Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Here's a classic, if ever I saw one - just check out that 20 second video. You've got to admire their balls!


Suddenly I understand!
Back when Thomas first started talking to his family about my family his mother had seemed somewhat astounded that my brother had decided to become a criminal lawyer. Incredulous that anyone could go to the bother of studying long and hard to go into a profession that didn't pay well, she wondered why he hadn't opted for boring old tax or insurance law like her own high-earning sister. When Thomas explained that criminal defence pays well in the UK she didn't understand how it could given that criminals of this type, by definition, can't afford to pay lawyers hundreds of pounds an hour and people who could afford such bills didn't tend to go about mugging people or burgling their houses.
This morning Radio 2's news headline was the Sun's newspaper's condemnation of the Labour party. Not a Sun-reader, I clicked on it out of curiosity and got their slide show of Labour failures. Screen 2 explained immediately why criminal lawyers in general were not earning the pitiful salaries my mother-in-law expected. I must look into how these other countries' legal systems manage to work on such a tight shoestring...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Anna accidentally dyed her hair green last week! (She painted the inside of a plastic tub green, then popped it on her head as a hat with the obvious result!) I showed Dad the photo, given I have strongly recollect him going on about wanting green hair throughout my childhood. On seeing the photo, he was rather impressed, and went on to explain where the obsession with green hair had come from. As a small boy he'd seen one of the first technicolor movies The Boy with Green Hair, and although it had freaked him out, he'd taken a shining to green hair. When I questioned him about what age he had been when he saw it, dad explained he'd seen in late 40s... in black and white! I guess kids had more imagination in those days!


For years Lots has tried to hang on Marcel's shirt tails. As a two year old she quickly realized that being an avid dinosaur fan was the way to win her big brother's heart, by three a pink Power Rangers' suit was a must and thereafter football strips were donned to keep him happy. Despite her strong personality, she has always felt it necessary to conform to Marcel's expectations of her. When her little brother arrived four years ago, she simply thought of herself and them as three little boys. When I became pregnant with Anna, she told me straight out that she would not accept a female baby, and that her brother, when he was born, was to be called Bart. Eight weeks after this announcement, we went for a 4D scan and were told Bart was in fact Anna. Charlotte was not amused.
When Anna turned up, Lots did seem to like her just as much as she'd liked Pudge, and no further mention was made of the unacceptability of baby girls. Now that Anna is mobile, and talking etc something freaky is starting to happen.
Last week, Charlotte decided she'd grown out of her black (identical-to-Marcel's) Homer Simpson dressing gown. She asked to go shopping in town for another. I took both girls into Glasgow. The first shop I tried had small (up to age 8) red dressing gowns, and large pale or dark pink (age 8 and up) dressing gowns. She hummed and hawed and refused to commit to a non-acceptable 'pink' dressing gown. I believed my trip into town was fruitless, but we tried one other cheap store before giving up. It had candy pink dressing gowns with white spots - the sort of thing Lots usually curls her lip in disgust at, but these came in age 2-14. She bounced over and declared these to be nice and then proceeded to spend ten minutes explaining why Anna also ought to have a new dressing gown. Will you wear this pink dressing gown if Anna gets one too? I asked tentatively. Yes, came the reply! Almost on the verge of fainting because my child who is in p5 and who has only worn a school skirt twice was agreeing to pink, I raced to the checkout before she reconsidered.

This weekend in Tesco the same happened. Charlotte found a T-shirt and cardie set in lilac that she thought Anna would like and conceded to buy the same for herself, although the older model only came in grey, but once again we are talking girls' clothes! Result!
Can this little girl who is obsessed by flowers and pretty shoes be feminizing her big sister at last after all my failed attempts?
It is a shame there's an eight year age gap... Charlotte really needs to buy her first bra, and nothing will persuade her to. I have a feeling we may need to wait another eight years before she agrees to buy the same model as Anna!

