Thursday, May 31, 2012

Designer wear

5/5 with a chuggy by PhylB
5/5 with a chuggy, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
I know I have ranted till I am blue in the face about designer labels - but I still don't get them. Maybe it's my Scottish blood but why would anyone pay ten times the price for a label?

I was out shopping today separately (because of football commitments) with my oldest two kids. Marcel the designer man, and Lots the sensible. For £27 Lots bought herself a pair of jeans, three t-shirts, a jumper, five pairs of pants and five pairs of socks. She was extremely happy and I dropped her at the park with a friend then picked Marcel up. He was given money and told to buy himself clothes too. He first tried Bank, the Jack&Jones, Foot Asylum and then stood longingly outside Schuh for a while but concluded that he could not actually afford even a pair of shoes!

While he looked more and more depressed I looked into Schuh's window to get an idea of the price range inside. I noticed a pair of rubber flipflops - not unlike the ones Marcel is wearing in this holiday photo from last summer - except I bought his in ASDA on the eve of our departure for Tuscany at £2.50 and these ones in Schuh seemed to cost £35! I must be missing a decimal place, surely? Nope - on closer inspection there was a tiny disc on the strap marked UGG. It was less than 50mm across!

I can see the time has come again to go through my two hour rant to Marcel about designer labels - I know it will fall on deaf ears, but I can try yet again (with Charlotte giggling on the sidelines!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mini-protester?

Anna's Scottish t-shirt by PhylB
Anna's Scottish t-shirt, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Nursery was holding a Queen's Jubilee celebration today. As I arrived at nursery it was draped in Union Jacks, I suddenly remembered the kids were meant to come dressed appropriately for a garden party with the Queen. They were to be served cucumber sandwiches and the likes and wave Union Jacks. I get so many memos from schools and nurseries, I find it hard to always remember who is meant to wear what, bring what etc. I looked down. Anna had chosen her Saltire t-shirt - not as a republican, separatist statement but simply because her big sister had bought the same t-shirt yesterday in ASDA and she wanted to be like her! I am sure, given she has never worn it before, most of the teachers thought it was a silent protest!

I'm sure Thomas is proud of our daughter today but I have to admit it was completely accidental!

I guess this would have made my dad smile too...

Union Jacks

I was in Tesco buying my usual shopping. As I put it up at the checkout, I slowly became aware of how absurd it looked. Everything, more or less, had a Union Jack on it - I am sure that is meant to fill us with pride and enthusiasm - sorry I'm a republican (not in the American sense I hasten to add!) But if I was a monarchist - why do I want Union Jacks on my loaf packaging, my cornflakes, my potato scones, and crazier still on my toilet roll? Am I really meant to feel pride, wiping my bum with some proud, patriotic toilet paper? I mean they even had Pampers nappies with Union Jacks printed on them! So it is ok to shit on it! I am so pleased Amaia is already potty-trained because I wouldn't be indulging them in this nonsense.

It got me to thinking about why I don't feel as at ease with the flag as say Danes do with their flag, and similar. Then I realized it could be a Scottish thing - and I don't mean an Independence versus Unionist thing, I mean unlike my English counterparts, I grew up in Glasgow in the 70s. The Union Jack and the Irish flag represented the two sides of the sectarian issue. It doesn't make me feel all warm and patriotic, it feels vaguely sinister and to be avoided.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thanks, Hazeldene!

Gimme strength! by PhylB
Gimme strength!, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Anna goes to Hazeldene nursery in East Renfrewshire. She absolutely loves it, with reason - it has won all Scotland's top awards.

Over the last few weeks they have had chicken eggs hatching in an incubator. The kids have all been fixated by the eggs opening and thrilled as expectant parents when Fluffy, Sporty, Minnie, Spiderman, Chook and Sunshine "cracked out" as Anna put it!

Today I needed eggs. I was in ASDA. As I handed the box of 15 over at the check-out, Anna rubbed her hands together with excitement. Oooooh pets! What are we going to call them, mummy?!


Thanks Hazeldene!

Pumpa and Amaia

Pumpa and Amaia by PhylB
Pumpa and Amaia, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
For the last nearly two years of dad's life, as a result of his cancer, he always had a bottle of lucozade in his hand, wherever he went. As long as I live, I will probably associate the small lucozade bottles with dad.



