Friday, December 31, 2010


I've done my fair share of moaning about redundancies and dropping house prices and struggles since the recession first interfered with my own life back in August 2007 (when we tried to sell our Garnethill flat). But maybe the start of a new year is a time to look at a couple of positives it has brought.
I feel that for the first ten years of my motherhood I was on a fast track, running from work to school, commuting, endlessly commuting. I needed to make enough money for the house, the car, the after-school care, the clubs, the birthday parties for the whole class, the hundreds spent on Xmas. Twelve years on paying for a divorce and to restart my life had almost bankrupted me, I started to slow down and realize what was important in life. I resigned, not to be a stay home mum - but to work in a less stressful manner. Now I work the hours my kids sleep, or when they are away at school. Working ten hours less a week, and commuting another ten less left me with twenty more hours with my loved-ones but no money less because I didn't need to pay the crazy nursery costs. It meant I didn't need to lie awake worrying where to put my kids on days they woke up sick or during the long summer holidays when the holiday club wanted £25 a day to look after each of them. I know I moan on nights I start work at 9pm and am still at the laptop at 2am because of a publishing deadline but that let's me bring up my family instead of leaving that to someone else so I also secretly celebrate it. I worry on weeks when I don't get any work, I worry on weeks I get too much but all in all life is better.
When Thomas was told his level of management was being made redundant (when I was four weeks pregnant with Amaia) I probably stayed awake and cried in a panic for about a month. And when he decided to start a company from home at the worst point of the recession, I thought he was brave (but insane). But he did it and he now works from home. We can spend all day every day together sometimes just with the babies, usually with all the kids, taking part in everything we missed out on during the commuting years. Now my dad is ill, I don't need to beg a boss for time off to be with him, I am that boss and I can prioritize what is truly important. I love my life.
We make less money but we've also realized what really matters. On the kids' birthdays the day starts with a nice breakfast with siblings and candles. Our five year old is actually happy with a birthday cake and three friends home after school to share it, happier even than being overwhelmed by 50 acquaintances in the town hall, with Coco the clown, jugglers and a face painter. Kids' birthdays don't need to cost £300 to make the kid happy. Xmas is the same. I look back at old videos and see my kids opening gifts for 30 minutes straight piling them up and then collapsing from exhaustion. Now they open three or four, get a cuddle and a kiss and look just as happy.
If the business takes off and we go back to the earnings of five years ago or more, I will be thrilled to go back to long foreign holidays and a bigger house, but I won't be going back to the crazy parties or Xmases of the past, especially not if I have to sacrifice family time for it.
I may not be able to afford a matching couch and armchairs the way I once could but I get to be with the ones I love. What could be more precious?


As the year changes and everyone is thinking of resolutions and wishes for 2011, I have only one simple wish for 2011. I hope to finish it the same way as I am going to start it in 5 hours time... with a wonderful dad. Keep fighting dad, we all love you!


I got Thomas a hat for Xmas - the weather has been so cold recently. Amaia had a wee go of it today and I instantly remembered a very old photo of me taken back in 1968!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


When we set out for my brother and sister-in-law's on Xmas day at lunch time it was pouring with rain. The temperature must have dropped though because on arrival at Park Circus cars were actually spinning on the ice completely out of control. On the flat of Park Circus that looked vaguely comical and I managed to avoid all pirouetting vehicles with my big people carrier but by Park Quadrant which is on a bend and a hill, things were less fun. I managed to edge mine into a space at the very bottom. It had been clear from the top that I would need at least three spaces to brake to a halt safely and getting the kids, presents and camera back up to the top was no mean feat as I was passed by pensioners trying to walk a poodle who was doing the best impression I've seen of bambi in years. In 25 years of driving these are the worst conditions I have ever encountered (including mountain passes all over Europe!) Upstairs, we took turns to watch out as cars came round the bend and glided past the window at 30mph without their wheels turning. They'd hit the brakes and carry on all the way to the bottom. Various pedestrians shot past on their bums too - we even witnessed a four-man pile-up on the pavement! I am utterly amazed not one of our four cars was hit while parked there. Obviously Glasgow City Council doesn't grit for anyone on Xmas day, whatever the conditions!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I have been ribbing Thomas for weeks about his choice of shape for our traditional British Xmas cake... you don't get more German/Alsatian than a Kugelhopf. But I have to say it is the best Xmas cake I have ever tasted! It is so moist, full of good quality fruit and smoothly but lethally alcoholic. I have to congratulate him on his first attempt at a British Xmas cake (with a Germanic twist).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010



Little children can be so unfazed by the strange goings-on in the world sometimes. I went to pick up Léon and Lots from school yesterday. Léon gets out five minutes before Charlotte. How was your day? I asked casually as we walked along to the other door to wait. I had a great day he said and carried on to explain they'd had a Christmas party with drinks and crisps and a visit from Santa including a gift of a lego car. Fair enough. Then, as an aside he added I don't think everyone had such a good day though. I think some people must have been stabbed to death in the playground. The snow was covered in red blood! He seemed completely unconcerned at having been left by his parent in a school where children are stabbed to death during break! At that moment Charlotte bounded out. How was your day? I asked again (hoping for a less distressing reply!) It was the best, she replied. We spent our day working on our volcano topic and in the afternoon we got to take out the volcanoes we'd made, fill them with vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and red paint and watch them erupt and spew the red paint out all over the snow! Awesome! Aha! I am so happy to have a p6 as well as a p1. I imagine 20 other kids went home last night wondering about a massacre without an explanation whereas, by chance, I just happened to have a kid in the class responsible for the massacre!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I try to listen to the news in French every other night because our press is so insular - tonight's is particularly interesting. Even if you don't speak French compare the images journalists are being allowed to film (accompanied) inside Heathrow to those taken surreptitiously! Apparently tourists are being made to delete snapshots taken during their four day stay from their own cameras - that'll be bloody right! It seems to me that our priority here is how Heathrow looks to the outside world rather than making it actually work for the passengers. Typical of modern Britain.


