Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lemon curd

My sister-in-law was recently after my lemon curd recipe. I assumed I'd have blogged it so I wouldn't forget it but I hadn't, so for next time...

Lemon curd

zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons
200g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
  • Put the sugar, the lemon zest and juice, and the butter, in small chunks, into a bain marie over a pan of simmering water. Whisk slowly until the butter melts.
  • Mix the eggs and yolk lightly and add it to the rest.Stir regularly for 8-10 minutes, until it thickens.
  • Stir occasionally while it cools
  • Sterilise jars by heating them in the oven for 10 minutes. Add the curd to the jars and keep in the fridge for approx 4 weeks (though, personally I have not died from eating it in the first 3 months after preparation!)

My duck

Amaia has decided the best word for a duck is a rap (Danish for Quack). She's been constantly gibbering away about her rap for weeks, but it only came to me yesterday what she was on about... parenting a bilingual child in the early developmental stage of language is always amusing!

Danish flags

I know I go on about Scandinavians and their flags ad nauseum but I think it is because I didn't really fully get them till I read this cartoon Thomas found yesterday. Like the little German guy, I find all that flag-waving a bit nationalistically sinister - I wasn't sure why my wedding needed a Danish flag (but no Scottish one) on the table or why my babies all get Danish flags in their birthday cakes. It feels a bit like a strange religious sect is trying to indoctrinate or ensnare you, but if, as the last paragraph explains it represents happiness and not nationalism to them, I'm at least starting to get it!

Equity and divorce laws

I've had occasion this last ten days to be thinking about the way housing and equity is settled in a Scottish divorce (not me! my ex is getting divorced again!)

Anyway - when I got divorced, during the boom, the calculation was easy. We had bought a house together and it had gone up in value, so he simply paid me half of the equity we had accrued over our time together and I moved out leaving him the mortgage.

Given he only married his latest wife two years ago and she moved into a house that he owned (with a mortgage) and had been paying for ten years, does that mean he owes her half of the value it has gained over those two years, or more likely she owes him half of what it has lost in the meantime?

If the latter is true, I may have come up with a perfect business model for single people trying to recoup some of the negative equity they are currently running up!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Big Brother

I know it'll do nothing (or perhaps everything?!) for my street cred but I have to admit that until last week I had never seen Big Brother. I have no interest in what Class E celebs get up to when locked up in a large plastic Wendy House but we only have one TV and I happened to be working in that room when the teenagers stuck it on one night last week. I won't give you a two page rant about how appalling the experience was - I will simply leave that at 'life's too short...' but I was taken aback by one thing, maybe I am getting old...

Two young women (twin American Barbie dolls) and an older (perhaps 30 year old) Nicola somebody have been discussing plastic surgery and Botox the twice I have been present. They talk about it in such a nonchalant fashion, you'd think they were talking about the most natural thing in the world for girls that age - like going out clothes shopping or the likes. One was suggesting which cup size the other should get next time, swapping their current implants in the way I would have talked about swapping a dress that didn't fit me at that age. Maybe I'm an old fool but what kind of message is this giving young women? You need plastic boobs and Botox before 30? I am completely appalled.

I hope I will somehow, despite the media, manage to instil in my daughters a self-belief that will allow them at twenty to look in the mirror and see that they are truly beautiful, the way I made them.


Thomas has been out delivering fliers all over Crookfur recently (at the request of a local politician). His findings are very interesting from a schooling point of view.

He's chosen mainly to do it between 1 and 2 pm, given that is when Amaia takes her nap, so it's easiest to leave me home working and jog around. He says many of the houses he visits seem to contain two pensioners in their early to mid 70s watching TV. This, of course, stands to reason - these houses and the local school were built around 1970 so many couples with kids moved here and didn't get round to leaving once the kids left home... my own parents are in that category (though a little younger).

Presumably some time in the next fifteen years many of these houses will become empty and retired couples will not be snapping up the overpriced (because of the catchment) housing. Families will move in because of that. I wonder if capacity has been built into Crookfur, St Cadocs and Mearns primaries for a sudden explosion of 30% in the next decade.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Having the Barbapapas to tea

I'm sure this table says something about Amaia. She was pottering about the other day with her tea set and Barbapapas. Next time I looked she'd sat them at the table, served them each an egg (though only the female had been given a spoon) and given Barbamama the Economist to read!

Have I been moaning too much about the economy recently?!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What are the chances?

