Wednesday, May 27, 2009

TIME FOR A RANT

I must have been busy last week or something because I fully intended to rant myself silly straight after the Apprentice about those bloody baby helmets that one of the teams was selling. My instant reaction, as a fairly experienced mother, was: Don't sell those, they are ridiculous! Then of course, as a fairly experienced meeter of other parents, I knew they'd sell like hotcakes because people have lost their marbles in this country! We have little pieces of plastic blocking every socket in our houses, stairgates, ovenguards, harnesses on highchairs, toys with small pieces are taboo before 3 (try that with kid number 2 onwards!) etc so of course the logical next place to go was safety helmets. Junior's head will probably receive two or three fewer egglike bruises in the first three years, but of course on the downside Junior will never learn headbutting a glass door isn't such a good idea, well not till he hits three, grows out of his helmet and suddenly has to relearn absolutely everything he's done for the past three years. When is it going to occur to us that humans learn from experience so this is counterproductive?
I have a one year old who mastered going up and down stairs before she could walk because she had to with no stairgates. I didn't sit three rooms away assuming her safety hoping someone had closed a gate, I took her up stairs and turned her round at the top to teach her how to come down backwards from about 8 months and she's never fallen once. She doesn't need a helmet - she knows if she runs into a wall it'll hurt. They've all had bumps, bruises, cuts and bleeding. That's how they learn how the world functions!
A friend, who lives in Denmark, so probably wasn't inspired by the Apprentice, was having a moan on a similar vein last week. Would you have a look at some of this nonsense: gloves for the germ paranoid, knee pads to stop babies ever wanting to get mobile, padding for the vertically paranoid, padding for the horizontally paranoid etc etc. I wonder if parents who buy such things ever dare to take Junior to visit a friend without all the safety features or if they stay home cocooned in their safety paradise till Junior goes to school (in his helmet and knee pads).
If you ever catch me buying one of these ridiculous paranoia products, please take me out and shoot me!

Monday, May 25, 2009

MOAT BUILDING


Culzean, Ayrshire
Originally uploaded by PhylB
My kids had great fun yesterday building a moat on the beach at Culzean. It's a pity I'm not a Tory MP or I could have quickly put in an expenses claim to have it cleaned. That would definitely have covered our mortgage payments for the next few months ;-)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ANNOYED


5 mins old
Originally uploaded by PhylB
This article annoyed me this morning.
It advocates that because we have a better standard of living because of technological developments, caesareans are also a good thing. Of course they are, no one is disputing that. If 1 in 16 used to die in childbirth and still do in Africa, being able to opt for a caesarean when your baby gets stuck or is in distress is a wonderful development. Having a caesarean is perfect when the mother has some underlying health problem too. But mathematically speaking if 1 in 16 births is life threatening then why are 1 in 3 resulting in a caesarean in developed countries? What enrages me is people opting for caesareans thinking they are an easy get-out? Who is kidding who here? Because I had a natural birth with no drugs, I could leave hospital as soon as Anna was born. Two weeks after giving birth to Anna I was completely healed, in all places and back to normal down below. How many poor women who've gone for the 'easy caesarean option' can say that? I am all for medical caesareans. Some of my best friends wouldn't have been here today without them, but cosmetic caesareans should be binned. Let's try to move away from that crazy 1 in 3 figure for the sake of the mother's health.

Monday, May 18, 2009

MOVIE DUBBING

Léon, Anna and Thomas are currently sitting watching 'Chicken Little' dubbed into Danish. Half way through the movie two of the Danish-speaking characters suddenly burst into song and sing the well-known Spice Girls number Wannabe. Unlike the rest of the movie, the song isn't dubbed - they have kept the original sound track for those 3 minutes. The first time I witnessed this phenomenon was back in Germany in the early 80s, watching an episode of Dallas when suddenly while the Ewings all sat round the table discussing life and the universe in German, they suddenly burst into Happy Birthday in English - the soap suddenly switching to the original soundtrack, complete with everyone's voice temporarily changing.
Obviously I was brought up as an English native speaker, so we don't have dubbed TV. If we never learn a foreign language, we never see dubbed TV. What I wonder is - when you are Danish or German or whatever, doesn't it freak you out a little when the characters in the soap or movie you are watching suddenly swap language and voice for 3 minutes once an hour (especially if they swap to a language you don't actually understand), or don't you even notice because you've grown up with this bizarre phenomenon? I'm also puzzled as to why they rarely dub songs?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