Monday, September 28, 2009


My dad came by yesterday and told me a story that nearly made me fall off my seat in shock.
Why does no one ever stop and question the crazy world we live in any more?
I remember even when I was an oldish kid going into the electrical repair shop in Great Western Road to have things repaired - there were irons, TVs, VCRs, a lawnmower too I think. When thing broke down, we had them repaired. You would think in this day and age, that would be an even more sensible thing to do with all the drive towards recycling... but apparently not.
Mum and Dad had a new kitchen installed in April or May. As part of their kitchen, they had a new integrated microwave fitted. They were surprised last week, when after only four months the internal light bulb in the microwave blew. They opened it to change it, but found no obvious way into the light bulb compartment. They phoned the supplier (B&Q) and asked how to change the bulb. Oh you can't change the bulbs on those, Sir, came the reply. Don't worry, you're under guarantee, we'll just order you up a new microwave from our Spanish supplier, have it flown over and refitted free of charge, and we'll dispose of the faulty one. What???? Or as Manuel would say ¿Qué? They are going to bin a brand-new, working microwave that cost several hundred pounds because the light bulb popped??? Truly absurd!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Tesco CN54AEG
Originally uploaded by didbygraham
I recently tried to buy a T-shirt for Marcel while out shopping at Govan ASDA. I had no problem finding the baby clothes section, the young childrens' clothes and finally the older children. In fact I could easily have clothed any of my kids up to about 12 years old. Marcel however is in age 13-14 clothes. When I asked for the clothes for older children, I was told that he would need small adult clothes. That made sense so I got him a T-shirt and didn't think another thing about it.
Yesterday, with the weather getting colder, I suggested to Marcel he needed a pair of jeans (he's been in three quarter length trousers all summer). I happened to be in Tesco rather than ASDA. Marcel went to see if they had small adult jeans. Luckily for us, they didn't but I was sent to the kids' department where their clothing went right up to 15. Then it hit me... Of course! Kids' clothes in the UK come without VAT, adult ones don't. Suddenly I realized why ASDA stops kiddie clothing before they even get to high school. Cheeky buggers!


Thomas sent me a link to this the other day but I found it a bit too depressing to blog immediately. I think I first wanted to get it straight in my head what I thought was so depressing about it...
I think the end of the article sums up a great deal of the problem. By banishing language learning from the school curriculum, we lose out on a great deal of culture, literature and the likes in the nations geographically closest to us and therefore isolate ourselves and force ourselves to look outwards to countries that are much more remote such as Australia or the US. (And believe me reading the translation is NOT the same)!
We force ourselves to become monolingual and therefore monocultural which can only result in smaller-minded, less empathetic people. We assume (completely wrongly) that Europe is close and their 'culture' is similar to our own, but unless we learn their languages, we never find ourselves sitting round their dinner tables seeing the differences. By never trying to adapt to all the slight differences between the cultures around us we simply float on the periphery of what everyone else can see.
To me a greater achievement of bringing my kids up bilingually is perhaps their understanding that their French/Danish and Scottish parents are different from each other as are their German/Danish/Scottish/French grandparents. They realize they all behave differently and have different expectations. And of course they have all been used to sitting round a dinner table from birth where three languages are being spoken simultaneously so they all believe bilingualism is normal and not something only 5% of the population should be able to achieve.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


As I mentioned
when Marcel started high school last month, dealing with a bilingual child isn't easy when the second language spoken by the child is one that the school teaches at beginner's level. Marcel's school has taken him out of all beginner's French lessons now and he has one-to-one tutoring with both a French native speaker teacher and with a fellow pupil who is in 6th year studying for her advanced higher. They have now assessed his spoken French by interviewing him several times in French but to get a real feel for his language level they are making him sit mock Intermediate exams over the next few weeks. Yesterday he scored 100% on his first attempt at an Intermediate 1 so next week he's getting to try Intermediate 2. Given Marcel is bilingual (surprisingly) largely because of me and not because of his father who, not being linguistically minded has never seen the need to speak to him constantly in French, I have to say I'm feeling very proud today :-)


Tonight I noticed Marcel's new school was having an open night. Given it was due to last nearly 3 hours, I figured it might be interesting to pop along and see how secondary education has changed since my day. Although I have many friends who are high school teachers, I have not really set foot inside a high school since I left back in '85 and most of my career has been spent dealing with the high end of the dictionary ranges aimed more at universities and professionals. Would education have changed any since my day?
It was all a bit of a culture shock. I now know why spelling words like promethean board trips off Charlotte's tongue as easily as black board had done in my day.
The first thing I was surprised by was the emphasis on Internet and the ability to work remotely. By the time they had shown me the work available online, I was beginning to wonder if we were close to the beginning of the end of schools as we know them. Of course for the likes of chemistry, going into school is a necessity but from what I could see, their school website was so interactive, the less practical subjects such as French or Maths could almost be done from home these days! Marcel would just love that - sitting looking at me all day instead of leggy , blonde 12 year old females!
The next thing that struck me compared to my day was the emphasis on building pupils' confidence and self-esteem in a way that positively differed from my day. When I was at school there were some wonderful, nurturing teachers, but there were also the nasty, evil old buggers who took great pleasure in singling out the 'thickies' and publicly humiliating them at every opportunity. Several teachers tonight explained in detail their techniques for getting a measure of their pupils' overall comprehension without the children being aware of their peers' answers in any given question.
The sheer scale of teaching had changed since my day too. The high school I attended was one of the largest back in the 80s but Marcel's felt more like a university department with large lecture theatres and its own 'campus cop'!
I will be logging in to look at the actual work he's being given to see what that's like too (and trying desperately to remember what I learned all those years ago in comparison.)
In general I think I started the day out feeling a bit tired (as usual these days) and ended it feeling positively like a dinosaur.


