Monday, May 31, 2010


I was a big ceilidh dancer in my youth... oh dear I guess that statement implies I'm no longer in my youth :-( It started with uni. The German department was forever running 'German ceilidhs'. Then when I lived in Germany I remember one bizarre evening when Gillian, her then fiancé Billy and I ended up in a strange hippy commune teaching a lot of happy, drunk Germans the 'Dashing White Sergeant'. At my first wedding we had a ceilidh and André happily danced what he thought was called the 'Washing White Surgeon'! We broke tradition by being last to leave - we were just having too much fun to leave any earlier. Later at Collins in the early days we often found ourselves in Glasgow's Riverside club of a Friday evening ceilidhing some more. Ceilidhs hold very fond memories for me. Of course the most famous one was Vivian's 40th birthday party in Hyndland tennis club on 26-7-97. I was happily dancing a 'Strip the Willow' at midnight and by 5am I was in the Queen Mother's hospital in labour with Marcel - after driving three of the other guests home of course as I was the sober designated driver! Last night Thomas and I went to a birthday party. We had assumed it would be a meal and chatting affair but it turned out to be a ceilidh. I had a whale of a time despite my aching I've-left-Amaia-for-the-first-time-ever-over-full boobs. It's funny how you never forget all the dances and despite being overweight and out of shape from having Amaia, I didn't feel at all sore or out of puff! I'd love to go to more ceilidhs, though they really aren't the same if you don't know a few other couples to take along. It'd be a great way to keep fit too. I guess it won't be too many years before I can leave the kids the odd weekend evening to strip the willow once more - old hips permitting.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Today Léon went to school for the first time ever. The induction process began a few weeks ago with parental meetings which I have been attending and trips by his teacher to his nursery, but today was his own first trip into school as a class to meet his teacher in situ and his classmates, not all of whom attend his nursery. We dropped him at the school gate at 9-30. Many of the children looked somewhat apprehensive clinging to their mums and needed coaxing in. Léon stood beside me till he saw they'd to line up in the playground. He ran in. The head teacher gasped as he almost knocked her over galloping through the gate. Wow this one's enthusiastic, she commented. We went to the dinner hall for a talk and waited nearly three hours for him to return. When the dinner hall door opened most kids ran to their mums' arms for a hug of reassurance. Léon, too ran towards us. I bent down for him to throw himself into my arms. He stopped, put his head close to mine and whispered Do you have money for me mum? I'm just gonna go get myself a school lunch! He seemed more confident than I had been expecting. Did that make me feel proud or sad...? So off we went to buy school dinners. I watched in amazement as somehow he managed not to drop the tray of food onto which he'd heaped a bowl of chicken noodle soup, 4 meatballs, mash, turnips, a box of raisins, a carton of apple juice and a tub of ice cream, not to mention a knife, a fork and two spoons. I didn't know my wee man was capable of walking so far balancing things - he never seems to manage it at home. He sat down and ate the raisins, then took a spoonful of the soup. It was too hot so he ate the four meatballs, followed by the ice cream, then the mash and then a bit more ice cream and finished up with the chicken soup, an efficient if interesting way to eat. He seems to have survived and enjoyed his first step towards independence.

Friday, May 21, 2010


After my nit scare of last week, I was less stressed when I noticed both Léon and Anna seemed to have developed another dose of the beasties. Once again the culprit seems to be soil but given they now both have cycle helmets, a quick inspection of the whole garden turned up their own 'home-made sandpit'! I love having the garden for the kids - they are really in their element out there but between midday baths to remove mud from hair and three changes of clothes each a day for the wee ones because they've been watering their jeans instead of the potatoes or the likes, I may be needing a weekend away at a spa to recover soon!


As we enter our third year of visits to Yorkhill still no closer to resolving Léon's ever-changing spot issue, it is with a mixture of despair and resignation that I watched today as his entire body broke out in spots, lumps and scratches from simply running barefoot across the grass. He wasn't allergic to grass last summer but this summer it looks like grass is going to be added to the ever-growing indeterminate list of mild but upsetting allergies - egg, marshmallows, shampoo, soap, various sweets, grass etc etc. Despite the fact that he is on a daily dose of 20ml of antihistamines all year round, the grass took less than ten minutes to do this to his legs, arms and feet (check out the picture full-size). When he used to show an allergic reaction to something, I'd rush for the antihistamines - now he has the reactions after his daily dose, I'm at a loss for a plan B :-( It is so frustrating to have no obvious solution to his painful and distressing problem.


Shopping in ASDA last night I came across this beauty. I think I'd have to have it if ever I won the lotto (pity I don't play lotto). Apart from its cute value, I just would love to see Charlotte's look of horror the first time I turned up at school to pick her up in it!

Monday, May 17, 2010


Anna has a bit of a butterfly obsession at the moment. She has two pairs of shoes with butterflies on them, several T-shirts and a rain jacket. She just thinks they are the most beautiful creatures about... or should I say thought. Yesterday in the garden, the first butterfly of the season flew down and perched on the handle of Léon's trampoline. Thrilled to please his sister, Léon ran over to her and told her to come quickly to see it. She bounded over, stopped dead in her tracks as it fluttered towards her, screwed up her face and ran to me wailing it was a yucky thing! Some things disappoint in real life, I guess!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


