Thursday, October 27, 2011


Anna got up this morning with her hair at the more extreme end of her morning spectrum.

Wow, you've got big hair this morning! I remarked casually...
Yeah I look a bit like Owama, she replied very certain of herself.
Who or what is Owama, I wondered, almost afraid to ask as she'd been so dismissive.
Her with the red hair Charlotte listens to - you know - she sing 'Owama - that's my name, Owama, that's my name!
I'm thinking she might be meaning... Rihanna!

I suppose that's what you get when there's and eight year age gap between your kids - 3 year olds who sing Rihanna instead of Twinkle Twinkle.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This is my car. It is over three years old so it needs an MOT every September to check it is roadworthy. I care about my car. Life in a family of seven without a big car would be tough. Buying a brand new seven seater would cost me £25K. I don't have a spare £25K so I look after my car.

Since my MOT back in September (it passed without a hitch), I've been wondering about human priorities... Why do we give our cars (that can be replaced for £25K) annual MOTs but we don't give humans over a specific age the same?

Anyone who reads this occasionally knows that my dad is terminally ill and my mum had a stroke in the summer...

Think about it. Dad has bowel cancer - an easily curable disease if it had been discovered before it had spread to his lymphs, lungs, liver and other such places. If he'd had an 'MOT' every year from 40, 50 or 60 - whatever was deemed the human equivalent of the car's three years - then they'd have caught it on time. Mum had a stroke caused by a mix of high blood pressure, thyroid problems and an irregular heartbeat - all things that would have been detected at an MOT too. So dad is terminally ill at 68 and mum has suffered some brain damage unnecessarily at 67.

It makes you think through priorities, doesn't it?

Monday, October 24, 2011


Much as I love having my mobile phone in my pocket for snapping the odd amusing sign I want to blog and the likes, I despair in the quality of these things. Indoors, they are close to hopeless, even the 5 Megapixel ones, usually because the flash is so dire and outside they are just about passable.

I find it interestingly ironic that my teenage years were documented by me with my heavy old cumbersome SLR Exakta and later SLR Ricoh so are quite clear but today's teenagers are relying exclusively on these poor quality but handy gadgets. Most kids no longer own cameras, opting for these instead. Marcel has even (very occasionally) had the audacity to claim they are no worse than my DSLR! (Rofl as they say in his speak) I am often shocked at the fuzzy, blurred rubbish he and his friends upload to facebook.

As Marcel's kids flick through old albums (online) they may find it odd that the pictures of their grandmother as a 15 year old are of much better quality than those of their father at the same age!


Amaia is a weird baby!
I have had five kids so I have watched language development over and over. There haven't been drastic variations between numbers one through four but five is a different kettle of fish.
When Marcel was between one and two he referred to himself either as Marcel or moi. Marcel wants sweeties, Moi veux des bonbons. Lots followed suit when she came along (though using Charlotte, not Marcel of course!) Léon said Nénaw - which was his pronunciation of Léon. Nénaw wants... etc Anna never once referred to herself as Anna, simply started by saying 'I want' and 'me want'.
All four when shown a photo of themselves would have pointed and said their first name.
Amaia refers to herself as 'Mine'! Mine want apoo (apple).
And if I show her this photo and ask who is in it 'Charlotte and Mine' she replies, quite clearly!
It is very cute :-)

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I'm a big eBay fan and check it before buying almost everything but one thing puzzles me... Why do people get carried away to the point of overpaying? Take snow boots... I am currently hunting down snow boots for Léon, Anna and Amaia - the wee buggers have all grown out of last year's and call me cynical, I have a bad feeling about the chances of this winter being snowfree. First I checked for Anna's size (UK 8). I could get 'used once or twice' for £3-50 (plus £3 postage) or new 'buy it now' for £8.99 (plus £3 postage). I check Léon's and Amaia's sizes and find similar. So for a week I have put bids in on the used ones, stating my maximum at £3-50. In the last half hour bidding gets silly and as I watch, not moving my bid, four pairs have now gone for between £9 and £13. Why would anyone pay £13 (+£3) for used when new is £8.99 (+£3). Am I missing something obvious or are they all daft?

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I've gone and made pumpkin soup again - probably for about the 15th year in a row. It tastes rather bland... as it did last year and the one before and although it isn't offensive, it is simply a nothing soup... so I'm blogging it in the hope that next Halloween I stumble upon what I am writing tonight and don't, once again, rustle up four litres of pumpkin soup, and instead opt for one of my other, more exciting soup recipes!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Anna has been desperate for a Rice Krispies bowl ever since Léon got his Coco pops one last month so we've been saving token codes from the insides of the boxes. (Don't I live an exciting life?)

Today it finally arrived, literally five minutes before I was serving her breakfast. She was so excited. Looking round the bowl at the Snap, Crackle and Pop characters she suddenly asked: 'Which one do you like best mum? The one with the duck on his head, the one with the mashed potato or the one with the snail?' That's a novel way of looking at it I guess!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


My kids are currently 14, 11, 6, 3 and 1. Anna is three. Anna has a bit of an inflated sense of self. Today I had to laugh at a conversation I overheard between her and Charlotte:

C: Is Amaia your big sister or your little sister?
A: My little sister
C: Am I your big sister or your little sister?
A: My big sister
C: Is Marcel your big brother or your little brother?
A: My big brother
C: Is Léon your big brother or your little brother?
A: (looking somewhat scornful and in a dismissive tone) Oh he's just my medium one!