Charlotte claimed when I was having Anna that she would only accept a baby boy because she didn't know how to play with girls. As you can see from dad's photo though, I think this little lady has managed to win her heart!

Friday, September 18, 2009


Marcel is claiming to have finally overtaken me in height. I am going to claim I am simply currently weighed down by my pregnant belly and really am still taller, but I do feel he's been growing at an alarming rate this last year. On his birthday last year he was a head shorter than me and still in size 4 (Euro 37) shoes. Even at our wedding on February 28, he was in size 5s (Euro 38) and still noticeably shorter. Suddenly now he's in size 7 1/2s (Euro 41) and his eyes do appear slightly higher on the horizon in this photo from yesterday (don't tell him I admitted that). Having small children really takes up such a tiny part of your life in real terms, doesn't it?!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


What were the SNP trying to do with this new piece of nonsense they brought in on September 1?
Apparently it is now illegal to buy alcohol in Scotland in your local supermarket between 10pm and 10am. I can just about get the 10pm bit as that always was the cut-off but the 10am bit puzzles me. If you have a serious drink problem, you will still be unconscious from the night before at 10am so I can only assume the new law is aimed at pissing off anyone who takes the opportunity to buy their dinner on the way past ASDA when doing the school run. If I am out already at 8-30am to drop kids at school an obvious time to pick up some steaks is once I've offloaded all the little people. I do not however want to sit in my car in ASDA car park from 9-10am just so I can buy the wine to go with them at the same time. I wish the SNP would take their annoying, parochial, wee-free ideas back up north and leave us lowlanders in peace.


I know I'm getting to be a grumpy old cow but I really despair in language learning for English native speakers - it's like we haven't the first clue how to go about it.
In my day, they didn't start you till 12 and only the first two years were compulsory - therefore the vast majority left school knowing nothing more than Je m'appelle Betty. They've looked around Europe now and concluded they start languages earlier so sing a song or two with the kids in French or Spanish at nursery and then start basic languages at five. Great, or so you'd think. Schools, the lucky ones anyway, have specialist teachers for specialist subjects like music. You couldn't possibly teach a kid guitar if you didn't play guitar or read music, could you? But a foreign language is in no way specialised so it is apparently perfectly ok to use teachers with no French to teach French. Of course they follow a course so they are a few steps ahead of the kids but they haven't the slightest idea about how French is spoken in France or how to pronounce it properly so your half way decent high school language teacher is now faced with kids turning up on their doorstep with poor French pronunciation and archaic grammar all in need of undoing. Worse still the kids who are actually gifted enough to learn languages are immersing themselves in this pidgin nonsense when using a specialist language-qualified teacher would be so beneficial to them. I thank heavens I can teach my kids languages rather than leaving it to the crazy school system.
Ok, I'll get back off my soapbox now and go to bed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Once again we are subjected to the usual government unemployment bullshit. What I would really like to see rather than figures for those signing on, are the figures of those who have lost their jobs but not signed on. Unemployment benefit in the UK is so low it is aimed solely at the poorest in society. This is a new type of recession, where middle earners are losing their jobs right, left and centre. There is no way people like Thomas or I could fail to make what we'd earn on the dole every month just by doing some sort of freelance from home, and therefore there is simply no point in signing on, but that means people like us (and there are thousands of us, if what I hear at the school gate is true) are suddenly earning a fraction of what we once did, thus having very little money to plough back into the failing economy, but we are not showing up in any of these statistics that are proposing that things will soon be on track again in the UK. Make no mistake, anyone who thinks that everything will be going back to 2006 after a year or two's hardship is living in cloud-cuckoo land.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Watching how babies acquire language is a fascinating thing. Obviously, given my taste in men, I will never know the boring, normal, monolingual pattern of language acquisition. A health visitor once told me that bilingualism can slow language till the age of two, though given Marcel could say 'Don't touch that!' as well as half a dozen French nouns long before he could walk, I am slightly dubious. Anna has been slightly different in her learning. Although she understands everything in both English and Danish and has done for some time, she stuck quite rigidly to a core vocabulary of about 30-40 words until the age of 20 months. I am not sure what happened at 20 months and a day however because she decided to switch to the parrot stage, repeating everything in either language, or rather the bits of the words she likes - a horse is a 'ho', a cough is a 'co' and so on. Two, maybe three days after that stage was reached she decided to start having proper conversations with us. Instead of copying us and our sounds, she simply would initiate the conversation. Last week we got 'Daddy pay fwufwu up' - literally 'Daddy play frog up' - ie 'Daddy is taking a shower in the bathroom with the musical bubble frog upstairs'. When she coughs she now tells you spontaneously 'Nana co' - (she calls herself Nana at the moment). In the last week she has become very attached to a plastic baby doll and has conversations with it. 'Baby seat, baby bath, baby wash hair, baby juice'. She has also decided Daddy must wear 'fwoos' to go in the garden and if he dares set foot outside barefoot, we get a hysterical child running around the hall shouting 'Daddy sock, fwoos!' I guess language is here to stay and the point where her language could be documented in its entirety is now in the past.