My old uni friend was helping out at an animal shelter in Vienna last week (she lives there), when someone brought in two lemmings asking for them to be rehoused. Taking down their details, she was told their names were Leon and Lots! Unable to believe the coincidence (I'd seen her just the week before), she decided it was fate, so took them home herself! She describes them as little fighting machines, rarely being gentle with each other! Although my own Léon and Lots do know how to wind each other up like all siblings, they are also inseparable, so lets hope Leon and Lots turn out to be the same. The only question remaining is when Linda is nipping back to the shelter to pick up Marcel, Bits and Bopster? ;-)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another issue with never going to Denmark!

As I mentioned last month, Léon hasn't been to Denmark since he was two (because Thomas's parents usually meet us here or in their Tuscan home since they retired.) Last month I realized Léon had started to believe Danish was one of the dialects of Italy.

Today I noticed another issue. Any non-Dane who visits Denmark a lot notices their obsession with flags. They have them in their gardens, on their wrapping paper, birthday cards, and stuck to little cocktail sticks so you can stick them in cakes or whatever takes your fancy. Thomas's cousin even had dummies for his babies with flags on. The equivalent of ASDA sells 10 metre tall flag poles for your garden flag and they don't just fly them on special occasions, they have them up all year round. Therefore, anyone who spends more than ten minutes in Denmark knows the Danish flag!

Today I saw wrapping paper that was red with a big white cross on it. Oh look Léon, I said, That looks just like a flag, doesn't it? Do you remember which flag looks like that? I was 100% sure he'd instantly reply Denmark - he speaks Danish half the day after all! His reply... It's the birthday cake flag, mummy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

All five at one

After stitching all of my kids together at the age of two last night so I could compare hair growth, one of my flickr friends suggested it was a cute way to imagine what quintuplets might have been like! I got the idea to do a comparison photo once a year around Amaia's birthday. That way I will be able to see at which ages my kids have looked most or least similar. Obviously at the moment, if I want to compare all five, I will need to stop at age one and age two comparison shots, but it gives me a lot of scope for future fun.

Orange peeler

Thomas is a big kitchen gadget person. A few years ago I was struggling to find something he didn't have when I came across an orange peeler at about 80p. I don't know about him, but I just love it. As the only person with long nails in my house, and with so many kids, I used to spend all winter being handed oranges to peel. Inevitably everything I subsequently ate tasted of orange because of the peel under my nails. Now, thanks to my favourite kitchen gadget, I have no such worries. No family should be without one!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hair would be good

By the age of two Marcel and Léon had had many haircuts. Had they not, they'd have had hair half way down their backs on their second birthdays. Their hair was thick, luxurious and fast-growing. A hairdresser actually commented once while cutting Léon's hair that it felt like the hair of a man and not a baby! Charlotte's hair was slower-growing than the boys' at first but today is at least three times the thickness of my own. Anna had thinner hair but she too had it past her shoulders by her second birthday. So what is going on with Amaia? I am beginning to wonder if I had run out of hair genes before she was conceived. Not only is she still almost bald, her temples are so thin, I can't even grasp the fluff there. Every morning Anna brings me various accessories to put in her hair. My heart sinks minutes later when the little copycat turns up holding the same hair clips or scrunchies and I am unable to attach them. I sometimes wonder if Amaia's start in primary school will need to be deferred, not because of maturity but because of baldness! Marcel was born with more hair than Amaia has managed to grow in two years!

 I hope she's just a slow starter!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

London English

I thought I blogged this at the time, but apparently I forgot... Given I don't want you missing out on the most outrageous typo I have come across to date (when you are in my business, you can't help but proof-read everything you see when you are out and about and in the twenty or more years I have been mentally correcting the local restaurant's misplaced apostrophes, this stands in a league of its own, I'm sure you'll agree!) I found it in an ethnic supermarket in a run-down area not far from Greenwich a couple of years ago. Marcel was speechless when I pointed it out to him! I'm so pleased I had my camera on me as I was on my way into London sightseeing with the kids!

Come to think of it, maybe that's what went wrong with last night's satay sauce... I used coconut milk instead of this variety!


Satay sauce

Thomas made a wonderful satay sauce last month using his Thai Beautiful cookbook. Tonight he was working late, so I thought I'd surprise him by rustling up the same. How hard could it be given it only contained a few ingredients: peanuts, red Thai curry paste, fish sauce, coconut milk and sugar? Mix together and simmer for fifteen minutes - piece of cake and a perfect send off on our post-Xmas diet (starting tomorrow). His sauce had been so good that I kept the leftovers in the fridge for days just to dip a finger in whenever I passed by, and I'm not generally a snacker!

