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!