A good number of years ago an English friend of mine asked me casually if I liked bread and butter pudding. Bread and butter pudding is something a bit like toad-in-the-hole to me - it was something I had heard of on our anglo-centric TV but never actually come across in the 'flesh'. Given I was about 27 at the time, I felt a tad embarrassed to admit I had never even seen it let alone tasted it so I nonchalantly said yes. She delved into her hand bag and took out a Tupperware box, extracted two pieces of one she'd prepared earlier, looking rather pleased with herself. The first thing I noticed was a somewhat fusty smell and a vaguely turquoise colour. It wasn't appealing but I bit in thinking - how bad can it be? It was vile. It was like licking on a damp patch on the wall of a derelict Victorian house. I cannot evoke the taste of mould strongly enough. I instantly noted to myself that if that was bread and butter pudding, I would run a hundred miles the next time anyone asked that fateful question about my likes and dislikes.
So time passed and for fifteen years I managed to avoid the stuff until one day I came in to the TV room to find Thomas watching a cookery programme. He turned to me and said the fateful words: Do you like bread and butter pudding? I described my feelings on the topic to the nth degree much to his surprise. He seemed disappointed and said it had actually looked appealing. He rewound the programme and showed me. I had to admit it did look appealing and it wasn't turquoise. He googled the actual recipe the programme used and made it. I tentatively approached my nose - no damp, no mould, no fust... It looked delicious. It tasted wonderful. I had two portions! I can only assume bread and butter pudding falls into two schools of thought. The first take mouldy bread and instead of handing it out to the local ducks, they throw on three old raisins, a teaspoonful of egg, a dash of (off?) milk and quickly chuck it in the oven. The second take the freshest bread, the extra special spices and raisins, double cream custard and soak it all day before baking it till golden and succulent.
I am definitely a camp two b and b girl.


I see my other half has been blogging this! Funny, when I saw it the other night independently from him I had exactly the same reaction - that is to say I felt I ought to rush to blog how appalling it was. It is so typical of the new UK I hear about through my kids - eating microwave meals in front of the TV in several rooms and no longer sharing family times together. I guess this is a great idea for this modern age - why not take it a step further and have microwavable single-portion Xmas dinners you can all eat in separate rooms so you don't need to stop and chat even on Xmas day? Whatever happened to sociability and compromise? It is ok to eat something that isn't your favourite occasionally, it won't kill you. I down the odd burger while dreaming of a nice mushroom risotto because Marcel or Charlotte has been on cooking duty. I survive!
Whether my kids love or hate it, my family has rules. Meals are all eaten together (at a table no less!) - unless someone is actually out at a friend's for dinner. We all eat the same - the only concession to this is that I take a ladle of curry out of the big pot for three, four and five before adding the scotch bonnet chilis. I wonder how the families that don't do this actually ever touch base with busy teenagers and find out what is happening in their lives when they aren't behind a laptop or phone in hand? Why do we rush around ignoring everyone else all the time? Our kids' childhoods are over in a flash. Why miss out on that? Life's too short.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I don't suppose too many Glasgow Xmas trees have giant Lebkuchen hanging on them!?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


I wonder if I could get funding to give up the day job to do a PhD in teenage behaviour? They are truly fascinating creatures. Take yesterday: I tell Marcel (whose school is closed so he's out playing in the snow with two friends) to come home at 4-15 latest because the temperature was to fall drastically just after sunset. I couldn't go for him given my car is snowed in and he couldn't come by bus because the buses are also off in the snow. At 4-15 on the nose he rings and tells me he's warm inside Zack's house and I'm not to worry - he's accepted a lift coming back to our house but it isn't leaving till 7, but that's warmer and safer than walking. Ok - obviously I was speaking Chinese. Be home by 4-15 means take the decision to come home at 7pm and let me know at 4-15. What about dinner? I ask. Please just leave me something in the microwave - it is still more sensible to come home in my friend's 4x4 than walk an hour. Ok. Two minutes later the phone goes again - sorry the text goes 'Phone me mummy I only have texts left, no credit!' Oh oh, I know if he's using 'mummy' he's trying to schmooze me. So I ring and am informed not one but three of them are arriving at 7pm: Am I meant to leave three dinners in the microwave (that'll be bloody likely!) - we're running out of food Marcel, we're snowed in!? Oh no mum it's ok - my friends only eat kosher, I'll eat here then come. Good - that's one more meal for us till the snow goes! A reasonable exchange against two bowls of cereal this morning! Fine! Three kids turn up. Mine is at least in thermals. The other two (I kid you not) are in shorts(!!!!) and jackets. It is -14 degrees and they are in shorts! I am gobsmacked they are still alive. They all disappear 'to bed' at 11 and things are seemingly calm till rustling is heard outside my bedroom at 12-20am. I peek out in time to see Marcel and Leor passing with crisps and a tray of mugs. What's in the mugs? I ask - Coffee - how else are we going to stay awake? Why would they want to???? Teenagers - they look like adults but they really behave quite oddly.


I associate my garden bench more with iced coffees in the summer months. I can't remember ever seeing it looking like this before! It's quite impressive, no?


I don't know much about icicle formation (until 12 months ago I didn't live in a cold country!) but I am more than impressed by the icicle that has formed just outside Charlotte's bedroom window. It looks like it has formed as a stack of narrow ice doughnuts - strange!


Today the only way to get anywhere was by sledge. I dragged Léon and Amaia, while Lots dragged Anna. Léon did better than expected, only dropping her face-first in the snow once! It is amazing quite how light they are on a sledge when the ground is this icy! I definitely found it less tiring walking up to mum and dad's today than I usually do when wearing Amaia in a rucksack and holding Léon and Anna by the hand.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


About a year ago Jessops were selling beautiful polarizer filters at about £45. I was lusting after one but it was so overpriced I just couldn't justify it to myself. About three weeks ago I noticed they had them on ebay at just £6. I ordered one, figuring I'd probably be done... but hey look at that blue sky! I am one happy snowbunny.


