I was just thinking about my last posting about all those little niggly unavoidable fees Ryanair add on leaving people irate. They really are quite shortsighted. They gave me a fare of £1 return, added £8 to check in, £16 to take an infant, £8 for the infant to check in, £8 per hold bag and an £8 credit card fee each for me and the baby plus £30ish in taxes. So the total bill £87 for 2 returns to Denmark. By the time I had ticked every possible box and failed to save all these £8 fees I was seething. But I am of the pre-Ryanair generation. I remember the old days when flying to Frankfurt BA cost £500 per person and you had to go via Heathrow. If I had simply logged onto Ryanair's page, keyed in I wanted 2 tickets to Denmark and it gave me a final price of £87, I'd feel that was more than reasonable and would probably recommend them to all my friends. Moreover, if I could then tick boxes saying I didn't want to bring a bag for example or I didn't want to check in in the airport and I then saw bill drop by £8 a time, I'd be jumping with joy. I'd love them. I really don't think the people behind Ryanair understand human psychology very well. By showing a tiny price initially then inflating it at every line you annoy people even if the final bill is completely reasonable.
Silly buggers.
ps I'll shut up about Ryanair now, I think I've exhausted the topic for the moment! (Sigh of relief)

Friday, September 12, 2008


Have I ever mentioned I hate Ryanair??? The actual flight and service on board leave me indifferent in general but just booking tickets with them leaves me incensed every time. As you know we had our flights cancelled earlier in the week so have had to go back on their website to rebook. I guess some perverse little nerd has been paid to go through their booking site and flag up every possible point where they can screw you for extra money. The first thing that made me rage was their infant policy. If your child is under two, they are an infant. Here's how it works on a normal old fashioned airline, eg Continental. You can buy an infant ticket at approximately 10% of an adult ticket and sit them on your lap, or, if you are feeling flush, you can buy them a child's ticket at 70% of an adult one and they can sit on their own seat except when the fasten seat belt sign is on at which time they are strapped to your lap. Obviously, not being rich, I usually opt for the first option. On Ryanair you can buy an infant ticket or nothing. So where's the problem? When Ryanair runs its special deals - £1 ticket, free tickets where you pay only taxes etc you aren't allowed to opt for a full price ticket for your infant and your infant doesn't qualify for their special offers, so I have just got into the ludicrous situation where the 4 adults are paying £4 return for seats to Denmark in November, but the infant, who has no seat is paying £16 each way. Why am I not allowed to buy Anna a £1 seat??? Next little annoyance is online check in. Ryanair has decided to charge everyone £8 per person to check in in the airport - funny I thought that was the whole point of the airport. So I opt for online check in to save £8 per person. A box pops up telling me I must use airport check in because I am travelling with an infant even if the infant has no baggage (they aren't allowed any baggage despite paying a ticket 16 times more expensive than the adult accompanying them who is allowed 10kg hand luggage and 15kg in the hold). Discrimination against babies!!!! So I agree to pay their petty little £8 to unnecessarily check Anna in in the airport, meaning I have to go to Edinburgh an hour earlier and they then give me a little pop up box telling me Anna can't check in alone as she is an infant, the adult who is carrying her also needs to check in in the airport at an obligatory cost of £8 despite having no check in bags (which of course had I been taking I'd need to tell them about in advance and pay to check each one into the hold). They are a penny pinching shower of robbers. Finally I ask to pay - they want to add another £8 to my bill, 5 times £8 to be precise. I check the small print - this is a credit card handling fee, not per credit card, not per transaction but per passenger - now they are really taking the piss - the bill is £130 once I add on taxes and they want me to pay an extra £40 credit card handling... Fine I annul the whole thing and delve into my handbag for my debit card instead - yip you guessed it - they then add on £40 debit card handling charge. I try everything - my visa, my mastercard, my American Express and my debit - they all cost the same - there is no way not to incur the £40 charge (unless I maybe try bartering - sending them some sheep perhaps), so how can they justify it as a separate charge??? Ryanair, I hate you!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


In October we were planning to go over to see Thomas's parents. This trip was to kill several birds with the one stone.