MPS

There is, of course, so much that could be said that a book rather than a blog posting should be written but two things keep running through my mind.
Firstly, their attitude that all will be well again if they just pay it back. I don't get that. If I had billed my ex-employer for expenses for 10 flights to London then I accidentally actually forgot to go on the trips, I imagine, looking at my old contract that that might have been construed as gross misconduct and I'd have found myself out of a job faster than an MP could claim £20k. And if I had stolen a leg of lamb out of ASDA and been caught at the door, I'm not sure 'Don't worry I'll just pay for it now', would have got me off scott free.
Secondly, and this really sticks in my gut, if these grubby-pawed crooks have a spare £20k sitting in their bank accounts to just pay expenses back at the height of the worst recession in 100 years when the rest of us are losing our jobs then their salaries are more than adequate. Let's face it - they won't find a bank to lend them their overpayments at the moment, will they?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

AND ANOTHER THING ABOUT EUROVISION!

I know I am a language nerd who lives with a language nerd but is it just us who are weird or is Norton particularly linguistically challenged?
Firstly he looks surprised when Romania gives Moldova 12 points when no one else has given them 12 - Look up wikipedia Graham - check which languages the 2 countries speak. Then we get to Finland's 12 points and he says: Oh this is bound to be for Denmark - no Finnish is nothing like Danish - Finnish isn't like much else in the world except Estonian - Thomas and I shout in unison at the screen 12 points to Estonia - and the Finn repeats we give our 12 points to Estonia and again Norton is heard scratching his napper, totally puzzled and so it went on throughout the show. Ho hum!

A MINI EUROVISION RANT

I am sitting here watching Eurovision with Thomas - it's practically his favourite night of the year!
We've just got as far as Albania and I can't contain myself any longer. I understand many people decide to sing in English to reach a wider audience, especially if their native language is obscure. I don't even have a problem with them all singing in English if they like but what I really don't get is why when they insist on writing their own song in English, they don't have an English native speaker cast an eye over it before jumping on stage and assaulting us with nonsense phrases. Even though all the words are English they just do not collocate in English (native English that is). For example, I've just heard this wee Albanian girl singing how she is longing for someone's care - it is just foreign nonsense! Now a Romanian is telling us her hips are glowing and that she's a lonely baby. So far the only song sung in English by a non-native English speaker without a single collocational error is the Danish one and that was apparently written by Ronan Keating so that is hardly surprising. Other than that every single song has had a at least 2 or 3 phrases that are just wrong to native English ears. Maybe I'll add reading the text of potential Eurovision entries to my CV.

DUCK AND LEMON MERINGUE PIE


bow of the USS Lemon Meringue
Originally uploaded by zen
Thomas has been gardening all day and is too knackered to cook. I checked the freezer and found we only had legs of lamb and turkeys that would feed 10 people. The kids are away this weekend so we had the choice of Chinese or a trip to ASDA. The Chinese won hands down.
We ordered a boring satay and a boring sweet and sour but decided to be adventurous and go for something different for a change to supplement these as two meals aren't enough, given Anna is a bottomless pit. We looked at the duck options. We'd tried them all before, except Duck in lemon sauce. Well it's nice in plum and it's nice in orange so we ordered the lemon.
Unlike a European who I presume would have added a hint of lemon so as not to make the dish too tart, the Chinese had gone for a different solution. They had juiced about 2 dozen lemons, sat the duck in it and to make sure we could cope with the bitterness, had added about a kilo of sugar for good measure. The result was exactly as I imagine Duck and Lemon meringue pie would taste. Yeuch! It was one of those tastes that didn't grow on you the more you had, on the contrary, it became more and more obscene. It definitely gets a rather large thumbs down from the Buchanan-Widmann household...
Mind you I now quite fancy a slice of lemon meringue pie and a nice cappuccino while I watch the Eurovision song contest.