André had promised to take the two oldest kids to school this morning as he hadn't seen them all last week because of the weather and his (extremely unreliable VW). He was picking them up at 7-40 for breakfast. At 7-45 Charlotte walked into our bedroom... not a good sign. Papa can't take us because of the weather, she announced. I looked out. It was pouring with rain and the roads were completely clear. I harrumphed and got dressed, muttering under my breath that I hadn't been shopping so didn't know what they could have for breakfast or lunch. Poor Léon then needed to be dragged out of bed twenty minutes early because high school starts before primary. Out we went at 8-25 and we had a clear run up Crookfur road, Ayr road and Mearns road. Even Waterfoot road - on the summit of a hill in notorious cross winds was completely fine, just pouring with rain. Everyone was chucked out early and I cursed as I drove home via the post office to pick up a parcel. As I got out the rain turned to a flurry of snow with the largest snowflakes I have ever seen in my life - the size of oranges. Still I got home and had breakfast. An hour later I had lost sight of Thomas's car. By lunchtime I had ruled out picking up the shopping I had reserved at East Kilbride Argos! EK is a no-go area when Newton Mearns gets snowed in. I started to notice an eerie silence. The usual quarter hourly Harvie avenue bus service had ceased. Thomas and I were having a business meeting at 1pm when I started to hear a lot of voices. Kids in Eastwood and St Cadocs uniforms were walking up the middle of the road. Was the council evacuating the schools for the first time in my nine years as the parent of a school-aged child? I checked the school webpages. Both said School is open but please pick up your child as soon as possible. I dug out the car and tried to drive. Crookfur road was closed, or rather open but strewn with cars and buses. I tried Capelrig and got as far as the Ayr road. Within sight of the Broom shops I realized Mearns road had two buses blocking one side and two lorries blocking the other, I did a three point turn and abandoned ship. I walked up the middle of Mearns road between the abandoned buses. The silence was odd. There were no vehicle sounds, just the marching of many parents in wellies quietly trudging up the hill, interspersed with mixed ring tones and voice messages being played loudly. No one spoke as they went up. Everyone was trying over and over to contact someone on their phone. With Léon and Lots released, and Thomas manning the phone at home begging the high school to release Marcel with instructions on where to meet me and the wee ones (after 30 attempts at getting through on the high school switchboard), I made it back to the car. We watched a bizarre serious of cars each awaiting their turn to go onto the Ayr road, each being pushed up the last few metres by the occupants of the next car in line. I managed up without a push so felt quite smug. I got home two hours after leaving to pick them up, safe and sound. I see on the council web page they intend to reopen both schools tomorrow despite freezing fog. I will only be venturing out on those roads if they are safe. To get my kids I was prepared to drive, to send them out, no, sorry! In my 23 years of driving, I have never encountered such bad driving conditions (in this country) and most of the people out there haven't the slightest idea how to drive in snow!

Monday, December 06, 2010


I've always loved the drawings my children do. I find around five the best age by far on the cute scale. Take this one Léon did today of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. The hairdo is his idea of antlers, the red nose is carefully hidden in the brown and the half drunk-looking smile is just priceless. The body-shape is funny given it is meant to be front-on. He asked me halfway through if reindeer had tails before carefully adding the fluffy appendage to the right. But my favourite part has to be the legs. I pointed out when he showed me it that reindeer had four legs. He looked at me as if I was daft and said 'I know, that's his front two, you can't see the back ones because they are behind the front two'.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


Since the snow began to fall last Saturday, one thing had been tinging the prettiness of it all with sadness for me. The knowledge that unlike every year for the last 25 years or so since Dad followed me down the path of amateur photography, we would not react to the first day of snow by ringing each other and saying 'Let's get out there with our lenses'. Since he started chemo a month ago, he's been out of the house maybe twice and given he had his big infusion appointment on Monday, I knew he would be asleep on his chair for the rest of the week. I would have to do my snowshoot alone, but somehow that didn't feel right. I didn't dare hope he'd manage out, the side effects of both his illness and treatment too terrible and numerous. On Wednesday morning the sky was perfect, so I decided I'd go out after lunch. Thomas was serving up lunch when I noticed I had forgotten something in the kitchen. I walked through and couldn't believe my eyes when I came face to face with Dad in my garden crouching in front of my igloo, camera in hand! After warming him up with a coffee we managed a ten minute walk in the snow with our cameras. Previous years' shoots lasted many hours but those ten minutes on Wednesday were far more precious to me than the old ones where time was taken for granted. To quote Paolo, nowadays it's the simple things that mean the most to me. And like the father in his song, mine too has a family filled with generations of loving fans.

Friday, December 03, 2010


Poor Amaia - every time I have taken her out in the snow this week she has fallen instantly asleep. It is all too much for her. So I walk about constantly listening to someone snoring in my ear because the buggy doesn't work in the snow.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