Last night mum turned up with dad's golf clubs. Marcel had been taught golf by dad so was getting his clubs.
Dad's final illness, the perforated ulcer, was fairly sudden and took hold only two weeks after his last game of golf. As Marcel emptied the bags to see what they contained, he found a half-drunk bottle of lucozade. It seemed quite poignant when he took it out, but we got on with looking through them and once he had repacked the bags, he left the bottle on my patio in front of the garden chairs as dad had often done himself last summer and even this year in March. We then followed the sun round to the front garden for dinner and afterwards weren't round the back so forgot about it.

 This morning I found Amaia practically dancing in the living room, singing Pumpa's here! Pumpa's here! Pumpa where are you? I followed her eyes - she was looking out the patio door - of course fixated by the bottle. She's only two - all her life, Pumpa had lucozade. She's too old not to be aware of his absence but too young to have any concept of where he is. She's in a strange limbo that would truly break your heart sometimes.

Make a robot night at Beavers

Make a robot night at Beavers by PhylB
Make a robot night at Beavers, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Sometimes I have to smile about the direction life takes us. When I first shared an office with the young, 30 year old single Danish bloke, I never in my wildest dreams imagined he would one day be taking my son to Beavers and making 'Darth Robot' with him. Léon is a very lucky boy to have such a great dad.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Takeaway Secret by Kenny McGovern

Homemade kebabs by PhylB
Homemade kebabs, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

It isn't really realistic to buy takeaway food when you are self-employed (=no financial visibility) and you have five kids to feed. We bulk buy and Thomas, a brilliant cook, rustles up Indian and Chinese better than you get from the local takeaway anyway. When we were in Paris recently, we decided to let the kids have a treat and bought them kebabs for probably the first time in five years. They really enjoyed the experience. Amaia was particularly impressed, eating her own then the leftovers of both Léon and Anna. We realized after that, that although Thomas is great at the fancier end of the cooking scale, we had no recipes for the sorts of things kids love as a special treat, but in our house never get - kebabs, fish and chip shop fish, pakora, burgers, etc. Then he came across this little gem.
So, first up on Sunday night, was the doner kebab. I wasn't sure how we were going to manage that without the rotating grill but I left him to it and was more than surprised to find it tasted almost identical to the kebab I had in Paris a month ago! The kids were all extremely impressed too. I am not sure this discovery is going to be great for our waistlines...

A wee update

Garden flowers by PhylB
Garden flowers, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
For anyone who was wondering what the inside of the nappy poppies look like, they opened today! Aren't they pretty? (This wee bee thought so anyway!)

Amaia

Amaia's chips by PhylB
Amaia's chips, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

I know she's filthy in this photo - from a day at the beach, playing with sand and stones, eating ice cream but I love they way it captures her odd eyes. In photos they often just look dark, but they aren't at all - they mix yellows, and cappuccino tones with olive, light blue and more. I love my baby's eyes.

Paper poppies

Paper poppies by PhylB
Paper poppies, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
And still on a horticultural note, our poppies started to come out today too. We have some new white ones I had forgotten about at the back of the garden. I had to laugh though. Anna announced 'Have you seen the new flowers at the back of the garden mummy, they are made out of Pampers nappy material!' And true enough they do feel like that kind of soft nappy paper, I remember so well from before Amaia was potty-trained.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tulips

Tulips in our garden by PhylB
Tulips in our garden, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
We have these rather odd tulips in our garden at the moment. When they first appeared - each with three or four heads per stem, I thought they were quite special but as they've gone further through their flowering cycle, they have become even more bizarre. After each of the heads has spent a three to four weeks beautifully in bloom with yellow and white striped petals, they suddenly turn pink for the last couple of weeks before they die. How fascinating! I know I planted them, but have no idea what type they are so I can't even order some more!



Thursday, May 24, 2012

How vain are spiders?

I love the logic of small kids. Our Nissan Micra had a spider's web on the wing mirror today when I turned up at school to pick Léon up (don't worry Linda, I'll dust it ;-))
Léon took one look at it and concluded 'It probably built it there because it likes to look at itself in the mirror!'