So I followed the instructions and instead of a slightly oily, divine dipping sauce, managed to create a vaguely fusty-tasting, solid mass of nutty wallpaper paste that was so thick and so awful I ended up throwing it out!

Of course I am now regretting that decision, having since remembered we intended to work on repairing the post-Bawbag fence tomorrow and the satay sauce would potentially have made wonderful fence-post cement.

I have learnt a valuable lesson - just because Thomas makes cooking look easy, it doesn't mean it is easy. So the moral of the story is definitely - leave the cooking to him in future!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why so headstrong?

Little girls are so much more determined, headstrong and stubborn than little boys in my experience. Apart from my nephew(!), I have never met a little boy who would question what you wanted to dress him in (before about 8), what seat he should use in the car and so on.

Yesterday Amaia turned two, (not six, two). Today I took her out to the car. Currently she uses the chair Léon is pictured in here (at one month short of three). I put her down, she made her body rigid, screamed, twisted, flailed and generally looked vaguely similar to the Tasmanian devil of the old cartoons, until I calmed her down enough to be able to ask what was wrong with her. She pointed at Anna's seat (one of those age 1-6 seats).
I tried again to get her into her seat but there was no way to physically sit her down. I put her down for a minute to catch my breath after the battle. She leapt into Anna's seat and sat smugly quiet. I guess all that birthday fuss has made her believe she had moved up an age bracket, somehow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

10 mins old

Two years ago my big baby was born. At nearly a whole kilo heavier than any of my other kids, I expected Amaia to be a huge girl but she's grown up to be a strangely dainty little thing and there are no longer any signs she was nearly a ten pounder (4.5kg).

I remember walking with her to my bed just after she was born looking at all the other tiny little babies in the ward who were older by hours or days but who looked a month younger! But I felt smugly proud I had defied all the scare stories I had been given about how I would need an emergency caesarean because she would become wedged in my pelvis. I stuck to my guns and had her naturally, and drug-free in just three hours, while the medical staff ran about in a panic about how to help deliver her!

She is our special little Bopster.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Self confidence

So we drive to nursery after a break of two weeks and a day. As Thomas parks, Anna comes out with: Come on, hurry up, let me out! I need to get in, my teacher has missed me! I ask how she knows her teacher has missed her and full four-year-old logic clicks in: Well she can't have missed herself, because she's been with herself all along, therefore she must have missed me!

It isn't quite Descartes, is it?

Sunday, January 08, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about birthdays over the last year. As a mum of five, you have to attend more than your fair share of birthdays. I think I have now reached a quota where I am able to analyse the absurdity, on the whole, of the current UK birthday party norm.

It seems to me that from about age four up, the average middle-class 2.4 children-type, feels obliged to invite their child's entire class along to a party venue - softplay, laser party, townhall with Coco the clown and face painters, disco, golf/football party - the list is endless - seen them all (many times over), got the the T-shirt... got a whole pile of them!

How many of those parents ever stop long enough to ask themselves how much is a reasonable expense to make their child's birthday memorable? Will spending £10 a head (or more) to let each of their classmates run wild in a softplay for two hours make them happier than for example asking your child to choose two or three special friends to run around the same play area? Suddenly your bill is £200 lighter and your child feels more special, not less, because he is having a special time, rather than attending the same venue as he's attended every other second week this year with his entire class! I recently attended a venue that charges £12 a head. On arrival I found the child in question had had fifty children invited along - several classes, cousins, extended family etc At the end, as often is the case, party bags were handed out valuing, I would estimate £15 each! How can anyone believe it takes £1350 to make two hours of their child's birthday enjoyable?

Then there is the gift budget. If other parents are meant to spend at least £10 per gift (which definitely seems to be the case) then you are not only meant to set aside £250 (approx) for each of your children's birthday parties, but also £250 per child for presents for his or her classmates. I recently asked one of my kids for a suggestion as to what to buy as a present for a class party. I don't know, came the reply, I hardly know him and I've no idea what he's into! I am stunned at the stupidity of it all! I know it is pc to invite everyone, but it is mad!