It's been a hard week with schoolruns (usually a 14 minute roundtrip) taking up to one hour in blizzard conditions. The school playground is now so deep that Léon is up to just above his knees in the snow - he is standing on the school path in this photo, snapped hurriedly on my mobile phone today. But everything is still running well. Hats off to East Ren council - they seem to be one of the few in Scotland who haven't chickened out and closed the schools - let's face it - this weather could stay till March and we wouldn't want the wee ones missing out on that many days of learning, even if they might rather be home building a snowman!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Still November and life out here in Glasgow's 'burbs is getting colder and colder. Fortunately we now have this super deluxe igloo in our garden should any guests drop by and require a room for the night! Derek? Shall I kit it out for you, Amanda and the boys? ;-) I also learned today that by -6 degrees wellies are too cold even with socks and tights, and snow boots that have started to leak leave your feet cold. But with a little ingenuity - things can turn out ok... yes I did go to ASDA with a pair of tights, a pair of socks and a plastic freezer bag tied round each of my feet inside my snow boots - that way I looked quite presentable as well as feeling borderline cosy :-) Though I have to say lying in bed now in a fleece nightie, drinking Glühwein (purely medicinal, of course) with the heating on full beats the lot. Now I just need my man (who's busy in the dining room wrapping home-made advent calendars for the kids) to join me for a cosy hug.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It may surprise you to hear that I don't live in the quietest of houses. This many people can make your living room feel a bit like the M8 at rush hour. I often dream of a quiet bath, alone (without plastic toys) with my thoughts. I imagined that as they grew up things might become more tranquil... until today when Léon (after a schoolday full of St Andrew's day celebrations) said seven words that put the fear of death into me: I would like to learn Scottish bagpipes! Normally the old adage Just say no! should suffice but I happen to be married a Dane (probably the only Dane) whose secret childhood regret is that his parents didn't take him seriously when at Léon's age he came out with: Jeg vil gerne lære at spille sækkepibe! Maybe it'll be ok - as long as Thomas doesn't find out...

Monday, November 29, 2010


I found this poor cold soul in my garden today. I was quite impressed with the photographic result.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


 There is something quite magical about little (and not so little) kids when they see snow, isn't there?


When I was pregnant I signed up to a website that would give me a couple of lines weekly telling me what was happening with my unborn baby. I didn't know at the time that the web page would continue to send me updates after the baby was born. No problems there... except it turned out to be an American page and some of the ideas it sends me leave me open-mouthed. Take today's advice for example: What Might Concern You at 46 Weeks

Does your baby see you naked? If so, there is no need to be concerned. At this age your baby doesn't know what nudity is, nor will they remember what they have seen. This is true for kids through the toddler years.

However by the time your child could go to preschool, the opinions on this change. While most experts believe that a child seeing a parent of the same sex undressed is ok, they believe that a child seeing a parent of the opposite sex undressed should be avoided.

Sorry, but why do our friends across the pond believe the world comes to an end if a four year old child sees mummy's nipple? Nudity only becomes a problem when you make it one. I know it'll horrify them but my children (all of my children) are happy to walk in on me in the bath and ask what's for dinner or even sit on the loo asking for homework help while I get washed. Not only are they not traumatized by my wrinkly old body, they actually don't even notice it! Reading this kind of nonsense just underlines to me quite how European I am!


Anna was watching TV this morning while Thomas was making cappuccino and I was taking a bath to try to clear a miserable head cold. We had put it on Cbeebies figuring nothing too damaging could come on... how wrong could I be? When I walked in a program called Hoof and Safety with Nuzzle and Scratch was on. I watched it for less than 60 seconds before becoming completely appalled. A plump middle-aged Brownie was explaining to children that they should never ever touch scissors or drawing pins because they are far too dangerous! Scissors and drawing pins? Surely she means machetes and gun powder or something like that, not scissors and drawing pins!? I absolutely hate this cotton-wool nonsense: telling children everything is dangerous - ovens and cookers should never be touched, sharp objects ditto - never walk outside on snow - the list is longer than your arm. We should be teaching kids how to safely bake a cake, cut out a picture or pin up a picture... a fifteen minute tirade about what shouldn't be touched teaches the kids no life skills whatsoever. Bring your kids up in a home with no safety gadgets, stair gates and the likes, teach them how to use a knife and scissors and you actually end up with useful citizens instead of useless cotton-wrapped paranoid wrecks. Ok, rant over!

Friday, November 26, 2010


I happened to catch the tail end of an interview last week between Oprah and Michael Jackson's mother. Now I didn't stop on it because I have any interest in either. What actually made me stop was what Michael's mother was saying. Oprah asked when she knew with Michael that she had such a musically gifted child. Michael's mother was proudly explaining in detail how they were so sure he was on a different level to all other kids, including his numerous siblings, because he could hear rhythm in everything and even as a baby he would dance along to the rhythm of such strange things as the washing machine on spin mode. She said this told her he was going to be the next big thing in pop. What a load of nonsense woman! Either I am about to have my very own little Jackson Five or all kids do that! Each and every one of my babies has danced along to dishwashers, washing machines, and the likes. One or two have even danced along to dad's snoring when he's fallen asleep in his armchair babysitting them over the years! I vividly remember Léon as a baby in Mum and Dad's house one night when Holby City was on, dancing along to some bloke's heart monitor until he flatlined and then looking somewhat put-out at the lack of beat. In fact just today I took Amaia along as Marcel had his braces fitted and she bopped along to the rhythm of the tube they were using to suction the saliva out of his mouth as they worked on his teeth. Patently I am but a few years off raking in the big money!

Friday, November 19, 2010


You may just have noticed that I've stopped ranting about Léon's spots. Since he turned two, he had been plagued by sore little cysts under his cheeks that no number of trips to Yorkhill seemed to get to the bottom of. He had a total of four or five days in the last three years without a sore or bleeding spot on his face. Round about August, I started to notice that the spots were becoming less and less frequent. They had always said he'd grow out of them but I was afraid to blog it, or even say it out loud to my family in case that put a nail in the coffin of his recovery. Today he had his six-monthly check-up so I couldn't exactly not mention what I had noticed! The consultant was so pleased with his skin, she has told me she no longer wants to see him, unless he has a relapse. So maybe, just maybe, we've reached the end of the spot crisis! :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I am finding the attitude of Scottish suburbanites towards apples somewhat bizarre. Everywhere I look there are apples on completely bare trees, on garage roofs and all over driveways but no one seems to be picking them up and doing anything with them (other than Thomas that is!) Why?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