It appeared to be a normal day when we got up but it seems Chambers Harrap is closing down its Edinburgh dictionary office after nearly 200 years. Obviously as someone whose lexicographical roots lie in the west of Scotland with Chambers Harrap's main Scottish rival that should mean less competition but I'm afraid it just means it is a sad day for the industry and many of my ex-colleagues and friends who now work for the other side. It looks like we're all going to have to put our heads together to come up with a 21st century way of writing quality dictionaries before the Internet allows inferior products to swamp the market further :-(

Saturday, September 12, 2009


It's funny trying to grow your own veg. I've never bothered with more than tomatoes in the window sills before but Thomas has got me into herbs, veg and potatoes. Most things seem to be doing quite well but all members of the cabbage family are beginning to look like lace. I have rarely seen any slugs around or in the veggie patch but we have holes as high up as Pudge's waist in our Brussel sprouts. Do nocturnal, levitating slugs exist in the West of Scotland?

Friday, September 11, 2009


Marcel fell downstairs at school on Wednesday. Between periods at school, he tried checking the time on his mobile phone (kids seem to think watches are largely unnecessary these days, but I'm not so sure), tripped upstairs landing in a way that resulted in a twisted left arm, a cut right ear and a lump on his head. I was summoned. It was 2pm. I suggested we go straight to casualty as it was only 6 weeks and 6 days since he had last broken that arm. He decided as he had full mobility and no swelling, he'd leave it to the following day and given Scotland were playing a world cup qualifier less than a mile from the hospital that evening I certainly wasn't going to argue. He seemed fine, ate normally, played XBOX etc. Thursday he said it wasn't as sore, so went to school as normal. This morning he woke up complaining it felt worse. I assumed he'd been lying on it or hadn't taken a paracetamol but suggested casualty again and he agreed. The timing wasn't great. Having been nursing a chesty cough and temperature for the best part of a fortnight, I had allowed myself the thought of phoning my GP first thing this morning to get myself some antibiotics. Obviously knowing that casualty can take between 2 and 4 hours, offering to take Marcel to casualty ruled out my fixing myself :-( Off we trotted to A&E at the Vicky. Of course after parking at the new building and going to the old building, we were then sent back to the new one after half an hour's wait. I was beginning to wonder if the weather was very hot today or if I was just suffering a chest or throat infection combined with a wild goose chase. Obviously Baked Bean made it impossible for me to come for the X-ray so Marcel went in himself and by midday they were explaining how he had 'bent' rather than snapped his wrist bone - something fairly normal in that age of child. A cast was put on and he was sent home just in time to have missed an entire day at school. He was happy - a mix of skiving and imagining the sympathy all his little female friends would be heaping upon him by Monday. I was still feeling shite :-( The afternoon didn't improve any. Given it was sunny for the first time in what feels like months we had coffee outside. Anna was sitting on the trampoline eating chocolate buttons when she burst into tears. I looked over in time to see her panic as a wasp walked across her face. She tried to bat it away with the obvious result - a wee stung nose. So it was back to tlc for a different child. Some sugary water on the wound, a spoonful of piriton and a spoonful of baby nurofen later she calmed down bravely. Poor baby is only one and this is the second time a wasp has attacked her face. I was 35 the first time I was stung! So I guess the problem with mothering is you just don't have time to look after yourself. Maybe I'll get to the doc myself some time next week...