I don't know about anyone else but my heart sinks when I receive the tenth invite in a month - what to buy, how to arrange my day and the rest of my kids round the drive to and from wherever. (Don't forget the petrol costs for going ten miles there, ten back home, ten there two hours later and ten back again!) I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I would be thrilled if someone chose my child as a guest, but to be ticked off as an unknown but necessary statistic irks me somewhat.

During a recession where budgets are getting tighter, I wish those who were struggling with this whole keeping-up-with-the-Jones nonsense would realize the pressure they are putting on others. I am self-employed with five kids so the whole thing is so beyond sanity, I don't even consider it, but some must be doing it despite their finances, not stopping to ask whether their child will be that much happier for it. How was the next child in the class ever meant to compete with Mr and Mrs £1350?

We have a family cake and get together on birthdays.We have special birthday breakfasts with presents and croissants and a train with candles. My kids don't seem devastated that no one has popped in to paint their face and give them a plastic bag of sweets. I'm sure they will remember their birthdays as happy occasions despite the lack of Coco. Occasionally I have a few friends round - they make a mess and a noise but they don't cost and the kid is happy! Sometimes I paint their faces (badly) and they feel happy and special.

So if I have been thinking about this for more than a year, why blog it today? The absurdity of it all was brought home to me tonight in all its glory. Anna was invited to a softplay party for her friend who was turning four. A private venue had been booked at £250 (for ninety minutes). I duly went out and got a present and card and drove her to the location stated on the invitation. The friend's mother was standing outside the venue in the cold and the rain with a large bin bag in her hand. Hi, she said, I don't know you but are you here for my daughter's party? I replied that we were. She handed Anna a present, that as usual must have cost the same amount as the one I had brought, while saying - I'm so sorry we're having to cancel, she woke up with chicken pox this morning but the venue won't refund at short notice so feel free to go in and play without us if you like! Paying £500 for your child not to have a fourth birthday party really takes the biscuit! I know it is more annoying to have four or five of their friends run round your own house but at least that way if they get chicken pox, you can simply put it back a week!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Tesco Clear & Confident

Anyone else had any issues with this Tesco shampoo? I bought it recently and when I wash my hair with it, it ends up looking just as greasy as before I got in the bath, if not worse! I've never had that problem with any other shampoo. Weird!

The biggest Bawbag

On December 7 2011 we received notice from the council that all schools were to close on the 8th because of a red alert weather warning. This was the first time in my life wind had shut schools. We woke up to find it was fairly blowy - we lost a fence, a few roof tiles and a pane from the greenhouse but all in all it was a little less windy than I had been led to believe. It didn't seem too windy to take the people carrier out.

On Jan 3 we received no warnings about the weather but I was woken at 6am by a much worse wind than the one the media had jokingly started calling Hurricane Bawbag. Slates were falling off the roof smashing all round my patio - going out without a hard hat was actually risky. We lost many more roof tiles second time round, possibly loosened by the first Bawbag, and the greenhouse was sent into orbit with a crash that made me think a car had come through the side wall of my house - we're going to be picking shards of glass out of the vegetable patch for the rest of eternity... I suppose we'll be able to grow pre-sliced carrots! And of course there's the tree issue up at mum and dad's.

I have to conclude that from a Newton Mearns perspective, the second Bawbag was definitely much worse than the first.

I'm just glad the useless insurance company hadn't actually got round to authorising repairs yet as nothing new was damaged, but everything that was damaged first time round was made much worse by the second of the Bawbags.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Coffee from our new machine

For the first time ever today, I decided to make cappuccino in a transparent cup rather than a china one and now I am desperate for a whole set of glass coffee cups! It looks so cool! It reminded me of a trip about five years ago... As our first holiday, Thomas and I went on a long weekend to Latvia, where they had the cheapest and best coffee I had ever tasted. They added all sorts of wonderful, coloured flavourings to them which just made for a photographic delight!


Léon got an old Finepix of mine a few years back and is really interested in it. Then Anna asked for a camera for her fourth birthday and got one from her grandparents. Unfortunately it seems to work much better outdoors than in but we've had torrential rain almost constantly since her birthday - poor soul! Mind you, at the rate she's going through batteries, it is probably just as well!

It is nice to see they seem to have inherited my love of photography. I am sure I am going to have a lot in common with Léon and Anna when they grow up!

I cheese?