  • Thomas was going to say goodbye to the house he grew up in as his parents are moving out at the end of the year.
  • My parents were coming with us to see where Thomas grew up before his parents moved out.
  • Brita and Peter were going to get to see their granddaughter rather than having to wait until Christmas.

Unfortunately thanks to Boeing we will now have to come up with a plan B, or abandon the idea altogether.

For once it doesn't seem to be Ryanair's fault though.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I like this bit best!
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I love my Dyson vacuum cleaner. I know that makes me sad but with 4 kids and a big house, it is a necessary member of the family. Thomas has an annoying cylinder hoover that couldn't suck a baked bean off the carpet if its life depended on it. I hate Thomas's hoover! It'll be vaguely passable once we've replaced the hideous carpets in this house with wooden floors, but in the meantime only my Dyson can cope... or rather only my Dyson could cope till yesterday when the engine on it started making an ear-piercingly shrill squeal every time it attempted to suck up the post-Anna dinner mess. For now, it is still sucking perfectly but I have an ominous feeling about it. I also have a vague notion there is a burning smell coming from its insides. I am scared it can only be a matter of days until it blows up after nearly 10 years hard work :-(


Given that I have spent the last 8 years fighting with Charlotte about bobbles and tidy hair I thought I'd start early with Anna... I'm not sure she has quite enough yet, but it is definitely getting there.

Monday, September 08, 2008


I, as you know, love to take photos. I then love to edit my photos to the picture I had in my head when I took it - trimming bits, bringing out some specific aspects of the photo, adding or removing colour, tidying things up, removing a spot of chocolate from the end of a child's nose...whatever. If I uploaded all my photos and came home to find Thomas had edited them all I'd probably faint in shock or horror. I know he'd do it well but he'd do it differently. They are my works of art, no one else's. They are in my head and they are very personal.
These are my parents. There is one thing I find really odd about my parents... My dad likes to take photos too... but he leaves them in the camera - he would probably leave them there forever if mum didn't stick them on their computer and edit all his photos. Dad doesn't edit ever. Mum doesn't take photos ever - it is like they make up one photographer between them - weird... how can she know what he wanted the photo to look like? She must because he seems happy enough with the result.
It'd drive me batty though!

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Much to my surprise,
Léon's dermatology appointment on the NHS came through after only 3 months and we were there last Friday. That is a relief as his little cyst has become 2 little cysts. I expected they'd quickly tell me what it was and fob me off with a tube of cream but much to my disappointment, they actually didn't know what it was and decided to try firstly to treat it with steroids and antibacterial cream and have him come back in 10 weeks for a check up. We are now 3 days into the 5 day course of steroids and to my mind it looks worse. Is there no one who can point me in the direction of the solution to his sore face?


The manse greenhouse
Originally uploaded by
Why is it they never mention the course your baby's first cold will run in the baby books?
Firstly, they forget to say that because they are breathing through their mouths due to blocked noses, they won't be able to breastfeed. Every time they latch on, they get three slugs of milk down their throat before they need to breathe so pull off and cry. Of course the three slugs is enough for the let down reflex to kick in so you are left with a jet of milk shooting across the carpet from one or other of your boobs.
Secondly they don't sleep very well so end up in and out of your bed for three days turning you into a zombie (with your own cold by this time).
Finally, and most impressively, by day three or four, because your 6-8 month old cherub has not mastered nose-blowing, gallons of snot will have accumulated in their gut. Now here's the main bit they forget to tell you - read closely because it always happens. The gut reaches full snot capacity and decides the only possible course of action is projectile vomit. Three gallons of snot and that day's breakfast and lunch will come out at 100mph hitting you square in the face before drenching your couch and walls.
I guess the moral is: on day three and four of your infant's first cold, don't feed them pasta with tomato sauce but something a little closer in colour to your wallpaper or upholstery.
(I am, of course, sitting here drenched in three gallons of snot, some toast crumbs and a bucketful of regurgitated scrambled egg... Get well soon, Anna!)


With family abroad, I travel more often than average.

The last few times I have gone to London, or gone elsewhere via London, I have chosen to fly Easyjet rather than Ryanair for that leg of the journey, usually then linking up to a Ryanair flight to the continent.

