Tuesday, April 28, 2009

DIY MARATHON


Wallpapering
Originally uploaded by PhylB
At the beginning of March we embarked upon a DIY marathon, hence slightly less blogging than usual - not only do I have less time to sit down, my brain is too tired to think.
Although family and friends have been drafted in to help, we are the ones living in the highly stressful constant state of DIY hell. So far we've split the living room into a new dining room and coffee room, created a TV room in the old kitchen, moved our bedroom downstairs into the old dining room, finished (nearly) the new kitchen, refloored and decorated all these rooms, taken the fallout to the dump and dealt with some seriously dodgy electrics. (Next job on the list is to rebuild the hall ceiling)! It is a real achievement and I hardly recognize the place - unfortunately it has been so tiring I hardly recognize myself in the mirror either!
Today Thomas started his new company, working from the bottom up... that is to say he put the nice new floor in the office. Tomorrow we'll wallpaper it and build the office furniture with the help of the kids.

Friday, April 24, 2009

HIGHCHAIRS AND SPOONFEEDING


Anna's lasagne
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I think people tend to assume they and their kids are normal, whatever normal is. Therefore if your kid learns to sit at say 3 months, you think 3 months is normal for sitting. If your kid learns to swim at 4, then you assume kids generally learn around 4 and may be surprised if you happen upon a 10 year old in armbands.
Eating habits are intriguing me. My kids all started feeding themselves their own evening meal before 10 months (pictured left is Anna at 8 months). Ok, it wasn't (as you can see) a pretty sight, but they were never going to get the hand-eye coordination right if they didn't practise. They didn't need any help after that (except with the cleaning up). They also tended to be out of the highchair and into a booster seat between 18 and 22 months. I figured that was normal.
The last twice Thomas and I have been in Ikea canteen, I have noticed not one but at least half a dozen 4 year olds sitting comically wedged into a highchair, their feet trailing on the ground, looking pristine while being spoonfed by one or even both their parents.
Does Ikea simply attract all the OCD weirdos in Glasgow simultaneously or is it quite normal to spoonfeed a 4 year old in a highchair?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NERDS


If your ears can stand this, it has to be admired for a nerd quality rarely seen!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES - WHO'S KIDDING WHO?

So there are suddenly 2.1 million people unemployed in the UK... come on now - who are the government trying to kid?
When Thomas is made redundant on Friday, he won't be going to the job office on Monday to sign on unemployed - there is no point because the way unemployment works in this country doesn't cater for management and professional people. Your £60 a week wouldn't even cover the council tax in East Renfrewshire so although he is a victim of this recession and the current governmental cock-ups, he quite conveniently falls outside their radar by being forced to either work freelance or try to create his own company whether or not it turns out to be successful. He and thousands like him are simply non-statistics.
Standing in the queue today at nursery to get in and pick up Pudge, the woman in front of me mentioned to her friend that both she and her husband had lost their jobs in the past 2 months and were of course going to 'try contracting - it's all you can do these days' - her friend replied how surprising her news was given she and her husband found themselves in a similar situation. Imagine their joint shock when I added the same story to their list. I reckon there are at least as many people 'ununemployed' as unemployed that the government is happily ignoring.
It's truly pathetic.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

JAM

Thomas bought some Danish boysenberry jam the other week. Apart from that fact that I have never tasted boysenberries before and they are absolutely delicious (I must find out if they grow here so I can plant one) it got me to wondering about jam consistency.
I was fairly indifferent to British jam as a child. I could take it or leave it. It seemed a bit too thick and set to me, like trying to spread a kid's jelly on your toast.
When I first lived in France I came to love their runny jam so I have spent 20 years thinking it is French jam I love. After tasting the very runny Danish boysenberry jam, I am beginning to wonder whether all other nations boast runny jam while we have the stoggy stuff?