Could anything be cuter than Amaia's way of expressing things at the moment? Currently she has three photographic terms:

      • Cheese! (please take a photo of me!)
      • I cheese? (may I use your camera to take a photo of someone?)
      • I see? (can I see the photo you just took, please?)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Charlotte is 12

I remember what I was up to 12 years ago now! Happy birthday darling girl! Mum loves you. xxx

Dad's latest scan

Dad had a scan on Anna's birthday (19/12/11). It was his first since the end of last spring. He had stopped one chemo regime in May and started a new one in July. Being moved from Hairmyres to the Beatson for a drug trial that was subsequently cancelled and then moved back, somehow resulted in his three month scan never materialising, so no one has had a look at his insides in about eight months.

These people love to wreck your Xmas - they did it last year and low and behold - they did it this year again... They call you in for a scan days before Xmas, then leave you biting your nails to the quick all holiday season, saying they'll get back to you at the end of the holidays. To make matters worse, the day after dad's scan, they cancelled his last chemo session, citing a hospital emergency. Personally, I figured no one would actually have had time to look at the results by then but, he assumed the worst - they didn't want to waste the last session on him having checked his results...

With Charlotte's birthday today, dad was told to come in for his results yesterday. He doesn't usually fare well on my kids' birthdays - having had his initial diagnosis on Léon's fifth birthday, and the last scan on Anna's (obviously I have too many kids!) Our hearts were in our mouths.

He woke up to his tree on the lawn and phoned to tell me about it. I figured that had to be a good omen - he'd wanted rid of it so long.

At lunchtime he phoned to say the results couldn't have been better! The tumour on his lungs had disappeared, as had the tumour on one of his kidneys. His other kidney and liver had shrunk since last May too and the original bowel one wasn't any worse! Why the hell couldn't the bastards have told him this three weeks ago! Not that I'm complaining really - it is definitely not what he seemed to be expecting - though as you can see from this photo (taken the week before Xmas) - he did look too well to me to be walking his final steps!

Go dad! This is the best news we could have heard today (other than them finding a miracle cure, of course).

More on apples

I'm not a big fruit fan. I know fruit is healthy, and it isn't that I'm anti-healthy eating - I eat more than my five a day in veg. I am a big veg fan, but I find fruit rather watery and tasteless. I happily eat a really juicy orange in season but apples in particular bore me after two or three bites. I've tried many varieties from the local supermarkets but they don't taste like I remember real apples tasting.

Recently Waitrose opened here. Not only can I manage and even enjoy a whole apple from there, but Amaia has taken to dragging through a stool and helping herself to three a day, so I can definitely recommend the quality of the apples there.


Amaia is creating her own vocabulary at an incredible rate at the moment. She gets the words for eyes and ears mixed up, often calling both eyes. All ball-shaped items from the size of a small marble to a football are apples.

In the last week she has become fascinated by earrings, so when I wear a pair that please her, she often comments Nice eye-apples!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Bawbag the second

About 30 years ago either the council or Scottish Power erected about thirty fast-growing conifer-type trees around the small electricity sub-station in front of my parents' south-facing garden. No one asked the residents around the triangle of grass if they wanted them, they were simply put there. No one was particularly upset about them at first but ten years on they had become thick and tall. Groups of kids would sit in the trees at night talking, keeping the residents of the three adjacent streets awake. Also the trees obscured all the sunlight from my parents' garden from 1pm to 7pm on a summer afternoon. They were a nuisance. They phoned the council and asked them to remove them. They were told their maintenance was the residents'  responsibility. A quote of over £3K was obtained to chop the tops off the trees and thin them down. The ten houses overlooking the trees felt somewhat aggrieved that they should pay. Dad and his neighbour, Steve, tried Scottish Power and his local MP to no avail. A fifteen year battle ensued but no one would budge.

Every summer dad, Steve and a few others went out with ladders and saws and chopped chunks of the trees but they were unmanageable. Their house was dark all day in winter and cold and shadowy all day in summer. They moved into my garden for sunbathing.

Dad never once said anything positive about the trees... well not until Bawbag last month. You know pet, he said, I think that tree might have protected us from the full assault of Bawbag!

6am today, and despite not receiving anything like last month's red alert warning, something much worse than Bawbag woke Newton Mearns up. I was shaken from my sleep by crashing and smashing at my house. At the other end of Crookfur, Dad was snoozing soundly and somehow managed to sleep through the event... so he got a seriously big shock when he drew his curtains to find the tallest and most annoying of the trees lying between his and Steve's garden. Steve was already in his garden dancing and taking photos!