It was quarter to one before I put the light out, but I didn't need to be up till eight today so that should have been ok. At 2.50am Amaia started to cry. That's a bit early even for Amaia who still hasn't ever slept a full night but it was subzero outside so maybe she was just cold. I took her into bed, put her between Thomas and I and took out a boob. She wasn't interested - that's not like her! She cried and writhed for an hour before making little squeaky noises and seemingly falling asleep. Thomas and I were wakened again at 4am when the bucketload of vomit hit both of us covering the entire upper half of the bed, all Amaia's clothes and both Thomas's t-shirt and mine. Oh great! Dripping in puke Amaia suddenly felt much better so instantly fell asleep. Thomas started to pull off our sheets when a voice from the intercom shouted 'Thomas!!!' Anna had woken up upstairs. Thomas threw on a new sheet and I dealt with the vomit swamp while he went upstairs. Anna, such a capable child during the day, had thrown off her duvet and couldn't work out how to get it back on her bed. Awake and cold, she wanted to get up. Thomas spent till 5 convincing her it was still sleepy time. In the meantime I had washed poor Amaia's hair while she slept and put her into bed (on a very large bath towel). At 5 Thomas got into bed muttering that 2 hours sleep wasn't the best start to the day when he has a business meeting in Edinburgh with his accountant. 5-30 Anna still wasn't asleep and given we were refusing to come up again, she had opted to shout 'Waken up Pudge!' 6am Pudge was sobbing 'Mama, mama!' in the top bunk. I shouted at Anna to go back to bed and she finally shut up. Léon fell asleep too. At last Thomas and I could fit in a whole hour before we needed to get up. He's gone off to try to find Edinburgh with two years of accounts under his arm. I have had a bath to get off the residual smell of puke, and put the sheets in the washing machine. Now I just need to deal with the well kid, the sick kid and do my own day of editorial work before school chuck-out time. When can I go back to bed - please?

Monday, November 08, 2010


Here's one for all my friends (and relatives) with cute little boys under five... You'll be stunned how quickly they not only overtake you in height but also how suddenly their adult sense of humour kicks in. Blink, and you'll miss their childhood. Be afraid... be very afraid!

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Nine months ago I noticed the whole of the side of Thomas's car was covered in thick dried tar. From the pattern, I could tell the car had been driven over wet road tar splattering the wing, front and back door and even as far back as the petrol cap. It looked awful and was in such a state it was obvious we'd never be able to trade it in for a new one one day without paying to have it cleaned.
First, I tried picking at it with my nails - it was never going to work. Scraping with a plastic object caused damage. A metal scraper was obviously out of the question. We tried a pressure washer and all sorts of detergents but that made no impact. Dad rubbed it with paint restoring polish. No luck there either. We gave up and left it all summer. It wasn't like we planned to trade it in soon anyway, it's only done 15 000 miles.
Recently it started to bother me again. I decided to google how much it'd be to hire a steam cleaner (£38 a day). While googling that I noticed people mentioning on the Internet that WD-40 melts road tar on your car. It sounded somewhat far-fetched but at £3 a tin instead of £38, I decided to check it out before blog-ranting that it was a load of nonsense. I convinced Marcel the job might pay for his trip to the fireworks last Friday, so off he went on a bus to the shops, picked up two cans of WD-40 and returned. It was duly sprayed on and after a half hour's wait he went out with an old towel to wipe away the thick layer of tar the WD-40 would have melted.
I came out to watch... It only bloody worked!!!! Result! The car is spotless, perfect, beautiful. I stand amazed!


I was bopping along to Sunny Side Up while washing residual dishes the other afternoon, when Anna wandered in and mumbled something in an indignant tone of voice. I didn't quite catch what she said so I asked her to repeat it. Again, I struggled to hear what she was grumping about. She stamped her feet and shouted 'Mixuette!' at me. Mixuette? I had no idea what she was on about but she was sure I did so she got extremely angry and frustrated, ranting and ranting at me that Paolo wasn't Mixuette. The more I apologized for not understanding the more she seemed like she wanted to kill me! What on earth had I done? She insisted I knew fine well what Mixuette was. In an attempt to calm her down I put on Michael Bublé as soon as Paolo was done because I know she likes him. She started jumping with joy and shouting Mixuette again! Gimme strength... When Haven't met you yet came on she happily sang along with all the words, including the chorus:
And somehow I know that it'll all turn out You'll make me work, so we can work to work it out And I promise you, kid, I give so much more than I get I just haven't mixuette!
Ahhhh - don't you love wee kiddie lyrics?

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Thomas is a wonderful cook. He bakes bread. He makes elaborate meals from every corner of the earth and mouth-watering puddings. He makes his own cheese, butter, yogurt - the man is a culinary genius... or so I thought until recently when he started making jam. He doesn't do things by half - he's made at least ten jars of marmalade, five or six of apple jelly, one of apple and rowan jelly - thanks heavens we have now run out of jars because whatever he's doing wrong, nothing is setting! I am knee-deep in jars of liquid sugar. Despite following recipes in old Danish jam-making books every attempt is runnier than the last. I wouldn't mind if he threw it out and tried again but he's filling the kitchen with these jars and googling what he can do to make them set. If he fails I can't move for jars, and if he succeeds we'll have more jam than (even) a family of seven can eat in one lifetime... hmmmm Christmas presents?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


I think my kids think Thomas and I are grammar bores, constantly correcting every slip. Yesterday's conversation with Anna (2) was amusing: Anna finishes colouring in a picture and exclaims with delight: 'I done it!' I correct: 'No, I did it!' Quick as a flash and very angry she spits back: 'No you didn't, it was me!' Emmmm - I think we've a wee misunderstanding going on here :-)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


So Halloween came round again and I decided to take a stance against all that pumpkin and trick or treating nonsense. I was asked by my kids to buy a pumpkin so I decided to educate them in how things used to be before the ubiquitous American pumpkin took over the country/(world?) When I was a child we bought swedes (which we called turnips) and our Gramps hollowed them out because they are bloody hard to hollow out. So turnip-carving was a mystical moment when the kids sat round a trusted old adult adoringly watching him carve out the flesh. The up side of using such a hard bugger was that it didn't collapse in on itself after three days turning into green, smelly goo, it actually lasted quite a while. Also given they are quite small we used to put a string on them so they could be carried about a bit like a handbag! I also banned the 't' words in my house. Every time a child mentioned one of the 't' words I corrected them to the word 'guising' despite it being met by a sigh each time. I'm not sure my Scottish Halloween made any impact but you can't say I didn't try.