OLD SCHOOL TIE


76Phyl still at Primary
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Give me strength! First of all the whole health and safety business just does my head in - I had to wear one of these stupid pieces of historical nonsense round my neck for fully 13 years and never once did I accidentally hang myself or set myself on fire despite doing chemistry all the way through to age 17, so needing to swap them for clip-ons is ludicrous, but on that note - if they are going to replace them, why don't they replace them with no tie!? It's 2009 for god's sake! I have worked in industry for 18 years. Directors and Managing directors don't wear ties any more, you don't need one for an interview for the most part. In fact except for a few stuffy, traditional jobs most men will never wear a tie in their life apart from weddings and funerals. And if only 10% of men ever wear one, I would go as far as to say 100% of women will never wear one so why do we still insist on making school children wear them in this country?
Marcel starts high school after the summer break and will be forced into one of these for the first time in his life. For his whole seven years at primary he has worn a smart but functional school jumper to define he is a member of his primary school community with no need for a tie. Why can't high schools go down the same path? I'd be much happier to see him in a red and black sweatshirt with Mearns Castle's logo on for the next six years than a cold white shirt and red tie even on the snowiest of mornings. Whoever thinks white dress shirts make 12 year old boys look smart has never come in contact with a 12 year old boy! It's just archaic!

Friday, May 15, 2009

BAN THE VELCRO?


A walk in her new shoes
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I remember shocking my kids by telling them I had to learn to tie shoe laces at the age of 4 or I couldn't have gone to school. Why didn't you use velcro shoes? they asked. They looked at me as if I was from the cretaceous period when I mentioned there were no velcro shoes in 1972. Of course my kids went on to learn laces around 5 anyway but I am amazed that some kids in Charlotte's class are only learning now!
I don't have a problem with schoolage kids' shoes being velcro as it speeds them up at home time. I can even cope with velcro for nursery kids for the same reason.
What I really want banned is velcro for first walkers. Anna has some Clarks Doodles. All my kids have had Clarks Doodles and until last summer they had little metal buckles which were just great. This year they have velcro straps. Of course she's new to shoes so within two days of getting them she'd discovered the greatest new game in the world - unvelcroing her shoes and taking them off twenty times a day, unvelcroing her shoes then trying to walk and tripping up, unvelcroing her shoes and losing them in the supermarket so you have to retrace your whole trip.
Can we just ban velcro in first shoes and go back to little metal buckles please?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WHAT CAREER?


repotting plants
Originally uploaded by PhylB
My children aren't old enough to be looking for careers advice yet but I must admit I am wondering, given the corrupt society we live in, what to advise them should they ask about future studies. Obviously MP would be a good choice given that comes with free moat cleaning, nappies and designer furniture but failing that I wonder if gardener might actually pay better than doing something that entails a Masters degree at university.
Thomas and I have been considering having a metre taken off our garden hedge for about six months now so we can maintain it ourselves but the few gardeners I'd asked for a quote weren't really interested. Yesterday a passing gardener rang our bell to point out out hedge was a mess - that's hardly news. After some discussion, we agreed he could come and trim it today. That I don't mind. What I do mind is the bullshit price-doubling they try to pull on you just because they think you are stupid.
He turns up today and within two minutes of starting the job rings our bell to tell us some cock and bull story about the trees having been scored previously with a saw and therefore water was rotting them from the inside and for only double the price he could cut off an extra 50cm and treat the trunks with some miracle cure which would make our trees flourish instead of dropping dead by Christmas. And guess what - when we said no sorry, bugger off, he cut them to the right height, treated them for the original price, and offered to return to maintain them this time next year (hmmmm I thought they'd be dead by then?!)
Now if I advise academic careers to my kids, this corrupt double-your-hourly-rate-by bullshitting just doesn't work. So although I may feel prouder as a parent if my child becomes a nuclear physicist, sadly I actually believe they could probably earn a bit more simply by buying a chainsaw and a white van. In fact maybe I should stop writing dictionaries 3 hours a day and starting wandering round Newton Mearns with a step ladder and Thomas's chainsaw...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A WINNER


First day at state nursery
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Since starting Hazeldene nursery on his third birthday, Léon has been more than happy, always running in without a backwards glance. It seems such a bright and happy little school. This week we're all celebrating. Hazeldene became the first school in the West of Scotland at any level to receive 5 'excellents' in its HMi report! Both the Herald and the Evening Times are singing its praises. Moreover, it is apparently one of only two in the whole of Scotland to ever have received top marks. What more could you ask for? Once again any doubts I ever had about moving to the suburbs simply for schooling have been left dead in the water.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ONLY ENGLISH-SPEAKING KIDS?