Monday, April 20, 2009

CHARLOTTE AND LÉON


Charlotte and Léon
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I thought when I gave my kids the names Charlotte and Léon-Olivier that those two names were dissimilar enough not to cause any confusion. Silly me!
Every day since the kids went to France to visit their Oma, Anna has got up looking forlorn and saying 'Lala, Lala'. Now given Léon called Charlotte 'Lalo' when he first started talking, then 'Latlotte' and now finally Charlotte, I assumed 'Lala' was Charlotte. I showed Anna a photo of Charlotte and asked who that was - Anna replied 'Lala'. Bingo! So all week I assured her every morning that Charlotte would be home soon and gave her breakfast.
Last night they returned. Charlotte walked in - Anna shouted 'Lala' and hugged her. Then Léon walked in. 'LAAAAALAAAAA' Anna shouted getting up on her feet for once, walking towards him arms out-stretched before collapsing in his embrace muttering 'Lala, Lala, Lala' over and over.
Very confusing!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

MY FIRST CAR


9-2-91
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Here I am back in 1991 with my first car. It was about the size of a dustbin and about as reliable. My uni mates and I affectionately named it Chuggy because that's how it sounded and how it drove on a good day... on a bad day it just didn't start at all. Given it was pre-mobile phone days, I guess I should be grateful it almost always broke down beside a call box (generally the one in Thornliebank main street - I still know the local garage owner today!)
So why am I on about Chuggy? Well, last week Thomas bought a new lawn mower - a heavy one spark plug chuggy thing that works on petrol. It reminded me a lot of Chuggy - a bit smelly, a bit smokey, a bit noisy and rattly. It had the same choke mechanism too. It just took me back 20 years.
Today of course I realized that it was even more like Chuggy than I expected. Thomas tried to start the bloody thing on and off all day and it was as dead as a dodo. So Thomas's choice of lawnmower has catapulted us back 20 years.
Anyone know how to fix a useless, if expensive, lawnmower?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DIY HELL


Quick-drying mortar
Originally uploaded by viralbus
I went to bed last night with a simple DIY plan in my head.
  • Get up early
  • Paint the dining room door frames
  • Paint the window surround
  • Wallpaper with Thomas from midday
  • Finish the room today
I should have known better.

Anna got me up five times during the night - she's got a blocked nose so isn't eating as well as usual but seems to be in a bit of a growth spurt so is hungrier than normal. This wasn't the best start, but unperturbed I dragged myself downstairs around 9am and headed for the espresso machine to get me through.

After breakfast I started painting the window surround. The blind was in the way so I tried to take it down. The whole window surround collapsed spilling dust, plaster all over the new real wood flooring leaving a gaping hole above the double glazing. The hole measured 2.5 metres long, 5cm back to front and another 5cm deep. I hunted the garage for some wire mesh and Thomas dug out the metal cutters. I packed the gaping hole with the mesh and decided that simple plastering would take a week so hunted the garage for the 'No More Big Gaps' spray foam. That worked well but of course given I was filling a hole above the window, it started to drip on my hands and arms and set. Have you ever had superglue stuck to your skin? No More Big Gaps makes Superglue feel like pritt stick. A full 12 hours on I still haven't managed to shift it and my whole hand is covered. Itch, itch, throb. This wasn't ideal given it got into the big cut I have on my left thumb from accidentally drilling a hole in it when fitting a door handle on Sunday. It is throbbing like mad.
Then Thomas went back to bed. He's been fighting a horrible chest infection that landed him in the Victoria Infirmary on Easter Sunday, his wheezing so bad they sent him home with strong antibiotics and an asthma inhaler. He proceeded to collapse in bed for nearly 5 hours.
I continued trying to plaster up my hole, moving onto proper plaster on top of my foam.
I then painting my doors and frames with horrible, toxic smelling oil-based paint giving myself a headache in the process.
Dad then showed up to check on my wallpapering progress but finding I had made none offered to carry some books through from my dining room to the coffee room. We'd been to Ikea last night to swap a damaged bookcase we bought last week for a pristine one so dad and I took two minutes out to finish assembling that. I instantly managed to destroy it by putting my hand through the back of it as I lifted it up, necessitating another trip to Ikea tomorrow (buggeration!) So book moving was put on hold again. I went back to my bucket of plaster to take up where I left off. The bloody plaster had only gone and set in the meantime. Never mind, I thought, I'll repaint the door frames - but of course they aren't dry yet, so I couldn't do that either.
And of course I haven't even started the day's real work, so poor sick Thomas got dragged out of bed to babysit, while I went and wrote a dictionary.
It is now bedtime. My plan when I get up tomorrow is:
  • Get up early
  • Paint the dining room door frames
  • Paint the window surround
  • Wallpaper with Thomas from midday
  • Finish the room today