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Scottish is not English

I was in B&Q today. I think they've somewhat overestimated the Glaswegian enthusiasm for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. They had untouched boxes of bunting, union jack covers for your car wing mirrors and little flags you might want to wave, or might not, as the case may be - typical chain store mentality. Hell mend them!

IMAG0106

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cycling

Cycling by PhylB
Cycling, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

I said it with Léon and I am reiterating it with Anna. Balance bikes are a godsend to 40-somethings who need to teach their kids to cycle! No more back-breaking hours pushing junior round the park. Think about it logically - learning to cycle isn't about learning to pedal, it is about learning to balance. I put Anna at the top of a hill with a pedal-less bike and let her roll down it over and over till she became confident. Two days later she's on a proper pedal bike rolling down the hill, hours away from pedalling back up it under her own steam. If I was a mini-dictator I think I'd ban the sale of bikes with stabilisers as a cycle-training device - they really are much more hassle than they are worth.

Through fourteen-year-old eyes

Dad and Marcel by PhylB
Dad and Marcel, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

Marcel decided to write about dad about four weeks ago. He then gave it to his English teacher to read, planning, if the teacher liked it, to let Pumpa read it himself. I can only imagine his feelings today, when it was returned to him, full of praise. 


In the last two years, and more importantly in the last ten days, I have watched this childhood ebb away. He started this journey as a child but holding dad's hand for two years as he slowly died, holding it still after death, hugging and kissing him farewell a few hours after death and then seeing the young man in the suit carry his beloved Pumpa's coffin all in the space of a week is hard to put into words. I think he would have been proud of what his grandson wrote for him.


So for what it is worth, here is a short account of dad's illness by Marcel:


Cancer. Everyone is aware of its existence, its causes, its process, its effect on life, but no-one, no-one ever thinks it will hit home. I used to be everyone, the oblivious majority, but now I'm well and truly aware of just how hard this demon lurking in the shadows can hit home.


Three years ago today, grandpa, born April 5, 1943, aged 66 at the time, had his retirement set out, golf, golf, and more golf (and of course, the weekly family visit.) He had everything enjoyable - hobbies, friends, family, holidays, monthly golfing tournaments, everything. These were soon to become the rock upon which he would rely for support.


One fateful day, life was rolling on as usual, birds chirping in the trees, sun blazing, refreshing summer breeze, lunch in the garden with the family, my favourite. I had just begun being indoctrinated, as now seems to be our tradition, into the family sport, golf. Due to the beauty of the morning I was of course out with Grandpa in the garden practising my golf swing, the casual chat that comes with golf continued as usual, this day could not have started out more ordinary. The day rolled on and the family left but what I had noticed was that mum hadn't quite been herself throughout the day, this worried me. I began to look for her in the house but before I could find her she found me. There I was, stopped, in the midst of a content childhood day, the perfect day, with the cold words I'll never forget "Marcel, sit down, you need to hear something about grandpa", her face screaming with sadness. I sat for what felt like hours, days, this couldn't be true. The man swinging the golf club with such power and glowing with health could not have, as diagnosed then, three months to live. It began to become real, I was broken. It was as if a small part of me had been ripped out and could never be put back. This image of grandpa swinging his golf club in the afternoon sunlight would be the image I would focus on whenever I was in a bad place throughout this experience. It became the embedded image of my grandpa and has remained unchanged to this day. I had now begun my long walk down the path of going from the oblivious majority to the enlightened few.


Bowel cancer. Liver cancer. Lung cancer. Three cancers that standing alone are life threatening but with a full three at once, the way the doctors saw it, he had no chance. Grandpa had gone overnight from a relaxed, care-free lifestyle to a horrible 40 pills a day routine, his diet had to be monitored and he was forever in and out of hospital, the discovery of his cancer being his first visit to a hospital in his life nonetheless. On top of all this came the dreaded chemotherapy, basically a poison designed to take you as close to death as possible in order to kill all the cancerous cells in the body. It certainly brought a great deal of misery to us all. The golf stopped due to a simple lack of strength, rarely did he manage a full game. This was painful for me to watch, a man I looked up to, a second father to me was being deprived of his lifelong hobby and there was nothing I could do. Looking back now, being able to sum up and understand my grandpa's day to day actions after being diagnosed and how he dealt and is still dealing with this really only brings one thought to my head, unwavering courage. Watching my grandpa fight this demon is the most courageous act I have ever seen by a man. Some say that once someone is diagnosed with cancer they begin to hate the world, life and everyone around them for the simple reason, "Why me? Why not them?" but not my grandpa, he blamed no one. I found strength in his strength and in turn I believe he found strength in mine. The open-mindedness and the constant hope shown by my grandpa is why my grandpa is and always will be my hero.