Because Charlotte is physically smaller than Marcel, he often forgets how sharp she can be. This usually results in him looking dumbfounded when she outwits him at his own game. Last Sunday night he decided to put her down, still reveling in his new found status of high school pupil... Oh I can't imagine going to Kirkhill tomorrow he said to Lots in a scathing tone. spending all day up to your knees in midgets! He smiled, very pleased with his cheek... Of course quicker than a flash, she retorted No, now you are one of the midgets in your school! She smirked, as he tramped upstairs in disgust! Why does he always leave himself wiiiide open with her?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Because English uses bizarre words like beef and pork instead of cow and pig for meat, I remember the surprise shown by Marcel and Lots when they were first told they were eating dead animals (not that it put them off - they are not very veggie people!) Anna seems to have sussed straight away though what she's eating as she points out in this video which parts of her curry used to be sheep 'mæh' (as in baaah in English) and which are chicken 'gok-gok' (as in cluck-cluck in English!)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


I have just been reading this and wondering if this will be Anna in a few years time? A couple of years ago when I last blogged about shoes, Anna was a mere bean in the oven and as none of my kids had ever shown the slightest interest in shoes (like myself), I had reason to believe that shoe-love was a hereditary condition we were not affected by... wrong! :-( Anna is obsessed with shoes! My shoes, Marcel's shoes, Léon's shoes - anyone's but most importantly her own. Often I am woken up by her standing beside my bed holding her shoes saying 'Fwooo'. I point out I can't fit her 'fwooos' on on top of her babygro and her little face crumples in distress until I remove the PJs to put on the shoes, which she wants to wear all day long, indoors and out. Whereas my other kids have each had one, or at the most two pairs of decent shoes till now, Anna is the type of child you have to buy mediocre shoes for because she wants to own a minimum of five pairs to choose from. She currently has pink flower shoes from Tesco, white trainers from Tesco, cheap blue wellies, denim sandles from Clarks and sparkly black Primark tennis shoes but would be more than happy with a few other pairs in various shades to add to the list. I can just imagine her in stilettos by the time she goes to high school, towering above me as I lecture her on the merits of flat, comfortable shoes :-(


I had a better day than I expected.
I got in the car to take the kids to school and the radio had been left on as usual. I heard Terry Wogan's voice and made a leap for the off switch as I cannot abide the man. I deliberately never listen to radio 2 before about 11am for fear of catching even two sentences in that dreadful, supercilious, condescending intonation he's made all his own. But as I reached for the knob he was reading out a message of condolence, I left it just a second - people seemed to be writing in talking about the end of an era and mentioning how he'd been on their radio since they were born... Could he be retiring???? I listened further - yes, Yes, YES! No longer will I need to decline morning appointments at my doctor so as to avoid the piped-in Wogan's breakfast show, no more silence in the mornings as I wash, tidy or iron. Yippee! I am one happy bunny.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


I don't usually use the blog to advertise but here's some advice to anyone out there who is thinking of having any babies... Given I am experienced enough to know what I am talking about, I thought I'd mention that in all the years I have spent pregnant I have found there is actually only one comfortable model of maternity trousers on the market in the UK. In general you find you either get loose things that fall down and you miserably spend the whole day pulling back up for fear of exposing your whale-like midriff, or you get tight things that dig into you and make you want to spend the day in your dressing gown. Of course there are hideous jogging bottoms but you feel frumpy enough without donning a shellsuit for six months. So here is a link to your salvation! These are tight enough they don't fall down, soft enough they dig in nowhere, the waist doubles over so you get support for your aching belly and your nagging back. Unless you are due mid-summer, I suggest a couple of pairs of these are a must for anyone wanting to enjoy their pregnancy!


Have I mentioned I am getting a bit concerned about my dad's sanity? It started with the train episode which had us all (except dad) in stitches. Then about a fortnight ago he phoned us in a panic... He'd password-protected a file on his pc and couldn't remember his password - when pressed about which file he'd password-protected, he replied it was his will. Now call me picky when it comes to detail but I can see an itsy bitsy problem with a will that is password-protected! Tonight we were round there for the evening. As we prepared to leave he said - Have you heard there's a very unique date and time coming up next week? Yes, I replied but before I had time to elaborate, he said Ten past nine on the 9th of the 9th 09! Ten past nine???? Hmmmm.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Now here's a strange thing. I may have mentioned Anna is your archetypal hunter-gatherer baby - she either wants meat, or berries. She eats most other things but left to her own devices, she'd happily pass on all carbs in favour of her beloved meat. When we buy a fresh, still warm loaf from ASDA or Tesco, she has to be coerced into eating it, just the same as if we buy a cold six hour old loaf from ASDA or Tesco. However if we bake a loaf at home in our bread machine, she suddenly abandons everything and devours most of the loaf simply with butter. No meat is necessary. How can she tell the difference at once between a fresh shop loaf and a fresh bread machine loaf?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


I just have to have this Abarth 500 - even JC (who I usually can't stand for more than 3 seconds) managed to endear himself to me in his write-up!