Monday, November 01, 2010


I like taking photos of the kids using natural light. They seem much softer when you turn off the flash.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


When you have children with more than one partner the similarities can sometimes be astounding. I often find Lots, Léon and Amaia hard to tell apart in their baby photos. The differences are also curious at times. One trait that differentiates my Gautier children from my Buchanan-Widmann ones is their reaction to infection. When the Gautiers get a chest infection, throat infection or ear infection, like most kids they become lethargic and their temperature goes through the ceiling. Realizing they are ill is therefore quite simple. When the little ones get the same illnesses though they get neither the temperature, nor the lethargy. Anna has had a wheezy cough all week but no temperature at all. As it didn't seem to be clearing we had her looked at by the GP and once again she seems to have a rather deep chest infection but no symptoms other than a cough and a grumpy personality. Despite my years of parenting experience, I find it really hard to tell when Anna or Amaia is ill :-(because they have never ever had a temperature in their lives. My mother-in-law also never has a temperature when she is ill. Interesting!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Today I read with horror in the Independent that universities might be scrapping the compulsory year abroad for language students because of cuts to funding.
I have no issue with who it is who coordinates where the students are sent, and quite frankly don't see why that has to cost a great deal of money. They could simply apply for jobs directly to lycées on a list for all I care. Let's face it, once you arrive abroad, you are paid by your employer, so the student isn't given any money by the British Council.
However, scrapping the scheme because the people who find the posts can't be afforded is insane. You cannot count in money the difference that year makes to your language skills. You can never really speak the language properly until after that year. But even if you omit language skills from the equation, when I think back on my own experience in the lycée général et technologique Jean Lurçat à Bruyères in the Vosges,
(not everybody got to go to Honolulu's twin town, you know!) that year changed my whole life. It changed who I am and everything I have done since: the job I got, the men I married, the kids I had. I cannot begin to imagine my life without the year I grew up, learned to speak French properly, learned that other cultures were so very different from my own and at the same time so similar. It taught me an awareness of others' sensibilities that I would never have got from never leaving my own country.
If I was designing the university system, I wouldn't be dropping this very necessary part of language courses, I would be making a year abroad a compulsory part of all uni courses because of the value of learning to live alongside a new culture. I would force each and every one of us out of our comfort zone because of the richness it gives to us and the life skills you can never gain until you've been thrown into a new country, a new language and had to assimilate, even if only for a year.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Amaia's way of getting around might not be the most conventional but she's getting really quite speedy and can easily manage steps between rooms. It'll be interesting to see if she moves from this to crawling or if she simply shuffles faster and faster with time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We all know this recession is hard. The world is full of financial uncertainties. Obviously after six months on maternity leave, self-employed with five kids and a mortgage, this isn't the best year to splash out on a new three piece suite but I saw Simply Spray upholstery fabric paint on the Internet and figured I'd found a stopgap until better times.
I splashed out on three cans of coffee coloured paint figuring I'd start with the living room futon as it is covered in coffee stains, felt tip stains, footprints, you name it!
On pressing the spray nozzle, a haze of pale brown paint came out beautifully then suddenly lumps of thick, dark paint shot out wrecking the surface of the evenly coloured futon and finally the can jammed. We tried over and over but each spray session ended with blobs of permanent ink dripping onto the fabric. It then completely seized up and refused to spray despite the can being at least half full.
The paint can't be washed off, can't be spread out and can't be completed. I would thoroughly recommend, however hard up you are, that you avoid Simply Spray like the plague. It is an utter waste of time and money. Instead of spending £20 to save me buying a new £150 IKEA futon cover I have now spent £20 to completely destroy a borderline usable futon cover, forcing me to buy a new futon cover. Oh joy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Have I ever ranted about Skype? I hate Skype with a passion. No one in my family understands my Skype aversion - they are all big Skypers. I find the jerky, time-delay off-putting - I lose track of what I want to say, distracted. I am not comfortable with visual phoning. I don't like phones anyway but having someone see I'm sitting in my bed with no make-up and a scabby old dressing gown isn't my idea of acceptable.
My family first suggested I try using Skype the first time André took Léon away when he was a toddler. I was in a state about him leaving for a week so seeing him on a computer, suddenly wondering why he could see his mummy but not hug her left both of us distressed and upset. I vowed never to Skype again.
Then Thomas went to Euralex for a week and insisted on talking to Anna and Amaia while the big kids were on the summer holiday with André. Anna can't msn at two so I reluctantly re-installed bloody Skype and let her and Thomas get on with it with minimal interference from me.
Today Dad started ranting at me that he'd prefer to Skype than msn so I opened my Skype window and it told me a new version needed installing. I clicked install and gulped at the thought.
An hour later, an ex-work colleague who I haven't seen in years emailed to say she was currently on holiday and couldn't manage a chat today. Hmmm, odd! Ten minutes later the secretary rang from Léon's old nursery to ask if I had any urgent questions about Anna's imminent nursery start. Weird. Finally, my ex-husband, who I converse with only through email, popped up and asked if it was something urgent I wanted to discuss with him on Skype. WTF??? By clicking to reinstall Skype, bloody Skype seems to have informed everyone of my email contacts that I want to converse with them (urgently?) on Skype. Bugger off, Skype! I do not want to talk to anyone on Skype, not the local council, not the babysitting service I used once in Manhattan four years ago, not ex-members of my family who've blanked me for five years but who are still on my contacts list, not the BBC photo page, not Amazon customer services page - gimme strength! I hate Skype! I just hate Skype!