Léon loves dinosaurs
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Léon has reached that action figure age where he talks all day long to plastic dinosaurs and the likes and they speak back to him. If he asks you to play with him you can be assured that you are going to have to do the voice-over for some action packed dinosaur adventure. He often likes to ask his dinosaurs questions and have them answer him. Nothing profound... just what they are called, where they live, their favourite food etc. They sometimes fall off the dining room table and are heard to shout 'save me, save me!'
Having reached this stage as his siblings did before him, it suddenly reminded me of something I can only assume is peculiar to English-speaking kids. Because they live in an English-speaking country much of the television, and in particular the Disney, Pixar etc movies are in American English, not British English. I have noticed with all my kids that despite not being exposed to much TV, as soon as they start role-playing adventure, they assume a (not very good) American accent, as if somehow all adventure is American! Now, if your kid only speaks French or Danish, I assume they are seeing Pixar dubbed into their native language so don't assume a peculiar accent for role play. Do other non-American English-speaking kids do this? New Zealanders? Australians? Or are my kids just weird?!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

ONE TO MAKE YOU SMILE!


Laid back
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Sometimes you happen upon an old photo that makes you smile. I remembered today when I saw this that Léon spent about 6 months always getting into this ridiculous position every time I took him for a walk in his buggy. It just can't have been comfy, can it? And it certainly drew many comments at the time from passers by!

THOMAS


Thomas
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I quite like Thomas's new neat, short beard. I thought it made him quite sexy. But that illusion was ruined for me this morning when Anna looked at it quizically, stroked it and then asked: Teddy?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

PAIN EXPLAINED


Anna sleeping on her mum
Originally uploaded by viralbus
Anna has got reasonably good at sleeping through the night. She goes down at 10ish and usually stands up and asks for a hug around 7ish. To gain an extra hour of sleep (given I often work till midnight), I tend to pick her up and stick her between Thomas and I at that point. Sometimes she sits and chats, other times she is so exhausted she simply falls back asleep and so do I.
Off and on over the past few months I have been waking with a stiff neck, like I have been sitting in a draught. I was surprised that when we changed bedroom the problem didn't go away. Two draughty bedrooms maybe? ... Or have I just got to the bottom of what's been happening, thanks to Thomas's latest photo!?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

KIDS AND TECHNOLOGY

I wasn't surprised in the slightest when the new G phone arrived today that Marcel picked it up and instinctively seemed to know better than me where to find functionality without consulting a manual. At nearly 12 he is always attached to his own phone and has all sorts of music blasting out of it and constantly mentions different deals, chat functions and other things I just never use. What surprised me however was that Charlotte, who at 9 has not yet reached phone dependency stage did the same. Charlotte has my dad's old phone which she takes with her on overnights with her dad. If I text anything, she always replies with a simple yes, no or ok. I figured she hadn't got the hang of phones yet. She picked up my G phone and within 2 minutes asked which keyboard I preferred. Emmm - well I had found one that flipped out from behind the screen but that was it. She looked at me like I was stupid and showed me an on-screen touch keyboard she'd found (and I hadn't despite playing with it for 15 minutes before her.) She then commented on how nice my mouse was for correcting typing errors. I smiled and made a mental note to search for my mouse as soon as she handed it back. How do kids know these things? Maybe retiral age should simply be brought forward to 41, and we oldies should hand over business to the next generation now, even before they are issued with their national insurance numbers.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

NEW CHARTS


08August 4
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I hear they've decided to re-do the weight charts for infants basing averages on breast rather than bottlefed babies at last. It seems breastfed babies are less overweight than formula ones. (You can see how skinny (exclusively-breast) Charlotte was at just 7 months!)
By introducing the new system they want to pinpoint formula kids who are at risk of obesity and reassure breastfeeders that their underweight babies don't need topping up. I often wonder why mums listen to health visitors at all and constantly rush out to have their babies weighed weekly. Anna is 16 months old and has been weighed once since her 10 day sign off from post-natal carers. I have never taken her to be weighed because instinctively I know she's ok. She is growing, putting on weight, changing clothes size. This I might add isn't down to experience. I didn't have the others weighed either. I wish more mums would trust their instinct. I often heard a reason to swap from breast to formula being that the mum could then see how many millilitres/ounces a baby was taking at each feed. But when I often asked why they needed to know quantities if the baby is growing and content, I was always met by a blank look as if I was mad. One thing I have always found puzzling, probably because I have only gone out an average of once while my kids were still exclusively on milk was knowing how much to express. I have no idea whether I should leave 20ml for an evening out or 2 litres. I simply have no feel for how much milk a baby under 6 months drinks... I don't need to know, not if my child seems happy and healthy.