Days turned into weeks, months turned into years and time went by, slowly at first but things soon settled down, life had to continue so it did. Grandpa was back on the golf course on the beautiful fairways of Scotland and now much more often accompanied by me. Two years down the line he's on his 3rd batch of chemotherapy and has far outlived any of the doctors' expectations. Grandpa is still his cheery, golf-obsessed self and remains to this day one of my greatest role models in life. Sure, grandpa has his ups and downs from time to time but here we are, living to the fullest what ever time we have left with him, however long that may be.

Monday, May 21, 2012

English genes?

Trampolining by PhylB
Trampolining, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

Here's Amaia with her big, wee cousin Alasdair. Now here's a wee prediction for the future... When Al grows up he will be a sportsman. Given he's a sturdy wee guy, I firstly thought of rugby but since he learned to walk properly a month or so ago, freeing up his hands, he seems to have developed an amazing ability to bowl balls (stones, ornaments, food and generally everything not glued down!) so I'm going to drop my rugby theory and opt for him having inherited the English genes from my father's side and become a cricketer! ;-)

Watch this space!

Optimist or pessimist?

DSC07649

Scotland's weather has been truly diabolical, even by our standards, this year. I think we've probably seen less than a week over 10°C. But I think I can tell who is the half-empty and who is the half-full guy in my house! When 15°C was forecast yesterday, Léon bravely opted for the clothes he got for our last trip to Tuscany, while my little nephew decided a snow jacket was probably a safer option! They did look comical playing together outside my house - though I think somewhere in the middle might have been a better bet!

Waitrose cake

Waitrose cake by PhylB
Waitrose cake, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
We did a barbecue last night and mum decided to buy us a dessert for afters. While in Waitrose buying some items for the grill we found ourselves in front of the cake display. Running our eyes along the prices they seemed to range from £2.99 - £4.99. Mum opted for this seriously chocolatey chocolate, hazelnut and almond torte. Somewhat surprised at the final bill we later realized they'd charged her £9.99 for it. When I went back later to check, the price label for this particular cake was not underneath where it was on the shelf but almost a whole fridge further up the aisle. Mum was also a tad miffed at how much smaller it was in real life than its box. Delicious though it was, it was not worth double the price of any of the other cheesecakes and the likes they had on offer, so I wouldn't recommend it!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What happened to respect?

OK, so this isn't going to be the most pc blog-rant I've ever posted, but I'm pissed off and under present circumstances I don't see why I should smile and be quietly tactful!

So dad's last wishes were 'I want none of that religious shite!' Whether you agree with this or not is immaterial. These were the last wishes of a dying man and should be respected as such, whether you think you know better or not. So important they were to him, he made them a prominent feature of his will too. As his daughter, son and wife respecting these wishes were paramount to us. We arranged a totally non-religious funeral, spending hours with the Humanist celebrant writing the sermon with her. We had done exactly what he requested. That gave us some comfort in our darkest hour. We felt we had honoured him in that way.

Those who attended the funeral were told in the sermon that these wishes had been dear and of the utmost importance to him... so how dare a certain nameless acquaintance of my father's take it upon himself to contravene this, upsetting my mother and us in the process. After listening intently to all this on Friday, he handed my mother what she assumed to be a condolence card. Fortunately she didn't open it till she got home. It piously and condescendingly turned out to be a stamped letter from the man and his local priest, telling my mother he had taken it upon himself to have the priest in question say a private mass for my father in order to save his eternal soul from damnation! I am utterly appalled. Had he died, I would have respected his religious beliefs, so how dare he not respect those of my family. If he feels it necessary to pray to his God, that should remain between him and his priest. It should not be thrust into my mother's hand in some self-righteous, superior manner.