Friday, October 15, 2010


I noticed some new cheeses recently in ASDA. I hadn't tried these before so bought them, being a big cheese fan. I would highly recommend them if you like smooth, creamy blue cheeses!

Monday, October 11, 2010


I'm all in favour of the NHS having a decent budget but I don't believe corners can't be cut to make it more efficient. This morning I took Marcel to the orthodontist because (as can be seen in this photo) his upper jaw is too small to fit in all his adult teeth, so some work will need to be done in there. We had originally been called up ten months ago but at that time he still had some milk teeth so they delayed treatment. Today his consultant looked inside and said he was ready to begin treatment. Perfect! So, what happens now do you think? Well, he makes a report to his assistant, who fills out the NHS funding forms and sends them off to apply for payment for Marcel's treatment. These will of course be accepted without question as he's an under-16 UK citizen, so after eight weeks the funding department will stamp and return his forms with the money and his consultant will then have his secretary write to us calling us for our first appointment. He said this without blinking, as if this ludicrous bureaucracy was completely acceptable. (Mind you, he is Greek so maybe he fails to see the wastage in this system). I have a better idea for my NHS tax money. The orthodontist looks in Marcel's mouth, decides he needs four teeth out and braces so pulls out four teeth and sticks in braces, fire the assistant, fire the funding rubber-stamper, fire the secretary and spend those three salaries on NHS funding. Am I a genius or what? Maybe I should charge them £30K for my one-page report...

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When we found out at 24 or 25 weeks that Amaia was a girl, we started a long search through all possible female forms of the name Peter as a tribute to her grandfather. Given Anna was named after both her grandmothers and Léon had Douglas as his middle name after my dad we thought it would be nice to find a Peter tribute. Peter isn't the easiest name to feminize :-( Apart from the obvious Petra, there were many weird and wonderful names we had barely or never heard of: Pella, Pernilla, Pernille, Perrine, Pet, Peta, Peterina, Peternella, Petria, Petrina, Petrine, Petronela, Petronella, Petronelle, Petronia, Petronija, Petronilla, Petronille, Petrova, Petrovna, Pier, Piera, Pierette, Pierrette and Pietra. I had heard of a Peterina once - but that is simply tragic as names go! So after much deliberation Pernilla (the Swedish form) was chosen. After her birth we told the kids, who had never heard of it. As always in these situations Marcel learnt it quickly and Charlotte awkwardly claimed at every turn not to be able to remember it. What's Amaia's middle name again? Vanilla or something like that? she'd ask. Grrr - you know what it is Lots!!!! Anyway last week, out of the blue she asks how much it costs to change your name. I wonder what she wants to change it to. No, she explains, she's come up with an idea for a second middle name for Amaia! (Like Anyone who is called Amaia Pernilla Buchanan-Widmann really needs more names to render herself unique!) I ask what, and a huge, triumphant grin appears across her face. Cheesecake! she says. Cheesecake? I ask, bemused. Yeah - then people would think she was called 'Am I a vanilla cheesecake?' Haha - very funny, Charlotte. I'm hoping she waits till her late twenties at least before starting a family, if this is her idea of child-naming!

Monday, September 27, 2010


You've got to laugh at wee kids, don't you? 
Yesterday, as I blogged, Léon received a Woody from Toy Story dressing-up costume from my brother and his wife. Marcel was away on a sleep-over with his friend Matt so missed him receiving it. I texted him a photo of course, which he thought was awfully cute.
When Marcel returned home at 3pm today, he wandered into the kitchen where Léon was sitting, once again dressed as Woody, at the breakfast bar. When did Woody move in? Marcel exclaimed walking past Léon. Léon looked absolutely thrilled and genuinely believed that Marcel hadn't recognized him. Lifting both his cowboy hat and glasses simultaneously he replied 'It is me, Pudge!' He reminded me so much of LeClerc from Allo allo! Marcel and I looked at each other both thinking the same thing smiling.


A combination of Léon's new glasses and the Toy Story 3 dressing up costume he got from his Auntie and Uncle for his birthday have left me with the closest thing I've seen in 30 years to the Milky Bar kid living under my roof!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Apparemment aujourd'hui - le 26 septembre - c'est la journée européenne des langues. Afin de fêter la journée du blogging multilingue il faut que j'écrive mon blog en français, allemand, suédois, danois ou italien. Vu que j'ai passé la moitié de la nuit à allaiter un bébé enrhumé, j'aurais du mal à l'écrire en anglais, donc je vais m'en passer pour cette année!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Nearly two weeks after getting glasses we still have a way to go. Firstly I might as well record the phrase 'Look through your glasses Léon, not under them!' and play it on a continuous loop. I then ask if he doesn't see very well through them and he claims he sees much better through them. So why the hell does he look under them non-stop? I am completely baffled. Then there's the contrast between what an adult would consider to be a safe place and Léon's interpretation of the same. While dressing yesterday morning I suggested he should take them off and put them somewhere safe. He proceeded to take them off and simply drop them onto the wooden floor from the height of his face. Arg! They didn't smash - phew! Today, he asked to join me in the bath. I asked him to put them somewhere safe again and he decided that placing them carefully on the floor in front of bath was a 'safe place'. I guess he's still learning... I just hope the glasses last until he's learnt.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Don't you just love it when babies become aware of other babies and check each other out as if they are seeing another mini-human for the first time ever? :-)

Friday, September 17, 2010


Here in Scotland parents are forever moving in and out of catchment areas to make sure their child gets to go to a good primary school. The whole housing market is artificially inflated by the desirability or not of the local school. I'm first to admit I'm caught up in that trap too. Like most parents I'd give anything to give my kids the best start in life...
So after 13 years of parenting I thought it was time I shared my wisdom with those who are less experienced. Given the ubiquity of uniforms here, I would say the most important thing to look for in your child's prospective primary school is the colour of the polo shirt! Orange. I would highly recommend orange! As someone whose kids have all gone to a white (soon to fade to grey) primary, I have come to the conclusion that an orange shirt would blend in much better with beans, ketchup, fish fingers and most everything else primary ones like to eat for their lunch.
So there you have it - the advice of an expert (who has spent way too much time and money on bleach over the years)!