Monday, May 04, 2009

FACEBOOK, YOU ARE PISSING ME OFF!!!!

I work from home. Working from home can be quite a lonely business but I found a way round that. I get up in the morning and allow myself 15 minutes on facebook before I start my day's work. My routine goes something like this: log into facebook, press the 'friends' button, check all my friends' recent status updates, leave a comment or two on any that are up to something interesting, turn off facebook and work. It is kind of like going into the office. As you take off your coat, hang it up and make your coffee before settling down to the work of the day, you ask the three or four workmates around you how they are, if they've been up to anything fun over the weekend or the previous evening. Facebook's 'friends' option had turned facebook into a global office.
So two days ago as usual I turn on facebook and press 'friends' and it offers to upload my email contacts and find me some. This isn't what I want. I have done that already. I want to see at a glance what my friends are up to. I haven't the time to trawl through my facebook homepage and read every quiz anyone has taken, I simply want a one line status update. Of course with the friends page ruined, it is no longer obvious where to key a status update so some people have taken to filling in the 'what's on your mind' box, others have thrown in the towel in despair and stopped updating it altogether. Why does facebook suddenly change settings without consulting its users or trialling a new (worse) feature?
I am so mad I am considering suggesting to Thomas that Complexli's first project should be to write a new social networking site to compete against and ultimately replace facebook, recruiting all its users by advertising in facebook groups such as MILLIONS AGAINST FACEBOOK's NEW LAYOUT & TERMS OF SERVICE!
Anyway, sort it now Facebook, you are pissing me off!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

ARE YOUR WINDOWS TOO TALL?

Here is a photo of the corner of my living room in the beautiful flat I owned until the beginning of 2002 in Dowanhill. (Isn't the cornicing stunning?) You may notice I have no curtains. As you can see, I had blinds fitted to the four window panes but no curtains because to get six curtains with a 3 metre drop back then would have cost almost as much as the mortgage. Every curtain shop in Glasgow seemed to supply curtains that either reached down to the floor in a modern house, or reached down to the window ledge. There were just no options other than to make my own (and anyone who knows me knows I would rather attempt to fly a helicopter wearing a blindfold than to sew something from scratch).
Now here's the ad: I was in Ikea the other week looking for curtain poles for my modern house when I noticed all Ikea curtains now come in a 3 metre drop and start at about £20 a pair. If your wall is shorter, obviously you can cut them to length but if you live in the West End you can now access affordable curtains! How cool is that?
I might buy a few spare pairs in case I ever move back one day. (That is if the kids can afford to leave home in this economic climate before I'm too old to manage the close stairs!)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

FLAT LIVING VERSUS HOUSE LIVING


2 nonsense bags
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I know quite well the difference between flat kids and house kids given I didn't move out of the West End till Marcel was 4 and a half. For the first year in the suburbs I used to say to him 'Why don't you go play in the garden?' and he'd look at me puzzled as if I should provide him with a manual. He'd look worried and ask if we couldn't just go into town for a coffee instead. Obviously by 5 or 6 he became more adventurous, disappearing into the field behind the house exploring, climbing trees and playing unsupervised with friends. He'd got the hang of the freedom you get from not being in the city centre, though we maintained the compromise of taking the kids walking in the West end on the weekends. By 8 he loved the freedom and when I moved back into town temporarily for a year he acted like a caged animal, hating flat life at that age.
Today my brother and his wife, who live in a lovely flat near Park circus, dropped by with their 3 year old. Thomas took him over to our herb garden and showed him the chives. Pudge already helps himself the all edible things in the garden and quite happily tells you what is edible and what isn't. Gordy looked dubious that you could eat chives but eventually gave them a go and looked quite surprised that they were palatable. He then tried to eat the leaf on a strawberry plant. Thomas explained that that was a leaf but that the little white flowers he could see would make way for strawberries which he could taste later in the year. Gordy then proudly announced 'We grow strawberries too at our house. We grow them in our fridge!' Hahahaha. How sweet (and townie) is that?

Friday, May 01, 2009

BUSINESS FROM THE MODERN CHILD'S PERSPECTIVE

As Thomas blogged yesterday, he has set up a business over that last few weeks. He got us both some business cards printed and we were showing them to my parents yesterday. Charlotte picked one up and said - Wow, that's cool! What is it? A mini paper website or something? What an interesting back-to-front perspective. She obviously knows about company websites though they've only been about for 15(ish) years but not about business cards which have been about since printing was invented!