As I have said before - atheism is the only religion not granted the respect it deserves. It is time that changed. I am passionately atheist and fail to see why that is not respected.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Think about it


I just wanted to share a poem with you, if you missed the funeral today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hibiscus

11-8-07 (6) by PhylB
11-8-07 (6), a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
You get a lot of flowers when someone dies... beautiful flowers, treasured flowers.

On Saturday, I returned home not even 24 hours into this new and frightening existence and found a dear friend had left a lovely bouquet of orange roses on my doorstep. I held them and smelled them and then with a sadness I noticed the sticker proclaiming 'Guaranteed to last 7 days'. With a huge lump in my throat I silently questioned - 'Am I only meant to think of him for seven days, surely a lifetime is worth more than seven days?'. A lifetime is worth a lifetime and much more...The flowers were beautiful but bitter-sweet.

I didn't think another thing about it till today, when I was hoovering out my car. A Yodel van came down the street and asked for directions to number 27. I told him that was me and he took out a box that was about the same size as Léon! Interflora was written on the side. The bitter-sweet thought popped fleetingly into my mind again and I set it to one side and finished my hoovering, working up the strength to re-confront the thoughts and feelings I had been trying to avoid with my little hoovering distraction...

First I opened the card and saw the names Karen (Grant) and Siobhan (Macdonald)... two of the best friends I have in the world - my breast friends - we shared having our first babies, we shared our divorces and the rebuilding of our lives. You don't get closer than that...

I took a knife and cut into the box. There stood a tree marked - Plant this in remembrance of your dad always. I fell to pieces, crying like a baby. I went up to Thomas who asked what was up and all I could manage to say was 'I got a tree!' He looked quite bemused but just held me till I calmed down.

It was beautiful, already in bloom and big and strong with roots. I wasn't going to last seven days or even seven years - it can outlast me! I didn't know I needed a tree until I got my tree, but I really, really needed a tree. My tree of remembrance. It is hard to imagine already how much the tree means to me. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to move house again, not without taking my Dougie-tree.

Mother and daughter

Mother and daughter by viralbus
Mother and daughter, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
I noticed today that a magazine had used this photo of me and Lots, taken from Thomas's flickr page, to illustrate an article entitled '50 Reasons Your mom is so special'. Given the week we are having, that made my day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dad

I'm not ready yet to write about dad, but in the meantime I thought I'd share his cyberpal, Alistair's thoughts with you.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Danish culture

New shoes by PhylB
New shoes, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Thomas and I were discussing internationality today - how to make your kids bilingual and also bi-cultural. Bilingual, we have succeeded with, given we both have language backgrounds so know what we are doing but bi-cultural is more bitty. Thomas was complaining how hard it is to give the kids, particularly the three wee ones a real insight into Danishness simply because we never, or almost never, go to Denmark now we have nowhere to stay and we also have very few visits from Danes.
He was saying how some things are more important than others - he'd like the kids to be aware, for example, of what Danes expect to receive when they order a hot dog. You get all sorts of relishes on a Danish hot dog and they'd consider it half-cooked if it was presented naked in a bun like the ones you get here at Ikea, for example.
Given he's a republican (not in the American sense I hasten to add!) I teased him that not a single ones of our kids could pick the Danish Queen out of a line-up of septuagenarians. But would they know how to, if they were mono-cultural Danes living in Denmark? Of course, we concluded... they'd have picked it up from media and other external sources... But in retrospect, I think we were maybe wrong. Just an hour later this came on the news. I asked Léon who the man was and he replied 'a weather man?' I guess culture sometimes depends on who you live with more than where you live!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Rhubarb meringue pie

Immortalized, in case I should ever lose it, Thomas's family recipe for rhubarb meringue pie - yum!



  • 250 g flour

  • 125 g butter

  • 65 g sugar

  • 1 pinch of salt

  • 3–4 eggs, separated

  • 200 g icing sugar

  • some rhubarb (enough to cover the base of the mould twice)



  • Make a shortcrust pastry of flour, butter, sugar, salt and egg yolks and line a buttered mould with it.

    Cut the rhubarb into 3–4 cm long chunks and blanch them briefly.