Monday, September 13, 2010


The school has been encouraging parents since back in May at the induction days not to help their children with dressing of any type so that they are able to function independently at school. We had been trying even before then to find the patience to allow Léon the necessary time to do things all by himself... This morning I'm not sure where Thomas and I, or even Lots and Marcel were when Léon was getting dressed but none of us saw him apparently. He looked fine, he went to school for the day, he came home. Nothing seemed wrong until we walked past the downstairs loo while he was peeing. What's that you're wearing? I heard someone ask. There was a moment of silence, just time to look down and up again. Oh! Did I forget to take my pyjamas off before I got dressed this morning? he replied! I shot through to the calendar... Is Monday a gym day, please don't let Monday be a gym day... Gym - Tues, Weds, Thurs - phew! I have narrowly escaped being the laughing stock of Newton Mearns! I bet he was warm and cosy though in this hideous weather!


So today after school I notice Léon is constantly trying to look over or under his glasses rather than through them. We decide to do our own eyetest. Thomas opens a cookbook with small pictures. Close-up, he asks What's that? He points to a mushroom - Emmm, I dunno - a doughnut? What's that? pointing at a cow - A brown puddle? From across the room we try a distance test. I show him a tractor and he squints under them and gets it right. He fails again with the specs on. We start to worry he has some other kid's specs. I phone Specsavers and they say to bring him back in but it's too late today so arrange to do it tomorrow. I then try his library book with the specs on, asking him to point at an 's', a 't', an 'e' an 'o' etc and he gets it all correct with and without the specs on. I don't understand. Stress, stress and more stress! Why couldn't this have happened once he had the vocabulary to say something is sharp or blurred. When I ask if it is better with or without his specs he simply bursts into tears and says he wants to keep them because they are cool with Mr Tickle on! Stress :-(


Today we found out the hard way what no one at the opticians warns you you need to be on the lookout for on the day after your kid gets his first glasses. We had a plan to go and see Toy Story 3 with Charlotte, Léon and Anna, leaving Marcel at his friend's house and Amaia sleeping on my dad. We left at 1-15, dropped Marcel and reached Cineworld in Glasgow at 1-45. As we turned into Renfrew street, Charlotte let out an appalled gasp. I looked up at my Mummy-mirror (all Citroën C8s have a second mirror on the ceiling for keeping an eye on your zoo while driving) just in time to see Pudge vomiting profusely all over the back row of my car. I was a little surprised given he's two weeks short of 5 and has only been sick in a car once in his life and has travelled thousands of miles. I instantly realized the new glasses with their magnification had given him a whole new travel experience which had culminated in the outpouring of his insides and was instantly regretting the blue cheese sandwich he'd had for lunch with 7-UP. With 15 minutes to go till the movie, Thomas sprinted to Sauchiehall street where he found new jeans and a T-shirt for a distraught wee boy who was begging for his cinema trip not to be cancelled, while I gave up all hope of finding a parking space and simply headed for a multi-storey so I would at least have time to clean my car as best I could with a packet of Amaia's baby wipes. After this I got some odd looks as I made my way to the cinema foyer where I'd organized to meet up with Thomas and the new clothes, dragging a four year old wearing only boxer shorts and a vest! And it only took me an hour of cleaning my car when I got home to get it usable again. Funny how it was definitely my car once it was covered in kiddie vomit!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


You don't expect to pick up the phone and hear your son say 'Mum, I was shot while walking past ASDA at 4 o'clock with my friend', do you? I could tell from his phone voice, he was ok, so wondered if he thought this was some sort of amusing joke, but that would be out of character as he's turned into quite a sensitive and sensible young man so I asked what he was on about. It turned out that after he'd left my house at 3-30pm on Friday on a bus to the Kirkhill area of Newton Mearns, he met up with his good friend Jack as he was to have dinner there and together they had walked to ASDA around 4pm to buy some drinks and snacks. Walking back from ASDA to Jack's house along Eaglesham road, Marcel said a blue car (which they didn't know) had driven up beside them, and slowed down, rolled down the window pulled out a 'BB gun' and fired off six shots, hitting Marcel in the shoulder with one. Though he was dressed as in this photo, the pellet went through his jacket and t-shirt marking his left shoulder. Stunned, neither boy managed to note down the numberplate of the car. Fortunately Jack's dad is himself a police officer so knew exactly what to do. Three cars were called out and took statements and looked at Marcel's superficial wound. Jack's dad then rang me to recount what had happened. Shockingly, Jack's dad, who works in the West End told me of the easy availability of such pistols, grenades and the likes and the problem all over the UK (and presumably the Western world) of kids freely buying what they consider fun-guns on the Internet - free delivery, no questions asked - and thinking such seemingly non-dangerous attacks were a way to relieve boredom, not realizing that hitting 30cm further up in his eye would have resulted in quite a different injury. He told me he regularly arrests kids in town on a Saturday night carrying such weapons, but was himself more than surprised to find 13 year old kids being singled out at 4pm on an autumn day for a drive-by shooting in a quiet and affluent area of the city. Did these crazy attackers realize how young these children are or were they singled out as acceptable targets because Marcel's height makes him look older than his age. Whatever the thoughts behind this, I'm absolutely appalled anyone can bring up a child to believe this behaviour is acceptable. And I thank my lucky stars neither Marcel nor Jack was really hurt in this incident.