On inspection, the lamp post outside his house was snapped in two and cables and wires from the substation were swaying in the wind. When I visited ten hours after the crash, the wires were still blowing in the wind! The roots were an impressive height off the ground. And I'm not quite sure how one is meant to use the footpath for now!

Let's hope the tree wasn't my parents' only wind shield, given the winter we seem to be having.

As I was saying...

on Friday... having a pre-teen indoctrinating her younger siblings can have fascinating results!

Sunday, January 01, 2012


When I was a child I was made to learn recorder at school - everyone was. We started in p3 (around six and a half) and had to sit exams in it up to the end of s2 (around 13 and a half). I hated it with a passion and had no aptitude for it at all but it meant I was obliged to learn to read music properly and I imagine, if I had had some talent, a teacher would have picked up on it.

Long before the recession hit, music had been more or less removed from the school curriculum. They still have 'music lessons' but Charlotte describes these as - a class of 25 kids sharing ten glockenspiels, they are taught the basic notes and asked to play a few on the glockenspiel before passing it on to the next child in line. There are no exams, and no one is getting enough tuition to develop an interest in music, if they are not sent by their parents to private music lessons.

Private music lessons are out of the reach of more and more parents as inflation rises, jobs become insecure and house prices fall. They are out of my reach. If one of my children has a special musical talent I will not find out about it and nothing will be done about it...

My grandmother was a pianist, my grandfather and both my parents learnt piano to exam level. Thomas's sister and brother-in-law are both professional musicians. Thomas has a well-known opera singer, violinist and composer in his family.

It's sad to think that many of this generation's talents will simply never be discovered and will spend their lives working in an office or similar, while singing in their kitchen while doing their dishes. We are making this world into a much less interesting place than it needs to be.

Recession positives

Every so often I try to find a positive angle to the recession - otherwise I fear we might go quite mad!

As I think back over the last two months, I can think of another positive to add to last year's list. As my parents did in my youth, I have started repairing things rather than binning them...

My dishwasher had not been cleaning properly for the last few months - I had tracked it down to a misalignment between the in-pipe and the sprayer on the top basket. Back in my non-self-employed days, I would not even have got that far, I'd simply have binned it and ordered a new one online. Dishwashers are only a few hundred quid... I was moaning about it to a friend over coffee one day and she complained in return that her dishwasher had also broken down the same week, but in her case it was the motor. We went through to fill our coffee cups when my friend noticed it was the same model! Her husband has been struggling through the recession, self-employed, so she thinks along the same wavelength. The following Sunday I was sitting in my dressing gown when the very same friend rang my doorbell. She was on her way to the dump with hers and she decided to see if her upper basket would perhaps align better if mine had been twisted. Ten minutes later I had a fully functioning dishwasher and a new best friend! It is just inconceivable that we'd have bothered trying that ten years ago. It is maybe time we all started to question what needs throwing out and what can be repaired.

Again last month my tumble dryer stopped closing. The door looked broken. I googled to see if I could get a spare door catch before binning it and ended up repairing it for £8!

I wonder if things had become too cheap in the 90s compared to what we perceived to be stable incomes and ever-rising house values to keep a sensible perspective?


Jean Stirling by PhylB
Jean Stirling, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
New year always makes me think of my granny. Until I was about fourteen we always spent new year at my granny's flat and it always followed the same format.

From 6pm till just before midnight she became a manic demon. She got down on all fours scrubbing the floors with a tiny sponge, checking every corner for dirt. All hell would break loose if so much as a crisp wrapper remained in a bin her house as we approached midnight. She'd scream at us like an army sergeant major till she was safely into the next year. Superstitious to the point of insanity, my brother would be thrown out in all weather minutes before the bells with the last speck of dust in a bag while I remained in the kitchen baking the obligatory shortbread from her 'Lofty Peak' cook book. Burning it was not an option of course because it might then constitute rubbish and woe betide me if I should be the creator of pre-Bells rubbish!

One year poor Derek had the misfortune to be outside when the clock struck midnight... aged eight, short with dark reddish-brown hair, there was no way in hell he was getting to first-foot her so he was made to remain outside in the snow in his slippers until a kindly neighbour turned up with whisky and some more shortbread.

After the bells, we'd be allowed into her front room (a rare occurrence) where she'd play piano and we'd all sing till about four in the morning. I've no idea how the other three neighbours put up with the noise!

I guess if Anna had met her she might have called her Silly Mad Jean.