    Make a meringue from egg whites and icing sugar. Cover the bottom of the pastry with a bit of the meringue, then add the rhubarb pieces, and add the rest of the meringue on top.

    Bake for 45 minutes at 175–200ºC.

    Zone cards - the laid-back approach

    Paris on the metro by PhylB
    Paris on the metro, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
    I was in Paris last month. Given I was out in the suburbs but wanted to show the kids round all my old haunts when Thomas was at work, I decided to find out about zone cards.

    I asked at the local station - Noisy-Champs, a name Léon loved to pronounce in English, - whether they had family cards, or books of tickets or the likes and they advised zone cards were best for stays of more than five days. I asked them to explain their zone cards - everyone 4 or over needed a zone card at approx 30 Euros and we'd be able to use them on all trains, métros, buses etc. Given that meant me and four of my five kids, I gulped. The woman behind the counter asked their ages. I said me, 14, 12, 6, 4 and 2. She gulped back and then told me that she didn't know of a single bus driver who wouldn't wave Anna and Léon on if three of us were already showing a valid zone card on entry to the bus, and as for trains and métros - I could simply lift them over the turnstiles. I was sceptical. Surely I will get fined if I am caught, I asked. The woman on the counter told me I could easily lie that Anna was 3 so that only left Léon and if the driver didn't believe he was 3 too(!) I could pay for the odd ticket for him in buses and again, she guaranteed I wouldn't meet an inspector on the métro or RER! I figured given how insistent she was on me lying and cheating, she'd be appalled if I was to buy Anna and Léon a zone card so I decided to try it for a day and see what happened. A week later I had been on at least 2 buses, 2 RER and 4 métro a day and she was completely correct. Bus drivers even helped me on with my buggy while waving Léón and Anna past. It really was a breath of fresh air compared to the job's worth mentality I would have encountered here, had I been trying to ferry my family around Glasgow, ticket-free!

    Sunday, May 06, 2012

    Different ways of doing things

    Paris by PhylB
    Paris, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

    I've just been watching the French elections on the TF1 news. For me it was most interesting to watch the queues of ex-pats in London, Israel and all around the world queuing at the Consulates to vote. As the wife of a Danish ex-pat, I always feel sorry for Thomas, the most politically aware man I know, as he is disenfranchised by his own country for daring to live abroad, while equally as a UK resident, father and tax-payer he is still not allowed to vote here in Westminster elections. I wonder if my French friends who live here know how lucky they are to come from somewhere that allows them to vote, should they so wish.

    Saturday, May 05, 2012

    One for mum

    Mum by PhylB
                                                                             Mum, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

    Mum's never got blogging. She's asked dad and I more than once over the years what the point is. So feel after yesterday's comment I owe her this post! 

    After a little chat with Phones 4 U, that took the best part of an hour, she came out with steam coming out her ears, and finally exclaimed - 'God if I was a blogger, I'd blog this!'

    It started about six or seven weeks ago... Her old Samsung was playing up and it was her birthday, so dad offered to get her a new phone. She opted for the Sony Ericsson Walkman Mix. When the phone was about three weeks old, dad collapsed and was taken into hospital. Needless to say, mum has had other things on her mind than taking back her phone that had developed a few little hiccups. And with visiting hours the way they are, it was also hard to fit in. Mum needs her phone for two main purposes. 

    • So the hospital where dad is being treated can contact her in an emergency
    • As an alarm which she sets to remind her to take her own daily medication since her stroke last summer.
    So guess which particular faults it developed? The alarm wouldn't turn off once it started ringing, and the phone kept reporting new voicemails when no one had called her - just what you need for your nerves when your husband of nearly 50 years is terminally ill...