Sunday, April 12, 2009

AMERICAN PIE



If you are like me, that is to say in your late 30s or early 40s, you probably grew up with your parents blasting Don Mclean's American Pie at you on long car trips to holidays in England. American Pie is definitely a big slice of my childhood.
I was listening to the radio the other day and a tribute to Madonna came on - celebrating 30 years in showbiz, or however long it has been. I don't mind Madge - I'm not her greatest fan but I'm sure I can sing along to most of her bigger hits from hearing them on the radio. They played her version, sorry crucifixion, of American Pie. What was she thinking of? The woman should have been dragged outside and shot for this abomination! It starts horribly, and if you can hang on in there for a couple of minutes, actually gets worse - amazing!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

IT NEVER GETS ANY EASIER

So my three biggies have gone to France to see their Oma for her 79th birthday. Oma's birthday is at Easter so most years since 1986 we have gone home for her birthday. It is hard when after twenty years a routine stops abruptly. It is harder still when that routine continues but you are excluded. I have mentioned occasionally when my kids have been home with the family that you never ever get used to losing your entire family overnight. If your in-laws were just someone you saw occasionally, it may be different, but when your in-laws lived abroad and you spent 4 weeks+ a year under their roof, you know them intimately. You don't suddenly stop loving the whole family when you and your partner fall out of love. I guess that is the hardest thing about international divorce. You never just run into your ex-in-laws in ASDA so there is no way to build the bridges you need to build to get some closure.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A MONEY-MAKER?


07-01-20 cake
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I have woken up this morning to Armageddon.
In other words, I said yes last night when Marcel and Charlotte volunteered to make cookies and didn't go in the kitchen again after that. They seemed happy and cooperative from where I could hear them - what more could a parent want several days into a rainy holiday than four kids not fighting?
A 2kg bag of sugar has been opened by someone stabbing it in the side, it's been raining chocolate chips and everywhere is sticky with butter and flour, including the kids' cook book which is open at the cookie page.
I am seriously considering devoting the rest of the day to writing a kids' cookbook that contains a chapter entitled How your parents expect to find the kitchen after you have cooked. Would that be a money-maker?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

PUNISHING DRUNK DRIVERS

I've just been reading this on the BBC. To be honest, it isn't something I've thought about in great depth given I would never even consider driving drunk. But this article got me to think about it. How can banning you from driving as a punishment actually work? The crime you commit is driving drunk, which is illegal. The punishment - in this case apparently - is to ban the woman over and over. Driving while banned is also illegal but if you were happy to drive illegally in the first place then why would driving while banned worry you, given it seems less illegal than driving drunk?
I learned to drive 24 years ago and average 10 000 miles (16 000km) a year. Despite having driven more than 240 000 miles (384 000km) I have never once been stopped by the police or had anyone look at my licence while driving, not here, not anywhere in Europe. If this is the norm, the reckless drunk is likely to carry on driving normally, believing no one will ever check their licence, no?

Friday, April 03, 2009

SUGAR PUFFS

Thomas insists on buying sugar puffs for the kids - I think he must remember them fondly from his own childhood (or maybe he has shares in dental stocks) but they are seriously starting to make me twitch. They have to be the stickiest things on the planet. I'd suggest using them as your general household adhesive - in fact you could possibly stick up tiles with them or even build an extension using them as the mortar. When Pudge and Bits have them in the morning, you can guarantee the whole house will be sticky for 24 hours. There always seems to be one stuck to the sole of your sock, which of course you only discover after you zip on your boots and walk with a limp all afternoon. Grrr. And once they get on clothes and through a washing cycle - yeuch. Anna of course manages even to get them stuck in her hair, up her nose and in her ears. I think it's time we ate sugar puffs mainly on weekends.

WEE CHEF


Léon loves chives
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Thomas has taught Pudge what all can be eaten in our garden so he is able to go round and tell you which berries are potentially poisonous and which are simply whitecurrants, or gooseberries etc. This year he has extended this to tasting all the herbs in the herb garden. He loves chives so much it looks like we may have to plant an extra few but informed me yesterday that rosemary was not nice on its own! I think we'll have a wee chef on our hands once he's older.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

AN EXCEPTIONAL DAY FOR STOCKS AND SHARES?

I just checked the FTSE 100 for the day - it seems to be up 169.36. Dow Jones and Nasdaq have followed suit. That's a good day by today's standards. I was a bit dubious, I must admit, when listening to the BBC radio 2 news at 1pm today. The newsreader announced the FTSE was up 1001 points!! Didn't she even question the figure before reading it out? Funny! All this sunshine must have gone to her head.