Poor Léon, he doesn't even get to qualify as big in Anna's eyes!

Friday, October 14, 2011


Thomas has been in Denmark for a week, so I have been gorging myself on ymer and ymerdrys for breakfast since he returned... but, woe is me, the ymer is going to run out tomorrow and I still have a huge bag of ymerdrys. Suddenly it got me to thinking, surely Denmark can't be the only country that sells ymer (it's a thick soured yogurt product). So I wonder if anyone out there has a recipe for home-made ymer?


Marcel had been ranting big time on holiday about Trainspotting. He was so appalled at the movie, having read the book in Italy. That's my boy! Anyway, I happened to mention that another similar issue was Hollywood remakes of European movies. I decided a good example to underline my point was the Dutch movie Spoorloos, so I rented it a few weeks ago and he enjoyed it. Tonight I hired the US remake... My boy is such a clone of me sometimes. He's currently jumping up and down shouting at the TV in frustration and horror!

Wait till he sees how they change the ending! Hahahaha!

Why do Americans feel the need to do that?

Saturday, October 08, 2011


I've just been reading the local council magazine. It is bursting with pride at the high standard of educational results in this council area, the best in Scotland. I can't argue with that given that was the reason I moved to East Ren in the first place. The whole education system, however, needs an overhaul - to help the kids, to help academics and also prospective employers.

Records have been broken once again both in Marcel's high school and the local catholic high. Between 30 and 40% of the pupils last session received 5 A Highers. That represents 128 kids in one school alone! Now, the kids have not become major geniuses since my day when two or three pupils a year got straight As in a state school (in the same council area). Indeed many who did not achieve straight As went on to 1st class honours degrees and PhDs.

In my day if you got five As, you knew becoming, say, a top surgeon was within your grasp. The country does not need 128 top surgeons coming out of every school in East Ren and while some of these kids will be capable of that, others, with the same results on paper, would have found university courses hard in my day.

This current system is helping no one. The kid who gets 5 As at 70% believes he's as capable as the one who gets 5 at 95%. Why wouldn't he? This is giving the child unrealistic expectations in a country with high youth unemployment. The (overworked) academic (of which I know many given my line of employment) has no way of seeing which 10 of the 130 kids are to be admitted to the hardest courses so are forced to waste weeks interviewing kids with again, no way of differentiating between good and brilliant. Introvert and brilliant get rejected in favour of average but extrovert and courses, where fees are about to be high, are failed left, right and centre. The employer has the same issue.

I believe it would be less cruel to go back to a system where fewer people received top marks - set the A barrier at 95% if necessary, so we have a way of seeing real genius. I would much rather my kids received realistic grades that reflected their true abilities than they became one of a not-very exclusive club!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


I forgot to transfer this from facebook last week... for anyone who ever wondered why we call Amaia Bopster!


Apparently linguistic obsession is genetic. I didn't realize that until today!

You would think that having a mum who speaks English, a dad and grandmother who speak Danish, a grandfather who speaks German and siblings who speak French would be enough for one three year old... Nope!

The imaginary grandfather ('Silly mad John') Anna made up six months ago is apparently Polish and speaks to her in Polish. She informed me of this today at lunchtime and proceeded to tell me his words for various things around the house - a table, chair, bread, butter and the likes, What I found surprising was that the Polish words she made up actually sounded Slavonic rather than Germanic or Romance. I thought that was pretty observant for a child who doesn't know any Slavonic languages, though maybe she was picking it up from Thomas speaking Russian to Marcel over dinner last night (long story)!

Given my Polish only stretches to hello, goodbye and how to read the back of the recipe packets for the sauces I occasionally buy in the Polish supermarket, I asked if SMJ usually greeted her with dzień dobry. She looked condescendingly impressed, agreed that was how he spoke and wandered off muttering dzień dobry over and over to herself!

Life is never going to be dull...


When you have as many kids as me, you need to have some fairly regimented rules. A big rule is 'Don't criticize food at the table' because as soon as one kid mentions not liking something, they all start to develop an aversion to whatever the culprit happens to be.
Tonight Anna asked if the black lumps in the pasta I'd made were mushrooms or olives. I replied that they were mushrooms and she instantly wailed back 'I don't like mushrooms, I only like olives!' Quick as a flash Léon reprimanded her 'No crucifying food at the table!'  Why do I get the feeling that Léon is suffering from Golgotha syndrome just like his daddy?

Saturday, October 01, 2011


Amaia has a name for everyone: Daddy, Mummy, Charlotte, Tudge, and Nana. Everyone except Marcel - if you show her a photo of a crowd and ask her to point at Daddy and Marcel she gets it right 100% of the time but if you point at Thomas and Marcel and ask who they are, her response is always 'Daddy and Daddy'! I hope she grows out of this stage soon - it isn't doing a lot for my street cred in public!