There are several things I prefer about Easyjet in comparison with Ryanair:

  • Easyjet leaves from nearby Glasgow, not distant Prestwick
  • Easyjet's ticket price is the ticket price - they don't make you add on £8 a bag , £5 per carseat, and all that cryptic nonsense Ryanair likes to add on to annoy you
  • Easyjet doesn't make you tell them in advance (months in advance) how many bags you want to bring on board
  • Easyjet doesn't make you weigh or measure the volume of your hand luggage - if it fits, it fits - they don't care
  • with Easyjet you can have priority boarding just because you have an infant without having to pay extra, so there is no half hour queue to get on the plane and no worry you can't get a seat beside your 2 year old child
  • Easyjet's staff tend to be courteous native English speakers - older than your average Ryanair Eastern European teenager who has learned the announcements off by heart but who looks blank when you put an unexpected question. Their staff aren't on a power trip and they don't give you attitude
  • Ryanair plays you an ear-shatteringly annoying fanfare every time a flight lands at destination on time
  • Easyjet uses bright shiny new Airbuses which I personally prefer to Boeing 737s

However, it is with regret that I have resolved in future only to fly Ryanair down to London. Strange decision, you might think, but no. The one advantage Ryanair has over Easyjet on the London route in particular, but on all routes as far as I can see after using them literally hundreds of times is punctuality. I would say 95% of the Ryanair flights I have taken over the years have been on time. Recently none of the Easyjet ones have. We were delayed several hours to and from Denmark costing us £350 in lost flights in the summer. Some work colleagues flew Easyjet to Glasgow last week, again arriving and departing 2-3 hours late. With point to point airlines you can unfortunately put up with any crap except delay because delay means missing connecting flights.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Let's take one each...
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I have always believed people only see what they want to see when it comes to kids. For example, when Marcel was small I would take him out shopping and mum's friends would say He's so like your dad. I would take him to France and people would tell me he was my late father-in-law's double. Does that mean André's dad looked like mine (they were very different)...?
Today I was in Yorkhill hospital. A nurse was taking a blood sample from Léon. She read his notes: Léon Gautier - wow what a lovely name - it sounds like a film star, she said. What's his sister's name? she asked pointing at Anna, who was along for the ride.
Anna I replied
Quick as a flash she said Anna Gautier - that's lovely. They are so gorgeous, and sooo alike - but not like you - are they like their dad? Hmmm technically yes - Pudge, though not very André-like is a definite Gautier, a bit like André's brother Claudi with his pale eyes and Anna is Thomas's double... I didn't bother explaining the ins and outs so smiled and replied that they were indeed.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I had a friend over for coffee today. Her mother has just been in an NHS hospital for an op - well for them to re-do an op they botched last year to be precise. Anyway she was more than surprised the day of the operation when she received a text from her old mum saying 'Getting out tomorrow, ambulance booked'. Strange, she thought - they'd told her to expect a week in hospital. She rang the hospital just to confirm, and also to ask why an ambulance had been booked rather than just having them turn up to pick her up as expected. After speaking to several nurses and doctors on her ward it transpired that the whiteboard above her bed had had her name and this message on it. The message pertained to the previous patient in the bed, who'd been sent home in an ambulance that morning before my friend's mother was moved to that bed as it was closer to the toilet! My mate then hypothesized of course - Wonder what would have happened if the message for the previous patient had been - anaesthetise and amputate left leg tomorrow.
Her poor old mum wasn't too pleased either when they explained she wasn't really getting out.


Yesterday when I got up I was so pleased that Anna had slept from 9pm right through till 6-30am for only the third time ever that I was going to blog it. I didn't get the time. Last night Anna didn't go to bed till 10-30pm, she got up at 1am, 4-23am thru 5-30am, and again at 6-15am... so I don't think I'll bother blogging it after all :-(

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I get the concept of sushi well enough and really quite like it. I like the idea of lots of little dishes so you get to taste various things. I particularly love the slivers of ginger. But one thing that puzzles me and a theory I have yet to test, is whether you can get full on the stuff. It seems to me that no matter how many little empty coloured bowls you end up with in front of you, you don't feel full... in fact I would go as far as to say you don't feel any fuller than before you started. Weird. I wonder if there is a sushi diet - that might work to help me lose the baby weight from the last pregnancy... though that does sound like an expensive option!