They all get nits at some point from nursery. Léon has never caught it and has only six weeks nursery left so I thought we were safe. Then last night I noticed he was scratching his head. I parted his blond hair to see lots of little black dots. Ho hum!
I dug out the old nit comb and forced the poor little bugger to sit still for half an hour while I combed each strand of his very thick hair. I removed bucketloads of the little black dots but found no eggs or beasties. How strange. I put on my glasses which I almost never use to see if I was missing something but still no bugs. Given his head was so full of the gritty bits I was astonished to find that the bugs had moved out en masse but there you go. I checked all the other kids and there wasn't a single sign of nits on them - weird again. I washed him and sent him back out to play with clean hair.
I looked out the window to see both Léon and Anna playing on bikes. Only Léon has a bike helmet because Anna has only started playing on bikes this week for the first time in her life. Léon has kindly lent her his bike helmet. Léon then cycled past wearing a dirty old flowerpot on his head. D'you like my helmet? he shouted as he passed.
I lifted it off and parted his hair - back to square one! It seems the nits were actually dried mud! Silly wee man - why do little kids not think to ask the obvious - I've just been wearing a plant pot mum - could it be mud?

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I like school gala day. It isn't that beat the goalie, rides on a pony and a raffle for a bottle of £2 shampoo are my thing, it is more the opportunity to surreptitiously offload old toys to their toy stall that appeals. Rather than the guilt at binning old and broken toys, you can convince the kids that letting the primary school sell them for school funds is a noble act.
This year however it came back to bite me in the bum. We usually leave before the end but somehow Thomas and I were still eating our strawberry cakes in the dinner hall when the clock struck 12 and they reduced every piece of rubbish in the hall to 10p and Léon and Anna proceeded to spend all the money I'd given them on toys more hideous, bulky and useless than anything I've ever handed in, with first prize going to Anna for choosing this mangy, demonic, jaundiced clown-baby doll that is already giving me nightmares!

Monday, May 10, 2010


We've been watching the TV more than usual - that is to say more than an hour a week - since the election. Obviously that means mainly news and debate programmes. Normally Marcel watches things like Heroes or 24. The kids tend to watch cbeebies. The difference with news, of course, is that you have a presenter staring straight into the camera and talking to us in our living room. Amaia has fallen asleep on a cushion in front of the TV almost every night since the election, convinced the newsreader is her new babysitter talking to her till she falls asleep. (Dad will probably argue they are boring her to sleep of course!)

Saturday, May 08, 2010


We live in a corner house. When we moved in there was no fence on one side, just a conifer hedge but we thought a perimeter fence to fill in the gaps was advisable given how many small children inhabit our world. So there are now approximately 80-100 metres of wooden fence at various points round our garden. Of course 100 metres of fence is actually 200 because a fence has two sides. We painted the outside at the back of the house manually. It took about five hours so we decided that we had to find a better solution. We went to B&Q and found a sprayer because painting a 1m80 fence would take forever. First time we tried it (a couple of weeks ago) we realized we couldn't use the sprayer near the plants or fruit trees because everything was being completely coated with paint. We spent half an hour painting with it and Thomas spent an hour cleaning it afterwards :-( On Tuesday I went out and painted behind the trees manually. It took about five hours. My shoulder throbbed and I was covered in paint. I was knackered. Second time we tried it, it stopped working after the first ten minutes. It was clogged with paint. Thomas spent an hour cleaning it and then sieved the paint into it only to have it clog again after ten minutes. A second and third time Thomas cleaned it out, finding it only worked if you blew the paint out of it. It took two hours to clean the sprayer and half an hour to clean his beard. In the meantime I spent six miserable hours painting again manually. Third time it clogged we threw the useless piece of crap in the bin and both took out a paintbrush. We have about five hours left on the side of the house and maybe three on the other side. I am now sitting here recovering with a chunk of cake and a large gin. My shoulder aches, my arms ache, I feel like I could use a double hip replacement. The next time the fence needs painting, I am going to put the house on the market.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Today I had to take Amaia for her second set of vaccinations. Last time round I had taken her alone but today I had Léon and Anna in tow too. I explained to both as they sat in the health visitor's room that Amaia would get two jags in her leg and that although she'd cry for a minute or two, she was ok and it was to keep her healthy. As expected, the minute the needles went in the face crumpled and a scream was mustered from her big toe. Anna cheered and clapped when she received her jag! Amaia cried for 30 seconds or so, slowly calmed down and then we left. A whole half an hour later Anna let out a huge scream from the back seat of my car as if she'd jammed her finger in the door or window. She was inconsolably trying to tell me what had happened but I couldn't make out a word. Had Pudge stolen a toy? Had she been stung by a rogue wasp? Bitten her tongue perhaps? Eventually she calmed down enough to sob That lady hurt my Amaia!... wait a minute - didn't she cheer and clap at the time? Crazy, mixed-up girl!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Jim Murphy MP has had a little election leaflet dropped through my door. On it he lists his priorities:
  • working hard for the young,
  • protecting child tax credits
Fair enough... He then goes on to list:
  • keeping East Ren's schools the best in Scotland,
  • building houses to rent,
  • free bus travel for pensioners,
  • policing,
  • cancer treatment,
  • NHS,
  • local school catchment areas
Funny that - as far as I'm aware these issues are all devolved to the Scottish parliament - so it seems if we vote Mr Murphy back in he will work on two minor issues while riding on the back of the local MSP's achievements.
Now I know why the man was too busy to help my volcano-stricken family last month.
Mr Murphy - my head does not button up the back!

Sunday, May 02, 2010


I almost always do portrait photography, for which 3:2 is the best format given the dimensions of a baby's face. Last week I was wandering around Copenhagen and I suddenly became aware of how much better the 16:9 format is for city photography. I ended up spending most of the week switching between the two. It's definitely worth remembering when in a city situation.