    So we went down to Phones 4 U and asked for a replacement. It was six weeks old, faulty and hardly used. 
    A completely ignorant little boy of about twenty first offered to have it sent away for repair. Sorry, sonny, you misunderstood - it is just out the box and faulty. With all due respect Missus, we don't do exchanges so I'll just send it away. It'll be back in about three weeks. Mum pointed out it was new and faulty, Marcel pointed it out, I pointed it out, Amaia gave him a dirty look but he went on to repeat no less than five times With all due respect Missus... until mum finally told him to kill off the parrot! We're a big company so we have a policy of not changing anything over 28 days old. Mum rang her lawyer, he too explained to the child that he was bullshitting but still no banana. He told her the only thing he could do was to tell head office. At this point I lent forward and said extremely civilly Do you think I could possibly speak to someone more senior, if you are unable to sort this problem out? He immediately and defensively jumped across the table at me with Don't you shout at me! I pointed out that I don't shout at people, I have no need to as I am quite capable of complaining articulately without raising my voice. He looked blank! In the meantime, he actually answered his company phone and spent 3-4 minutes organising a piss-up at a wee bar in Ayr on Saturday night with his friends in the most pleasant of tones before reverting to the obnoxious, defensive tone again to mother. After yet another explanation of how big Phones 4 U are and how they simply follow company policy at all times, I pointed out that mum was an individual with individual problems and should be treated as a human and not a statistic. He opened an email to head office and wrote: 'This woman has came (sic) into our branch with her phone, I have wrote (sic) a report that it is no working but she isnay happy'. He turned his screen round and asked mum to confirm she was happy with his report!!!  Mum's a bit of a grammarian and I could see from the darkening in her eyes that the boy's grammar was going to cause him to receive a knock-out blow, if he didn't watch out! 

    So we stuck to our guns and finally got to talk to head office and they eventually admitted it was difficult to leave a woman with a no phone for three weeks in these circumstances so gave in and replaced it - or rather authorised a replacement only to find they were out of stock. But I have to say the level of stress they put my mother through, despite us explaining her personal circumstances, for a phone that was just weeks old and only worth £65, was such that I will categorically say now that I will never consider setting foot in a Phones 4 U for any future phone purchases of my own (and I tend to spend more than £65). When companies become so large that human compassion is completely lost, they need to be avoided in my opinion.

    Names

    I find it interesting how many divorced women choose to keep their married name rather than reverting to their maiden name after divorce - whether it is a friendly (if such a thing exists, or acrimonious divorce). I would say, of the divorced women I know, more than 60% kept their ex-husband's name.

    I reverted to Buchanan two years before my divorce came through. It was a hassle - I had so many different pieces of ID, places to contact, - banks, passports, driving licenses, mortgage agreements, car loans - you name it... I had to pay to change it by deed poll because my divorce wasn't through. But I had to lose his surname to be me. It wasn't that I didn't like the name - you know me by now - a complete Francophile, I'd move there in a flash. More than that - I loved the exotic. It suited my character and interests. It was also good for my career - I didn't need to explain, as I do now, why I am best placed to be your translator, interpreter or why my spoken French is a tad better than you'd expect from someone who graduated twenty years ago! I loved (and still love) my French family unconditionally, so it wasn't them I was distancing myself from either. But the name represented the marriage, my link to the man I no longer loved and whether I had remarried or not, it was no longer me and it felt wrong to be Mrs or Madame Gautier any more. I could understand staying the same name as my kids, but again, it was wrong in my mind. I had to lose the name that represented a period in my life that was over.

    I think I am fascinated by it because I can't understand it. I could not have stayed Gautier without losing myself. It would have been a bit too Shirley Valentine for my psyche, I think that's why I wonder about those who manage it quite happily. I guess there are several types of divorcée.

    Thursday, May 03, 2012

    Dentists

    I live across the road from my dentist, so I can see his comings and goings from my bed. He seems to work about 28 hours a week and yet he owns both a BMW jeep and a cabriolet BMW that he uses on sunny days. He has both cars fully valeted on a weekly basis sitting outside my door. I am often tempted to park mine beside his in the hope they get mixed up one week! ;-)


    Local Council Elections

    We all have something to say when it comes to the potholes in the road, the pavements that are falling apart, the plans for an incinerator in East Renfrewshire, the proposed new builds on the green belt and potential catchment changes, the number of staff in the local schools, their uniform policies and their funding, so why is it that we don't bother to vote in council elections? Today at around 5pm one of the candidates for this ward was in our garden (Thomas knows him and they were arranging the vote count tomorrow). He told me at that point the local polling station was running at a 13% turnout. Isn't that absolutely scandalous? I really think any of the 87% who didn't bother, should think twice before moaning about any of these topics for the next five years. They only have themselves to blame!